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#23 - Nai Palm

Sydney Opera House

You may know Nai Palm from Hiatus Kaiyote, but she’s recently been flying solo, with debut album Needle Paw out now. In spite of a turbulent childhood, she took solace in nature, in animals, and in music, growing into the independent spirit and curious soul that has enchanted such artists as Erykah Badu, Animal Collective, Questlove and the late, great Prince.

Below is an excerpt of the Sydney Morning Herald's interview from 2015.
Read the full story here.

At March's Byron Bay Bluesfest Nai Palm, the singer for the fast rising Melbourne neo-soul outfit Hiatus Kaiyote, was warming up backstage, flexing her voice and stretching her diminutive frame, when she had the kind of experience that reminds you that the music industry is not always a bedrock of progressive attitudes.

"The music industry is a place of power for education and change."

"This guy comes up to me without introduction and says, 'Dude, you're a belly dancer, what band are you dancing for?' I was like, 'Actually, I'm singing for a headline act on the main stage'," recalls Nai, a livewire 26-year-old whose driver's licence reads Naomi Saalfield. "Stuff like that happens all the time – I've even been mistaken for our drummer's girlfriend!"

Nai delivers the latter revelation with mock outrage, because as much as drummers are drummers, she has great affection for Hiatus Kaiyote' s percussionist, Perrin Moss, as well as guitarist Simon Mavin and bassist Paul Bender. The quartet have been through more than enough in the last five years for her to know their credentials, as well as what they can achieve together.

"The boys in the band don't carry the male ego that's so prevalent in the music industry," Nai says. "Nonetheless, a lot of female musicians have experienced sexism or been objectified or just haven't been taken seriously. But as frustrating as that is, the music industry is a place of power for education and change."

"More and more I'm getting stopped in the street, but mentally it's good for me to go to a laundromat and do my washing."

Hiatus Kaiyote, who are performing at the Opera House this month as part of the Vivid Live music program, are enjoying a singular career. Australia was initially slow to catch onto their free-form mix of soul, funk and hip-hop, with its deep grooves and detailed arrangements, but international admirers, such as vocalist Erykah Badu and her management, soon had them performing in America.

The band has twice been nominated for a Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance, and their second album, 2015's Choose Your Weapon, was widely released internationally as they toured the northern hemisphere.

They performed at Russian festivals, storied American theatres, and a sit-down dinner in Vienna where they eventually convinced the audience to clear the floor of tables draped in red velvet so the dancing could start.

In the last year they've played more than 160 shows, and at one point their schedule was so tight that they had to turn down a request to visit Prince at his Los Angeles show because they had a gig that evening followed by a night drive to the next show. All of this from Melbourne's northern suburbs.

"On one side of things we'll be at the Grammys rubbing shoulders with whoever, and we have these superfans, but a lot of people have still never heard of us, and I actually love that duality," Nai says. "More and more I'm getting stopped in the street, but mentally it's good for me to go to a laundromat and do my washing."

Read the full interview on Sydney Morning Herald.

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