Artist Spotlight with Thando

Home Is Where The Art Is interview series. 

With festival cancellations, venue closures and live gigs on hold for the foreseeable future, the Coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating impact on the performing arts industry. With physical distancing in place, artists are using technology in new and creative ways to connect with audiences from home. We check in with some friends of MLIVE to find out how they are adapting to life in lockdown.
Thando performed as part of The Counts series in 2019 and most recently featured in the Sound Gallery Sessions; MLIVE’s online concert series, live streamed every Wednesday from the David Li Sound Gallery.


Can you talk us through how the COVID restrictions and shutdowns have impacted you personally as an artist?
I lost a lot of money very fast. I hadn’t realised how much my career relied on being in person until I needed to find a way to do my gigs online. I was meant to play a few small festivals over winter, and I had Woodford on my radar for new years eve so unfortunately that is not happening. I’ve supplemented my gigging income with teaching, and there were a lot of young people who needed a distraction from Covid so my spots filled up quite quickly and now I teach about 15 hours a week and it’s keeping me afloat and hopeful

‘Read a book, talk to your friends on FaceTime and log off social media 45 minutes earlier than the night before everyday until you can do a whole day without it.’

During this time of social and physical distancing, how have you been maintaining connection? Have you managed to connect with your audiences in new ways? 

I play live streamed gigs now and then. Mostly from home, I learned how to stream live to
YouTube so I could set up a paywall and create special experiences for audiences who paid for them. I also engage with people more personally on my Instagram account now, it’s not just for promoting music and gigs. I recruited some fans for an iso-style music video for my latest single so it was good getting to know them through that. You’ve gotta use technology to your advantage these days.

Have there been any important creative routines and rituals for you during these times?
Just to listen to music purely for enjoyment and not to learn it or critique it. I don’t know what our industry is going to look like on the other side of this pandemic so I just want to enjoy the memories while I still have them.

What aspect of this period of isolation have you found the most challenging?
Not playing to big festival audiences. People getting sweaty, singing back the words, screaming, dancing… it’s weird to think of a world where we can’t dance barefoot on the grass watching our favourite band. It’s our reality right now.

Image of Thando performing by Katey Shearer Photography

Have you felt the urge to be more creative? Are you working on anything new?
I haven’t felt the urge to be more creative. I wrote a couple of new songs to add to my live set during the first lockdown, but this second one is making me really anxious and I’m trying to go easy on myself. I think it’s really easy to be hard on yourself as an artist not creating something right now, but I look at it as a sabbatical. The world is on hold, and I can take this time to be anything other than an artist. At the moment, that’s a mother so I’m pretty distracted trying to entertain a toddler, so I’ve got that going. Maybe I’ll write children’s songs, who knows?

What do you think things might look like for the arts industry once things start to slowly open back up again?
Limited capacity shows at a premium price with multiple seatings. Also every venue will invest in live streaming capabilities so they can stream gigs around the world at the same time, for a lower access price. And this would mean all gigs could be all ages!! We’re a resilient bunch, we’ll make it work.

Any tips for staying grounded in a virtual world?
Read a book, talk to your friends on FaceTime and log off social media 45 minutes earlier than the night before everyday until you can do a whole day without it. The internet is a very toxic place right now, it’s good to cleanse. I’m about due I think.

Given we’re all spending a lot more time at home these days, what has that experience been like for you? Can you describe your home studio or work station set up if you have one?
We have a studio space we rent a few hundred meters from our apartment so it’s pretty easy to get away. I’ve been enjoying spending time with my daughter though so I haven’t gone down there once. I just get to be Thando the person and it’s way better than I thought would it be.
Image thanks to Thando

What is the first thing you’ll do in a post-COVID world?
Go busking and sing Horses because I miss being heckled.

What song or album is getting you through?
Sampa the Great – Leading us Home.

Find out more about Thando here.