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Thando on being more than just the “frontwoman of this fun band”

Five years ago, Thando was a budding young artist who had just moved from Canberra to Melbourne in grand pursuit of a music career.

With a slew of achievements behind her, it’s easy to say she’s succeeded.
 
As a well-recognised name in the Melbourne nu-soul scene, she’s performed in several bands and musicals, receiving rave reviews for her performances in The Color Purple and Dreamgirls thanks to her incredible voice and passionate style of performing. Her rise to the top has largely been an intuitive venture as she manages both herself as a band and a performer.
 
“Booking gigs and trying to find a divide between being the artist and the manager has always been tough for me,” she says. “Every time everything went well, I thought it was a fluke and I hadn’t done anything in particular that would have made me a good manager. But thinking on it, when I look back at all I’ve achieved with my band over the last three years, it’s been through self-management. It shows that the hustle and the hard work I’ve put into it has been paying off. I am capable of managing and I don’t just have to be the singer. I can take control of what happens with the band.”
 
This revelation is fairly new, coming from a meeting Thando had with Peking Duk’s manager at Bigsound last year. It revealed that Thando’s style of management was more professional than she first gave herself credit for, and her thought process in preparing for a show, in this instance her last show at Chapel Off Chapel, reveals how switched on as businesswoman and performer she is.
 
“At first I was like ‘There’s 250 seats in that theatre – I’m not going to sell 250 seats. I mean I’m happy to give it a go if it doesn’t cost me anything,’ if it wasn’t something that was going to put me out of pocket,” she says. “There were no venue fees, all publicity sorted in house, all we had to do was push the show on social media. It was close to a sellout in the end. And because of the success of last year’s show we were invited to come back again for a second year.
 
“What’s fantastic about doing a show here is that it’s a beautiful space, quite intimate but quite showy as well. I really like being able to play around with my live show, not just play a set and be done with it, it’s very interactive. You can see all the audience’s faces and reactions from the stage. The band and I have written the show as more of a performance piece as opposed to playing a bunch of songs like we would at the pub or at The Evelyn where people are there to have a good time and get fucked up.”
 
Passion shines through as one of the driving forces for keeping Thando in the music industry. She’s recently left her 9-to-5 job to focus on her music career, freeing up 40 hours in a week to write music for the band and manage the back end. Her upcoming journey to Melbourne is in the spotlight as she speaks of a touching performance that reflects upon that part of her identity.
 
“There’s two different sets,” she says. “The first set is going to start with something I haven’t done in Melbourne before. When I was in Canberra, writing songs and playing – I would accompany myself on keys. After I came to Melbourne, I found myself surrounded by so many talented musicians so I decided I aint’ gonna do that shit no more. But with this new show I’ve decided I want to take it back to the essence of ‘me’, revisit the reason I decided to be a performer in the first place.
 
“I’m starting the set accompanying myself on the grand piano, and I’ve never done that. I’m a little scared, but I think it’ll be really good for people to see me as not just a singer and a frontwoman of this fun band, but to know I write my own songs. I write my own lyrics. I’m behind the material that people hear on stage.”
 
By Thomas Brand

Thando will play Chapel Off Chapel on Saturday January 14.