From the outside, it appeared as though Dan Sultan was kicking goals in recent years. In addition to scoring ARIA Awards for his second album, Get Out While You Can, the Melbourne soul-rocker appeared in the 2009 film Bran Nue Dae and was a favourite at festivals across the land.
Behind the scenes, the 29-year-old indigenous musician was going through the biggest upheaval of his career. Sultan split with long-term collaborator, bandmate and producer Scott Wilson as well as manager Buzz Thompson - a fact kept under wraps until now.
"I've been in a bit of a rut for the past few years creatively for various reasons and I've made a few changes recently," Sultan says from Melbourne, where he is working on his next album.
"You know the old saying, a change is as good as a holiday and it all seems to be flowing pretty freely at the moment."
The handsome rocker won't go into details as to what caused the split and is at pains to pay tribute to Wilson, who was also intimately involved in his 2006 debut Homemade Biscuits.
"I still think, and always will think, he's one of the best guitarists in the country as well as one of the greatest songwriters in this country," he says. "He taught me a lot about both, and that's something I'll always be very thankful for."
Sultan had a great time working with both men for the past decade, he says, but personal difficulties arose and it was time for him to move on.
Former Warner executive Michael Parisi, who guided the careers of Regurgitator, the Whitlams and the Superjesus, is now handling management duties.
Sultan has been writing with other artists, travelling and generally finding fresh fuel for the next album.
"I needed to take charge and I feel very good, positive," he says. "Being out of the previous situation where I felt stunted creatively, you know . . . was made to feel guilty about a few things. I felt a bit bullied there for a while. I think getting out of that situation has really opened me up more than anything else."
Sultan makes a very welcome return to WA stages this month for Rock for Recognition, a concert series aiming to raise awareness and promote the need for recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Australian Constitution.
As a proud Gurindji man and also proud Australian, Sultan says he felt compelled to help out the only way he knows how.
"I'm not a constitutional lawyer, so I can't do anything too full-on," he laughs. "But I can try to put on a show and have a bit of fun and hopefully raise some awareness.
"For such a forward-thinking country, we've got a few things that are a bit backwards. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people not being recognised in their own country's constitution is a bit of a disgrace, and it's a bit embarrassing. It affects me not as an Aboriginal person but as an Australian."
Sultan has knocked back invitations to appear on ABC TV's Q&A panel show. He says he needs to gain more life experience before he steps into that treacherous theatre of opinions, even though many people expect him to leverage his profile for political ends.
"Having a bit of success and being a young Aboriginal man is a bit of a political statement in itself," Sultan says. "Which is a shame, really. We can't just follow our dreams and be successful without it being a full-on statement, you know what I mean? That's our situation and the best we can do is the best we can do."