Up and coming Newtown singer/songwriter Thandi Phoenix has built up a following for her powerful, classic vocals and ability to glide effortlessly between electronic genres.
Thandi supported artists like Rudimental, Miguel, Jhene Aiko and Tinie Tempah on their Australian tours, as well as Vera Blue on her sold out tour. This year, she’s performed on Triple J’s Like a Version and recently concluded her own national tour in June.
We spoke to Thandi about her music, what performing at Yarrabah Music and Culture Festival meant to her and power suits.
BYO: How was your Adelaide show (the first of her national tour)?
Thandi: Yeah, it was just crazy to finally have my first headline show, and it was the first show of the tour. So yeah, I was kind of overwhelmed with emotions. Just before we went on I was like, "this is so weird, I'm finally doing it".
But no, it was really great, everyone in the crowd I felt like I had a really good connection with and they're singing the words back and really getting into the new songs that they haven't known yet.
BYO: Growing up, what sort of music or artists did you listen to and how would you say it influenced the work you have today?
Thandi: Well, growing up I listened to a lot of Alicia Keys, Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, India Arie, so lots of powerful strong women and brown women and you know Spice Girls it's all that girl power. So that's kind of the stuff that I grew up listening to. A real mixture of stuff, mom loved music, like different African music and Dad liked musicians like Phil Collins, lovely jazz, so I listened to a whole bunch of stuff and I went through periods of just loving neo-soul, then 90s hip hop, A Tribe Called Quest, getting into Billie Holiday jazz. I listened to so much stuff growing up and I think it shaped me because the more you listen to strong artists, it shows you that you need to have a clear voice, you know what I mean?
BYO: Yeah they're all really strong, powerful artists for sure, so that must have been a great base. I saw your Triple J Like A Version and it was phenomenal. I loved your power suit.
Thandi: Thank you. Oh, yes darling. I'm all about the power suit. I was going through my wardrobe the other day and I was like "wow, I need another wardrobe now" I've literally got a suit in pretty much every shade. (laughter)
BYO: It’s a good statement piece to rock. So you've supported artists like Rudimental, Vera Blue, Tinie Tempah and so on, on their national tours. How did you team up with such artists and who would you like to collab with or work with in the future?
Thandi: I'm lucky I've got a good booking agent. I've been really fortunate to have teamed up with those artists and like Vera and stuff. I've known her for years so that was more of a friend thing and with Rudimental, I'd kind of already met them.
Oh my God there's so many amazing people I'd love to collaborate with. Too many, too many to name. Marc Hunter would be an amazing producer to work with.
BYO: What made you decide to perform at the Yarrabah Fest in Queensland?
Thandi: So I was asked to go up and perform at Yarrabah, and honestly I didn't want to leave. It was such a beautiful experience. The landscape is out of this world, as I'm flying into camp, it looked like Jurassic Park in the sense that it was just so large and green and beautiful.
Then we went to the communities, it was just a different feeling there. It was just really grounding and got to meet some of the elders and we had a circle round with them, myself and some of the local artists and just hearing their stories was amazing.
Yeah, it was just an awesome experience because it's very important to get more people to the communities and to see their art and the work that these people do. It’s really beautiful.
BYO: And as an artist, you're given a platform to speak about issues of importance. Is that something that interests you and if so, what sort of issues do you speak out about or want to? We saw you released a line of environmentally friendly tote-bags.
Thandi: Oh yeah, I speak out about things, that don’t just affect me but I can see affecting other people. It’s crazy and you know, the climate change. We need to all come together and do our part. Sometimes it feels like "it's just me what can I do?" But we all do a little bit here and there we need to make a more concerned effort to make a change because, how it keeps going at the moment, what's going to be left of the world is going to be scary.
BYO: Will we be seeing an album in the horizon anytime soon? And what are some things on your list that you’d like to achieve in the near future?
Thandi: Yeah, my EP's going to come out in the next couple months. And I'd love to do just more of my own headline shows, festivals and yeah get my license. (laughs)