Australian singer/songwriter guitarist Tash Sultana officially launches their first Fender Signature Stratocaster today. The sharp-looking guitar takes elements of the American Professional series, with some personal touches added, including a Transparent Cherry red color, matching painted headstock and custom “skull” neck plate.
“Fender is an extension of me. I am based around the guitar and they give me the tools and ability to excel in any way I want at all times.”
When Fender approached the guitarist, Tash jumped at the opportunity, working through a few prototypes before finalizing the specs. Sultana (who identifies as non-binary) chatted with American Songwriter about the new signature model, playing guitar, shredding, being supportive of players of all levels and an upcoming new record.
“It was always based around the American Pro Strat series. I’ve got a couple of those guitars and I’ve always loved the way they felt. The neck wasn’t too thin, and the frets were a little raised. This one is sick. It’s got a nice playability for all levels of players. I wanted something that looked custom and expensive. I would make that guitar for myself, so why not make it that way for everybody?”
Sultana went for a red color motif for personal reasons. “I always like the color red. I have a red car, all the interior is red. I used to have a red guitar when I was small. It’s in one of my videos. It was a fake toy and you pressed the pickup and it would make shred-type sounds. But I never had a real guitar that was red. That was the missing piece! Make it red, make it pop, make it fierce and make a statement!”
“I put all my logos and the embossment on the back. I didn’t want that to deter people from buying the guitar because they didn’t want to flash my brand around. It belongs to them. I designed it but it’s their guitar. They own it.”
Sultana, who first performed at open mics before gaining notoriety in Australia as a busker using inventive creative looping textures, grew up listening to a variety of players and continues to find new players with amazing technique online every day. Australian-raised musician John Butler was an early acoustic influence and John Mayer was formative to Sultana’s development. “He has an expressive less-is-more relaxed technicality to his playing. It’s tidy and clean with a good sense of feel, timing and playing behind the beat.” Santana, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Lindsay Buckingham, Brian May, Hendrix and “and a whole lot of new age Instagram bedroom guitarists who should not just be in their bedroom” are also cited as inspiring players.
Signature model guitars have been around since the late '80s and were often tied to shred players. But times have changed and Sultana represents a new generation guitar hero for upcoming players to admire. Certain shredder types, particularly online trolls who mock other guitarists, baffle Sultana.
“Shredding is fun, and we love it. Guitarists can tend to be snobby but we’re all at different levels of playing. The best part is that you’re actually playing an instrument, whether you’re just starting out or at an insane level. When people are really good guitarists, they tend to be humble but there’s another side where some players can be condemning of others. I’ve seen it on forums where they’ll say, ‘you shouldn’t be playing that style of music’ and other deterring, negative comments. What the fuck is the point of that? You only get better if you start somewhere."
"Everybody was that person who sucked at the beginning. I’ve been playing the guitar for 22 years and I still pick up the guitar and think I’m not that great. The purpose of playing is because you love it and you’re trying to get better. That negative behavior is silly. We should be encouraging people to learn how to play any instrument. You can be at whatever level you want. It’s a form of expression and it belongs to you.”
Sultana has finished a new, 14-track new album, entitled Terra Firma, with a deep running thread through the lyrics and grooves. “The new record is about passages of my life leading up to the person I am today and the stories I’ve got to tell and the emotion I’ve got to capture.”
Sultana writes lyrics the old-fashioned way and takes them to heart, putting thought behind each line.
“It’s always with pen and paper. I write about things, not empty meaningless tunes. A lot of them are cryptic and people think they know what they mean. But I’ll never tell them.”
Five singles will be released before the album’s official street date in February, each one representing a different element corresponding to a time in Sultana's life.
“The first single was ‘Pretty Lady’ which represents water. It’s about movement and flowing into the new chapter. The second single was ‘Greed’ which represents earth and getting grounded. The third single is ‘Beyond the Pine’ and that’s air and moving past the stagnant in this new wave of creativity. The fourth single is ‘Willow Tree’ which is the fire element and that’s about transformation. The fifth single is ‘Sweet and Dandy’ which is the spirit. It’s about karma coming back to you in all ways by trying to be kind so it comes back to you. The body will die but the legacy and your spirit will remain forever."
For the tour in support of the upcoming new record, Sultana is moving away from performing solo with loops into ‘Tash Sultana 2.0’ which will incorporate a full band. Plans were in place for a tour before the pandemic curtailed it all. “The new material is hard to capture alone. I didn’t want what I came up with for the new record to have a sonic boundary. I just wanted to go for it and figure it out later. So, when we can tour again, I’m putting three other people behind me on stage to support it even more. It’s not taking away from what I’ve done. The show is predominantly solo because that’s who I am. It’s my zone. But in the middle, we’re going to jam!”
Now that the release date is here for their first Fender Signature model guitar, Sultana reflects back on how far they’ve come from the open mic and busking days to the inventive guitarist who's become an inspiration for others.
“This guitar is going to be stocked in the shop I’ve been going to since I was seven years old. I used to walk in that store wishing I even had a guitar. My father bought my first guitar at that shop. We’ve had a great relationship with those people for years. I used to walk in there and see guitars on the wall and say, ‘man, I wish I had that one, or that one.’ And now, they called me up and said they’re going to be carrying my signature model. It was a full circle moment!”
Fender Tash Sultana Stratocaster – $1,099.99
Manufacturer info page: https://shop.fender.com/en-US/tash-sultana-stratocaster.html
Finished in a vibrant Transparent Cherry and furnished with all-gold hardware, the Tash Sultana Stratocaster® has good looks to match its upscale appointments – the clarity and sparkle of the Yosemite single-coil Strat® pickups combine with the powerful Double Tap humbucking bridge pickup to deliver a wide range of tonal options at your fingertips. The Deep “C”-shape maple neck with 9.5”-radius and 22 medium jump frets provides comfortable modern playability, while the vintage-style synchronized tremolo offers classic Strat vibrato action. Other features include a matching painted headstock and custom “skull” neck plate.