Interview: Gordi talks Reservoir & embracing the international tour life

I remember the first time I saw Holly Throsby perform, some moons ago now, I was struck by how emotional she was able to make the intimate crowd feel in no time at all. Sometimes when you’re armed with a powerful voice that is unafraid of embracing vulnerability and strong songwriting, that’s all you need to bring an audience of strangers into your world and keep them there. This is exactly the same sense of captivation I experienced when I saw Gordi perform earlier this year.

She played The Aussie BBQ in London in May and though she admits the show was ‘crazy’ when we talked about it recently, I just remember how I felt afterward. I was homesick and definitely overtired and her music was what I needed to just channel those feelings and let go for a little period of time. Gordi was an important artist to see then and she’s remained one now too.

The release of her debut album Reservoir last week has already positioned the songwriter to be named in many a Best Of list at the end of the year and as I found out, the record has been more than just a labour of love for Gordi (aka Sophie Payten).

“I spent a lot of time and took a lot of care in making sure it was a cohesive sounding record,” she said. “That the songs, as a collection, made sense. I feel that when you listen to music, hopefully you can tell when care has really been taken to make that happen; to make it look and feel and sound like a body of work. There’s little bits and pieces, textures and percussive parts that are dropped in different songs and certain techniques that we use to make sure everything was linked. It was so important to me that it was a varied record and that there was a lot of variation with the songs, but that comes hand in hand with making sure it sounds cohesive. It’s a fine balance but at the end of the day, people will make up their own minds.”

Having spent much of 2016 and 2017 touring internationally, Gordi has been splitting her time between performing on stages as both headliner and supporting the likes of Bon Iver and Asgeir, writing for Reservoir and finishing her medical degree. A glutton for pressure perhaps, but the effort and determination that has resulted on Reservoir is nonetheless testament to the ambition Gordi has been demonstrating since her Clever Disguise EP. When it came to this album, she admits to having needed time off to properly tie up ends.

“I played a couple of solo shows along the way but in a large part, I was really focused on finishing the record. I think that’s important as well, to allow yourself time to do that and not put pressure on yourself to have to do everything all at once all the time. That’s how things come undone. I felt like this record was the right amount of rushed but at the same time, I had enough time with it to really sit with it and work out how I felt about it; what changes I wanted to make and how I wanted it to sound overall.”

A buzz artist on the live front through North America, Europe and the UK too, Gordi comments on the current lifestyle she says she’s still comprehending.

“Touring in different markets has been interesting,” she says. “It’s always such a double edged sword. Sometimes you feel like the minute you really start to make it in one territory, all the work you’ve done in another territory starts to slip away from you because you’re not there! You’re running madly between all these different places being like, ‘Don’t forget about me’ – it’s a pretty tiring game, but I’ve been doing all of that off the back of one EP so I’m hoping that with a full record out, that process will be made a tiny bit easier.”

Back on home turf for a few shows on the east coast with Gang of Youths, starting in Brisbane this week, Gordi isn’t shy about her excitement for what will be some of the biggest rooms she’s played in. Ready to hit Sydney’s Hordern Pavilion, Melbourne’s Festival Hall and The Tivoli in Brisbane, it’s going to be a good way for Australian crowds to be re-introduced to her and a good impression for Gordi to make ahead of her own headline Australian tour in November.

“I’m such a massive fan of theirs.” she says. “I remember the first time I heard “Restraint and Release”, I fell so in love with it. I was really excited to tour with them because I feel like, even though our styles of music are quite different, there’ll be a lot of crossover with people who like that music. Their music is about good songwriting and then they play instruments as well. The lyrics that Dave writes are so moving. I’m excited to hang out with them and to play at the Hordern will be nuts. You never see Australian bands playing at the Hordern so it’s an absolute credit to them that they’re doing it and filling it up; that will be the biggest show I’ve ever played in Sydney by a few thousand!”

Recalling that London show in May, we both reflect on the comfort found in running into familiar faces abroad, particularly for Gordi, who has spent so much time away from Australian shores over the last year.

“The Australian music community, widely speaking, is such a lovely family.” she says. “When you’re out touring and you bump into bands all around the world, you just feel warm and fuzzy when you see those people. Especially with The Aussie BBQ, because there’s so many of you actually there; a lot of the same bands and artists who are on the same circuit at the same time. There’s something comforting about it. There’s another level of understanding, you don’t have to make plain. You get each other on a different level, I think.”

“I’m on a group thread my friends are on,” she adds. “They’ll be like, ‘Let’s go out for dinner on Saturday night,’ and I’m like, ‘Cool – I’m in Toronto, so I can’t.’ You do miss those things. I’ve got a little nephew now who is two and every time I come back, he’s learned something like 200 more words. I hadn’t thought about that part that much because I still don’t think of myself as a musician who tours the world, but that’s all I’ve been doing for the past year, pretty much. It’s just funny. Suddenly I’m realising that this is a big part of my life now; missing the lives of the people I care about. As you say though, with social media and FaceTime, it’s a lot easier than it used to be.”

Reservoir is out now.

GORDI TOUR DATES

With GANG OF YOUTHS
August 31st & September 1st | The Tivoli, BRISBANE | SOLD OUT
September 6th | Festival Hall, MELBOURNE
September 8th | Hordern Pavilion, SYDNEY

November 25th | Howler, MELBOURNE
November 30th | Oxford Art Factory, SYDNEY
December 2nd | Republic Bar, HOBART
December 6th | Mojo’s, FREMANTLE
December 7th | Jack Rabbit Slims, PERTH
December 8th | Ed Castle, ADELAIDE
December 9th | Woolly Mammoth, BRISBANE

Photo by Cameron Wittig.