For a footballer who has starred in front of huge crowds, the buzz of a different audience is getting too loud to ignore for Marlon Motlop.

Key points:

  • Marlon Motlop is turning to music after a successful football career
  • He is playing in a new band with fellow team-mate Rulla Kelly-Mansell
  • They will play at Womadelaide this year, along with many other First Nations artists

From a lead role in an SANFL premiership with Glenelg at a packed Adelaide Oval, to playing with Port Adelaide in the AFL, Motlop has tasted wide-ranging sporting success.

But now his calling is for music, a much smaller stage but just as big a thrill.

“I get a different type of excitement out of playing in front of people and singing in front of people as well,” Motlop said.

“There’s a certain type of vulnerability that you display I think and I get a different high out of that.”

Football in one hand, guitar in the other

As his football career was blossoming as a junior, his dad was insisting he also learn the guitar.

Along with his cousins and future fellow AFL footballers Daniel, Shannon and Steven, he’d write raps and play music.

Now Motlop can see the curtain coming down on his football career with a final season with Glenelg, with the itch to scratch with his music becoming overwhelming.

“Like a bull at a gate, I just can’t wait to get out there, It’s a really different feeling for me, it’s a new feeling,” he enthused.

Marlon Motlop and Rulla Kelly-Mansell will take to the stage to open for Midnight Oil at this year’s Womadelaide Festival.(Supplied: Rulla Kelly-Mansell)

“People from the industry started to book us for gigs and I made a promise to myself that I’d just say yes to a lot of opportunities and use it as an opportunity to work on my craft and just see where it goes.”

Once the boots are hung up at year’s end and the smell of liniment becomes a distant if fond memory, Motlop wants to push his music as far as it can go.

“I’d love to be able to travel the world with my family, with my friends and share my music and sound with the world, if it ever gets to that point,” he said.

First Nations artists making big splash

Darwin-born Motlop is just one of many South Australian First Nations performers making audiences sit up and take notice.

Their success is being pushed by Letisha Ackland, who was employed by Music SA less than a year ago to get more Indigenous musicians into the sector and achieving success.

Thirty-six First Nations artists were nominated at the 2020 SA Music Awards, which Ackland said had been a long time coming.

“There’s actually a really great amount of talent that’s coming through and they’ve been there for many years and people just don’t know who they are,” Ms Ackland said.

Tilly Tjala Thomas, 18, is one of the freshest faces, with her mix of indie folk and electronic music proving popular.

Tilly Tjala Thomas is one of a number of up and coming First Nations artists across the country.(Supplied: Tilly Tjala Thomas)

Like an increasing number of First Nations musicians, she is mixing English and native language in her songs, a blend Ackland said works perfectly.

“It’s really beautiful actually when you can pull the language into it, when it’s sung and spoken is really beautiful to put the melody behind it,” she said.

Thomas looks up to the likes of Australian hip hop duo A.B. Original and just like them, has a strong activist theme through her songs.

“I think a lot of my songs are quite political and I’d like to kind of use music to my advantage,” she admitted.

Letisha Ackland says she will continue pushing the case for the likes of Motlop and Thomas.

“Where we can be able to give the spotlight to First Nations artists, to pop them up on those stages and give them the opportunity is definitely where I’m driving,” she said.

Marlon Motlop and Rulla Kelly-Mansell will play at Womadelaide on Saturday March 6.