DAN SULTAN

 
 

Interview by Madeleine Dore
&
Photography by Jacqui Turk
This interview was originally published in my column for Domain


Dan Sultan: Musician

For some, comfort is found in the daily rhythm of a set routine. For musician Dan Sultan, it’s found in the diverges.

“Inspiration is everywhere, all around. I find if I get too comfortable it starts to make me a bit uncomfortable, so it’s important to keep moving in new directions,” he says.

Sometimes this requires making big changes to avoid getting stuck, or to move out of a block, as Sultan has encountered in his career.

“It’s the old sink-or-swim thing – sometimes you have to put yourself in a place where you have to be thinking on your feet. Fear can be really powerful and motivating thing.”

Sultan recently moved into his new Sydney home. Photo: Jacqui Turk

In the past nine months, he  has been focused on healthy changes to his routine, including not drinking, exercising more and embracing the quiet moments.

“If I’m on the road, there is often quite a bit of downtime – if I get to the hotel and Antiques Roadshow is on and I’m in my tracksuit pants, I’m happy,” he says.

From taking a little bit of home with him as he tours for his new album Aviary Takes, to embracing the mellow side of life, Sultan shares the ins and outs of his changing days.

“It’s the old sink-or-swim thing – sometimes you have to put yourself in a place where you have to be thinking on your feet. Fear can be really powerful and motivating thing.”
 
 

A day in the life

Morning

I do like a good sleep-in, but I don’t mind getting up early if I have a flight to catch or to get to the gym.

If I’m at home, I’ll get up at about eight o’clock and go to the gym. My trainer is on a beautiful beach in Cronulla, so I’ll look out at the water when I’m training and then go jump in for a swim.

Sultan’s day is spent near the water.

Mid morning

Most days will start off with emails and maybe a few phone calls or an interview or two. My schedule can be pretty mapped out, but I’m also quite free to take it as comes.

The guitar is always sitting around the house and I’ll just pick it up and when the moment strikes. I’ve never really been one to have a formal schedule as such, I just let it happen when it happens.

I know another incredible songwriter who will only use one specific pen and has a lifetime supply in case they ever stopped making them. Everyone has their own little quirks and approaches, there is certainly no right or wrong way, but for me, I enjoy the fluidity and can write at any point during the day.

We have just moved house so I haven’t had the opportunity to set up my space properly yet – as much as I do like to float and have that fluidity, having a series of writing sessions in my own space can be really rewarding.

Whether it’s scheduled at a studio for half a day, or whether it’s seizing a moment that strikes, creation is the priority.

“Whether it’s scheduled at a studio for half a day, or whether it’s seizing a moment that strikes, creation is the priority.”

Afternoon

When I’m on the road, I’ll usually get to the hotel in the afternoon and put my tracksuit pants on and watch television, maybe answer a few emails. Travel is  a big part of my life and I don’t mind it so much, but the ritual of putting on my trackies is like taking a piece of home with me.

I’ll check in with my fiancee and have a good chat about our day. Even though I’m on the road a lot, I am very close with my family and friends – they are in my heart so I take everyone with me all the time.

Evening

The evenings I’m home, I keep it simple. Generally the end of the day will be on the couch, watching television and having a bit of dinner.

There is a lot of television involved in my day – being dyslexic has meant reading hasn’t been an enjoyable experience for me, so I’ll watch documentaries and things and that’s how I retain information and learn. Of course, there is a bit of brainless stuff in there as well.

‘Everyone has their little quirks and approaches.’ Photo: Jacqui Turk

[On tour] when the time is right I jump in the shower and get ready for the show, do sound check, wait for the show, perform and then the show is over. If it’s a great show then great, I go home and relax and watch a movie and feel good about it. If it was an average show than that’s OK, I’ve learnt not to beat myself up about it – I can just go home and watch a movie, so regardless of how the show goes it always ends up in a similar place!

It’s late so I’ll have to get takeaway or if I’m lucky the hotel will have something that is healthier. Generally speaking, I’ll eat one big meal a day – I won’t really do breakfast or lunch, I’ll just have dinner.

It’s always nice to get back to the room, it’s a good feeling, and it’s always good to get home after some time away.

“The evenings I’m home, I keep it simple. Generally the end of the day will be on the couch, watching television and having a bit of dinner.”

Bedtime

I’ve had trouble getting to sleep my entire life. Often watching a bit of telly in bed can sometimes help, sometimes not.

I try to get off to bed pretty early and have a good night’s sleep. It’s all pretty mellow these days and I’m enjoying it a lot.

 
 

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