Prove your humanity

Curtin Students and Perth locals had the delight of watching Thelma Plum headline the Athena Music Festival. Running in its second year and aimed at celebrating international Women’s day; Grok had time to sit down with Plum to talk about what she has been doing, her upcoming album, and state of female performers in the music industry.


How was the Athena set?

It was really sweet; everyone was really sweet.


What have you been up to the past year?

I’ve been making my album. I just finished making it in New York—I recorded it there with a guy called David Kline, who is just the most amazing producer. That has taken about a year as well, maybe even a bit more.


Is that the first time you’ve made a record in that capacity overseas?

Yeah was the first time I’ve ever been overseas to work to do music which was pretty exciting—and New York was just an amazing inspiring place. It was snowing; it was just very, very poetic.


How did it differ from making music in Australia?

Everything is so inspiring, and when you go away somewhere it really feels like I’m doing something. I’m working, I’m going away to make this album, and just being out of my comfort zone. I think it really worked well.


So you’ve been trying to push yourself?

I have been. I really wanted to record my album in New York—that’s something I think I’ve always wanted to do off my bucket list—to record in New York because of that reason is so inspiring. It’s just a cool place.


Is the sound of the new album different, has it taken a different direction?

Yeah it has. It’s very different from my first EP Rosie—it’s a little bit more pop.


Are there any collaborations on the next album?

We’ve got Dave from Gang of Youths—I wrote a song like a duet together, and we will be on there which is quite nice; Paul Kelly and I wrote a song together which will be on there—so there’s some cool, cool cats.


How did you get Paul Kelly on board?

The reason why I started playing music was because of Paul Kelly. I used to listen to his albums when I was really little and I would basically, blatantly rip-off his songs, but we’d like play along and that’s how I taught myself how to play guitar too—his songs. He’s always been a huge inspiration to me. That’s always been something I wanted to do. When that came about I think he was quite aware that like him a lot. He’s very aware I don’t keep it a secret.


What do you think it’s like for women in the Australian music industry? Do you think it’s gotten better or does it need to improve?

I think it has gotten better—I think Triple J actually just did a study this year about how women in music, and how in the last year it has improved a lot—there are so many women musicians.

I think that one thing that people could start maybe thinking of is female musicians as a genre—which is something I feel like you can have 10 rock bands that are all playing on the radio, but it’s like you can’t have more than maybe three female artists because it’s like too much. That’s the thing people think about female artists like genre—and classics like me rocking up to two shows and security are being like “oh you’re the girlfriend of someone,” I’m like “no, no.”


Do you think there should be less emphasis on gender?

I think that there should be. In saying that I’m pretty proud of being a girl, and girl power. I think it comes back to, like, there has not been, you know, very much exposure for women in music—not as much as there is as men—and especially I think women in Australia as well. I think that’s correct. You know there’s not a lack of women of colour either, but there’s a lack of representation for those artists.


What can you say you look forward to from releasing the upcoming album?

I’m really excited—although I haven’t released any music for two years. That’s probably the most exciting thing that I’m excited about—just having music out there. But also this is something that I’ve worked on for a really long time, and this feels like my first baby because it’s the first album I’ve ever made. I’m very excited for people to hear it and also very nervous; but yeah mainly excited.


What advice can you give to young female musicians who want to aspire to do what you’re doing?

Don’t take any shit. Know who you are and be confident in who you are as well. Something that I think especially for young women: you don’t always have to worry about being polite, and not hurting people’s feelings, and not offending people. I’m sure as hell there are a lot of male musicians that don’t have that—they don’t have to worry about that. I would just say be unapologetic, be yourself, and be proud of who you are, and be confident about that as well.