Surahn Sidhu: A fertile state for creativity

27 July 2022

Read why rock star turned almond-farmer Surahn Sidhu calls South Australia a fertile place for creativity, and agriculture.

Whether flying first-class across the globe, collaborating with Usher, or taking the stage at Coachella and Glastonbury, rock star turned almond-farmer Surahn Sidhu has always called South Australia home.

From a young age, the talented vocalist and guitarist’s music career — which has seen him take centre stage for bands including The Swiss and Empire of the Sun — grew from strength to strength from his base in Adelaide.

“When it comes to the entertainment industry, people see overnight success,” Surahn said.

“Someone might appear on the landscape as coming out of nowhere…but the reality is they’ve worked exceptionally hard.

“In high school I was being flown around the country to perform in clubs and then going to school on a Monday morning and keeping it secret.

“And I realised that, you know, South Australia is this fertile land where you can plant your dreams like seeds and they grow into wonderful careers and lifestyles.”

As his profile grew, Surahn credits South Australia with helping him remain grounded while surrounded by the “crazy whirlwind of show business”.

“Empire opened up…you know, those experiences where you’re mixing with the Hollywood elite and you are performing to literally millions of people in a year playing Glastobury or Coachella or any of these enormous festivals.

“I made a conscious choice early in my career to come home instead of staying [in New York], and whilst it was taxing on the body with the long haul flights, I would come home with such relief….flying into Adelaide after performing in front of that many people and having those experiences was just a complete reset.

“In lots of ways it helped me survive. The crazy whirlwind of show business can really take a hold of you and you can easily lose your mind.”

The high quality of life in South Australia and balanced lifestyle not only helped Surahn survive, but thrive, fueling his artistic and creative expression.

“There’s a huge, competitive advantage [to South Australia] because people know that life — whilst it can appear to be slower — the quality of life is extremely high.

“We’ve got this impeccable balance between work, life, and relationships.

“The core benefit, particularly from a young arts perspective, is that fertility.

“We use the word fertility in agricultural terms often, but I use it in relation to creativity too.

“South Australia is a place where you can imagine…you can grow any idea here and that’s, you know, one of its wonderful charms.”

In 2016, Surahn and his wife Jessica applied that mentality by re-establishing themselves as “new, young” farmers on a 10 acre almond orchard in South Australia’s McLaren fertile Vale wine region.

Their farm – called ‘Papershell’ – opened in 2018 and operates as a fruit and almond orchard, farm store, BnB, yoga studio and event space.

“There was a calling for us to return to the land,” Surahn said.

“A lot of people laughed at us when we started to muck around with growing food.

“But having the experiences that we’d both had, we were coming to farming as artists and as disruptors.

“And we could see that there was a huge opportunity for us to push the envelope and reimagine what it is to be a farmer.

“This incredible opportunity came up to purchase a very run down almond orchard…and it was the perfect canvas for us to start to experiment with these ideas of what a new young farmer looks like.”

Just like the almond orchards at Papershell, life is thriving for Surahn, who measures his success by the balanced lifestyle he’s cultivated in South Australia.

“You know, I’ve felt varying degrees of success throughout my career, but it’s only sort of now that I’m feeling like that’s true success.

“I can be healthy and happy without this need or desire to be flying around the planet and being up on stage under lights and being expected to, to perform.

“That measure of success is very much this sort of ‘balance’ that’s there now. Yeah.

“It wasn’t until we re-established ourselves here that we realised…having those things and having that balance gives you a professional, competitive edge in every industry.

“You can really have your cake and eat it here too.”