Sulene van der Walt is a South African New Yorker who's widely known as the lead guitarist for Nate Ruess (of Fun.). Her guitar playing has been heard everywhere from DIY clubs in Brooklyn to the East Room of the White House. Her voice has been featured in films and TV shows, ranging from Halle Berry shower scenes to Al Pacino stage-diving. Based in Brooklyn, she is an active part of the indie-pop and rock scene and spent the better part of the last two years performing on stages across the world with various acts. Naturally, she wrote an EP in hotel rooms and tour buses titled Strange - since everything’s been a little bit surreal for her these last few years.
The 26-years-old performer and film scorer’s talents have been heard on the TV shows Ray Donovan (Showtime), The Affair (Showtime), Extant (CBS), as well as several feature films. In 2014 and 2015, Sulene was the guitarist for Candy Hearts and Betty Who. She has played on national television on Late Night With Seth Meyers, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, The Today Show, VH1, and many more, as well as graced the stages of Fuji Rock in Japan, Austin City Limits, Spotify Sessions, iHeart Radio, Gillette Stadium for the NHL Winter Classic 2016, and the East Room of the White House. Yes, she has met President Obama and he is charming.
Sulene’s upcoming solo EP, Strange, will be released 2017.
When I was 14 years old I was given a red Ibanez Gio electric guitar. I played it until I would outgrow it, and much like my music career thus far, the cheap frets made my fingers bleed until I persevered and could acquire the white American Strat of my dreams. I like to think I gave the finger to every skeptical teenage boy who labeled me a "poser" in middle school as I somehow chanced upon a career in music. And by chanced upon I mean worked my ass off until I got my foot in the door long enough to play something for someone and have them kinda like it.
An open analysis of my musical career:
In 2009 I attended Berklee College of Music and started a progressive rock band called Helicopria. We were somewhat successful and thought we were really cool.
- We weren't cool.
- Being in a relationship with your drummer is not a good idea.
In 2013 I graduated from Berklee with a degree in Film Scoring and moved to Brooklyn, New York. I quit all the bands I played in and admitted I wanted to be the evil solo artist. I learned how to sing and started writing songs.
- There's probably more to music than playing lots of notes really fast.
- I can write mediocre songs.
In 2014 I got hired to play guitar for the pop artist Betty Who. I also got my first big-girl music job as the assistant to a film scorer and worked every hour I wasn't sleeping.
- Making rent by playing music is really hard.
- You can get paid to play guitar for pop artists?!
Continuing on with 2014 - despite feeling quite good about things thus far, my US Artist visa was delayed. This resulted in losing all my jobs and as time went on, all my money and most of my feelings of self-worth. So I did what anyone else would do and hopped in a van with a punk band. While on tour in Ireland with Candy Hearts I got word that my visa was approved, and then we drank lots of Guinness.
- Don't go back to your ex-boyfriend even when you feel really lost.
- Touring is the best.
In 2015 The Rock Gods blessed me with the position as lead guitarist in the touring band for Nate Ruess (of Fun.) and I got to see all parts of the world I never thought I’d see by now. I started writing new songs in hotel rooms.
- When you get an opportunity, hit a home run and seize it.
- I prefer soju to vodka.
In 2016 I got to play shows ranging from DIY clubs in Brooklyn to the East Room of the White House. December marks a year since I started recording my upcoming EP, Strange, with my three producers.
- Incredible things can happen just when you’re certain that you’re stuck.
- Obama is charming in person.
Strange will be released in 2017, and I can’t wait 💙