Gordi on 'Clever Disguise' And The Australian Outback
With her distinctive blend of acoustic melodies and electronic sounds, Gordi is a one-of-a-kind artist. Her debut EP, Clever Disguise, was written in her college dorm room, and one question inevitably follows: how much real estate does such a small sound really require? The answer—this isn’t a small sound, at all; in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Having grown up in rural Australia before moving to Sydney, her music has the ability to fill expansive spaces, with beautiful, melodic tunes that linger long after each song comes to an end. It’s this gift for creating far-reaching musical artistry that makes Gordi a standout musician, in 2017 and, inevitably, beyond.
Milk caught up with the Gordi before her recent show at Brooklyn’s Union Pool to talk about finding balance, audiences across the globe, and what’s next for the Aussie songwriter. Peep the full interview below.
How did growing up in rural Australia impact your music?
There are definitely no lyrical themes, I don’t write about being from the outback and stuff. But I gravitated towards music because there’s not a lot to do. I couldn’t go to the mall or go to the movies. I could hangout with my friends and ride horses, but we had a piano at home, and I spent a lot of time in there. It’s in a nice living room that looks over my mom and dad’s garden and it’s a really nice space. It’s the physical space that invites you to fill it with stuff. I think that was really motivating to getting into music, but more so to write music and donate some time to that.
You wrote a lot of your EP, Clever Disguise, in your dorm room. How does it feel performing such intimate music that you created in a private space?
You do forget about that aspect of it. Because when you’re doing a live show there’s so many things involved, and you’re often thinking about technical things and getting the band together and stuff that sometimes you lose sight of all that. Which I think is kind of unfortunate because it’s the most special thing. Shows like tonight I’m playing solo, and I find that those are the moments I feel like I’m baring my soul to the audience. And it’s much more comfortable to do it in front of a room full of strangers. So playing here, I feel fine pouring my heart out. Whereas when I play in Sydney, at home, and half my friends and family are there, I always feel really self-conscious about essentially singing a diary entry. And there’s all these people like “Uhhh…am I that person?” I find that a bit uncomfortable. But that’s why music is what it is, because it is uncomfortable and it’s honest. It’s pretty special.
What is the biggest difference between audiences in Australia and in the U.S.?
Even audiences from city to city in Australia differ quite a lot. Sydney is always more rowdy. I think that’s because I’m from there and all my friends come, who have never listened to the music and just get wasted in the back. Then there’s Melbourne, which is a bit more like New York, in that people, even if they don’t know you or have never heard of you, are really open to whatever it is you’re giving. People try to make an effort to connect with what you’re doing rather than just standing there, letting you play music at them and waiting for it to hit them. They’re engaging with you in an emotional way.
Your music has a really unique blend of acoustic and electronic sounds. How do you find the balance between the two?
It differs with each song. I always approach writing a song in the same way. It’s very acoustic; I play it on the guitar or the piano. I like it to exist as a song first, outside of production. Before I get in the studio I try to listen as widely as I can to artists that I’m into at that stage. Whether it’s the new Bon Iver album, or an album by an Icelandic artist, Ásegeir, called “In the Silence”, which was really influential on me when I was making my EP. Then it’s about experimenting and seeing how far you want to push it.
I find that if I want to push the electronic side, I need to push the organic side as well, so they’re nice and balanced. I do try and keep it in check: I’ll add another element, sit back and say, “Okay, is it still sitting in this nice little zone?” “Or am I going too electronic?” I want to keep walking the line between these two genres, because to sit in one or the other wouldn’t reflect my music.
The proceeds for tonight’s show benefit Planned Parenthood. Is that an organization you feel a connection to?
It being an American organization, I wouldn’t say I have a deep personal connection to it. But we’re in a pretty turbulent time at the moment, with government—even in Australia. It’s not quite as severe, but it’s a conservative time. People aren’t supporting things like a woman’s right to choose, and I’ve never really linked my music to any political issues, but I’m in full support of that. When I found out that this was on and I had an opportunity to play at it, I really wanted to take it. I’ll probably never be an artist who is really political, that’s not really my style. But I feel like if I can support things that I believe in in ways like this, that’s the best way I can be involved.
With such a long history of musical artists getting involved in social issues, do you feel like musicians have a duty to be political?
It’s funny, that’s such a poignant question at the moment, because of everything that’s going on. And all the talk around the Grammys and Beyoncé not winning and Lady Gaga’s performance at the Super Bowl.
I don’t think that it’s a duty. I think it happens concurrently. Artists draw or sing or paint or write about what’s going on around them, so it’s hard not to be informed by what’s happening. And most artists are pretty left-wing, so they’re always going to be challenging the establishment. I think duty is too strong a word, but they are often in a fortunate and privileged position. So if they feel comfortable, try and use that to spread a good message.
Totally! After this show, are you going on tour at all? Where can we catch you play next?
We did a bit of touring in Australia last year, and coming up this year, I’ll be touring in May and June in Europe, and probably coming back to the States after that. But at the moment, the concrete things booked are the Bon Iver-curated festival in Dublin—the Forbidden Fruit Festival—and then Primavera and Bergen Fest in Norway. We’re making a mini-tour around that. I’m also working on an album right now that will be out later this year.
Featured image via Stereogum
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