Tilly Tjala Thomas has just released her second EP, Sanctuary. The four-song collection features production from Memphis LK and David Turley and songs sung in English and Nukunu language. The melodic and lyrically expressive release features the singles ‘Mansion’ and ‘Ngai Yurlku Nhiina’.

Tilly Tjala Thomas grew up on the Fleurieu Peninsula, south of Adelaide. Since finishing school in 2020, the electronic pop and folk musician has bagged numerous industry accolades, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Musician of the Year and the Emily Burrows Award at the 2021 South Australian Music Awards. Here, Tilly Tjala Thomas names five artists whose creates a kind of sanctuary for her.

Tilly Tjala Thomas – ‘Ngai Yurlku Nhiina’

Tame Impala

Tame Impala’s music is my go to chill out music. It’s like a deep, mysterious sea I can dive into and float away on. ‘Borderline’ and ‘Eventually’ have a melancholy feel lyrically and that allows me to feel that way if I need to. ‘Disciples’ and ‘Apocalypse Dreams’ are uplifting and energising.

Generally the music is so layered and complex, ultra stimulating for the ears. I love just laying there and being swept away to another world. Tame Impala is my escape music. Kevin Parker’s words bring me comfort, too. I love the vulnerability in his lyrics and I can relate. I sometimes feel a loner and wonder, “Why won’t they talk to me?” Other times, “solitude is bliss.”

Paul Kelly

My parents played Paul Kelly’s music a lot growing up, so I associate it with home and comfort. I remember listening to all those great songs on long drives to the Southern Flinders Ranges. We would play CD after CD. I would learn the songs quickly and we would all sing along to them.

Today, when I hear his music, I’m transported to that place. I’m that carefree kid, enjoying a road trip out to the beautiful Flinders, to Nukunu Country, home. Some of Paul Kelly’s songs have themes of land, country and Indigenous issues. This inspires me to write about them too.

Kutcha Edwards

I first met Kutcha when we performed at the Canberra Folk Festival. It was my first festival. I was eleven. I sang a song on stage with him. Since then, I have been a big fan. His music makes me feel connected to my Aboriginal ancestors. I get goosebumps when I listen to ‘Singing Up Country’.

Many of his songs have a lullaby feel too. He has a beautiful gentle voice and I just feel in a nice, warm, cozy space when listening to his music; a sense of connection to something bigger than me, a sense of belonging.

Lana Del Rey

Her music inspires me. Whenever I play Lana, I feel empowered as a fellow woman. It inspires me to embrace my femininity and more gentle side. Her lyrics are relatable. She sings about some sad stuff, disappointments and heartbreak she has faced, and it helps me think about and acknowledge my own stuff.

When I’m lost in her music, I can feel sad and feel okay with that. I can let go of the shame of feeling sad. Her music reminds me that I don’t have to smile if I don’t feel like it. I don’t need to put on a brave face all the time. It’s okay to just feel sad sometimes. Her music also inspires me to be vulnerable in my songwriting and express my deepest emotions.

Red Hot Chili Peppers

They are my go to for uplifting, energising music. I also associate them with my childhood. There is a sense of familiarity. Their powerful anthems get me motivated. ‘Can’t Stop’ helps me release my frustrations. It feels like Anthony Kiedis is my personal coach in that song.

‘By the Way’, ‘Scar Tissue’ and ‘The Zephyr Song’ are some that take me straight back to being a kid. Also, whenever I put on Red Hot Chili Peppers’ music, I’m typically reaching for my own guitar within minutes. Their music inspires me.

  • Tilly Tjala Thomas’ Sanctuary is out now.

Further Reading

Club Angel Selects His 6AM Club Favourites

Amy Sheppard’s Top Five Country Music Heroes

Meanjin’s Seven Best Contemporary Artists, According to Tjaka

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