22-year-old Gordi strikes the heart like an expert marksman. From the wistful, folky opening of her new single “Can We Work It Out” to the towering swell of the chorus, Gordi displays an uncanny dexterity with human emotion; in short, she’s your heartbreak soundtrack of the moment, though she’s also an awful lot more.
Raised in the small farming community of Canowindra, New South Wales, Gordi – real name Sophie Payten – was destined towards artistry, thanks to her music teacher mum. Not simply content with prenatural music talent, she moved to Sydney to study medicine; she’s currently balancing her burgeoning music career with her 5th year of university, in case your self-esteem was overdue a pounding.
“Can We Work It Out” is the lead single from her debut EP, “Clever Disguise”, out now on Jagjagawar. The track’s a masterwork in potent simplicity: a minimal acoustic melody and spare, yearning lyrics are built through vintage vocal layering and delicate production into a soaringly visceral lament for a failing relationship. It’s more than worthy of a spot on your playlist simply titled ‘*crying emoji*’ to which you melodramatically wail in the shower when your flatmates are all out (don’t deny it. We’re not here to judge).
Accompanying the track is a video just begging for conspiracy theorist dissection. A gently illuminated Gordi sings against a backdrop of arcane symbols and increasingly frenetic imagery; classical sculpture melds into crashing waves, which give way to geometric sketches. Drink it in below, then read our interview to find out whether Gordi is in fact an Illuminati member (plus, you know, some stuff about her music and whatnot).
Who are your musical idols?
Billy Joel, Carole King and James Taylor, and more recently Asgeir, The Tallest Man on Earth and Bon Iver.
You grew up in a rural farming community – has that impacted upon your sound?
I think everything in my life impacts on my sound in some way. Living on a farm meant I was always surrounded by space, which I think translates into my songs. I like the sparseness of country life and the quiet, and I think too often we try and fill songs with so much stuff that the core of the song gets lost. So I’ve always tried to keep that in mind when writing and recording.
Your mum is a music teacher – tell us about your upbringing with music.
We have a piano in our house that is a semi-tone out – the whole thing is in tune to itself but apparently the whole thing will just always be a semi-tone out. I grew up listening to my Mum play that piano and eventually it was the room in the house I spent the most time in. She taught me how to learn and transpose music by ear but mostly just how to love and appreciate a good song.
You originally intended to study medicine, but ended up getting involved with the city’s music scene. At what point did you decide to pursue music and why?
I’m currently in my 5th year of my medical studies and intend to finish the 6 year course but then will see what happens. I saw a live show in 2012 and was so affected by it that I left thinking I had to do that too. I’d always been writing and I performed a lot in high school, but actually getting involved with the live music scene in your adult life is a whole different thing. But the last few years have only made me more determined to pursue music as a career as nothing gives me as much fulfilment.
Your lyrics are incredibly emotive – is writing a cathartic process for you?
Yes it is, and always has been. That’s why I started writing music – because as a teenager with a hundred different feelings and emotions running through me at any given moment, it helped me process things. Lyrics are incredibly important to me so I spend a lot of time trying to get them right.
Talk us through the imagery in the video for “Can We Work It Out” (we’re just going to assume you’re in the Illuminati)
I can neither confirm nor deny that. The main concept behind the film clip and imagery is futuristic, the message being our need to try and get some sort of assurance that whatever you are trying to work out will be worked out.
Your production is beautiful – expansive, simple, wistful. Tell us about the process behind it – do you write with production in mind, or do you just experiment after writing a song and see what happens?
I always try and keep writing and production in two phases because I like the song to be able to stand up on its own without the production. We always have quite clear references in mind going in to the studio and it has always been important to me not to overcrowd a song and leave enough space for the track to breathe.
“Can We Work It Out” appeared on the soundtrack of The Vampire Diaries – how did that come about? How does it feel to see your music, that’s so personal, acquire all these new associations for fans of the show?
It was pretty bizarre to see it on The Vampire Diaries. I have a sync agency in the US that does all that stuff. So much of the music I discovered as a teenager I found through my favourite TV shows so it’s pretty cool to think that could happen with my music.
So in May, you’re supporting Highasakite in London [May 24th at Village Underground], playing The Great Escape festival, and releasing your debut EP. What’s next? Solo tour? Album?
I’m playing some dates in the US following this UK trip and then some headline shows back home in Australia. Album won’t be too far away!
What’s your ultimate fantasy career aspiration?
To play a sold out show at the Sydney Opera House with the symphony orchestra. I saw Ben Folds do it once!