In Conversation with Gordi

Before Australian singer/songwriter Gordi set off on her world tour with Ásgeir earlier this month, Anna Apuli (Assistant Manager and Art Director of Hot Chicks with Big Brains) managed to grab her for a quick chat. Below they discuss how Gordi‘s career began, some of her highlights so far, and juggling life as a touring musician while completing a medical degree.

Anna Apuli: How did you get started in the music industry?

Gordi: I wanted to start playing live because I love performing, so I got my first gig at the end of 2012. I gigged for about two years with my band, just sort of getting into the live scene.

When I finally recorded a song, Triple J picked it up in October 2014. That was a turning point for me, in terms of going from feeling as though I was just playing music to actually becoming a musician.

From there, Triple J was really supportive. Every song I’d put out, they’d play. So that led to me getting some good exposure, and then to getting a recording deal, and then making an album…

AA: That is quite a snowball!

[Laughter]

G: Yeah!

AA: I know you’ve stacked up quite an incredible list of collaborators and people you’ve worked with within the music industry. Who have you enjoyed working with the most?

G: Um… Well, in terms of actually touring and opening for bands, it’s been pretty remarkable. Opening for Bon Iver,  The Tallest Man On Earth, and Of Monsters and Men were three real highlights for me. Singing with the Bon Iver guys when they did the Jimmy Fallon show was a massive highlight! And yeah, when making this record and working with people like Tim Anderson and Alex Somers, I’ve learned so much from them. They’re just so good at what they do, and at getting the best out of the artists that they work with. It’s been really special.

That’s probably the best part of all of this: how much I’ve learned from all these different people, and just kinda watching other artists do what they do.

It’s a really nice thing to be a part of. There’s a sense that the purpose of this industry is to entertain and comfort people which is, y’know, a special thing.

AA: So music isn’t all that you do… What challenges have you faced studying medicine and touring at the same time?

G: Yeah, it’s been a pretty full on few years.

[Laughter]

G: Especially the last two years. The record [Reservoir] came out on August 25th, and then I had my final 5th year exams on the 9th, 11th, and 14th of September. And, in-between that, we had the Gang of Youths tour. A week before that I’d been in the US for touring… So yeah, I was surviving on about 4 hours of sleep.

[Laughter]

G: And lots of coffee! But yeah, look, when you have whatever it is that’s in front of you, you can either have a mental breakdown and not do it—which sometimes felt like what was about to happen—

[Laughter]

G: —or you can just get on with it. It was probably—hopefully—the hardest I’ll ever work in my life, and I was pretty strung out. I had my final exam on the 14th [of September] and everyone said “Oh, you’re going to have such a sense of relief when you finish!” but when I finished I came out, got in my car, and just cried for, like, half an hour. I think I just had such a physical reaction to all the stress I’d been feeling.

At the same time, in a weird way, I kinda liked it. I was pushed to my absolute limits, and it was like “You know what? I can do it, if I have to!”.

And yeah, I’ve had a really lovely couple of weeks since finishing.

AA: Have you ever been encouraged to make a choice between the two? Has it crossed your mind?

G: Yeah, like, every day!

[Laughter]

G: Everyone’s always like “You’ll have to choose at some point!” and I got so much of that. It kinda got in my head, and all through my 4th and 5th years of uni I was like “Ahhh, I should be making a choice, I’m doing both and it’s not gonna work out.”

But I got to the end of my 5th year [studying Medicine] and it had been structured with three, week-long breaks at different points. In those three weeks I tried to track as much of the album as possible. So I’d leave uni on, like, the Friday night, fly to the US, be there for about eight days, and be back in the hospital Monday morning…

At one point we had to do a weekend of shows in India, and then come back and go to New York straight away. And I remember this point when we were touring with The Tallest Man On Earth… He’s one of my favourite artists of all time! His song The Gardener is my favourite song ever—I remember hearing it when I was 14 and being like “This is the most amazing thing I’ve ever heard.” But, yeah, when he played in Brisbane, he said some really nice things about us [Gordi and her band] and the music we were making.

I just had this real moment where I was like “It’s all OK. I’ve been strung out, but I’ve just witnessed my hero of ten years say that he finds my music inspiring.” It’s all worth it, whatever you’ve got to do, to have an experience like that. You’ve just to keep on keepin’ on!

[Laughter]

AA: Yeah, I think we’re all capable of a lot more than we realise.

G: I really agree. It’s normal to do ‘enough’ but I don’t think you really get to know yourself until you’re pushed to your limits. Which is, y’know, interesting.

AA: What advice would you give someone trying to juggle two things that are so different?

G: Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to excel at both. When I started letting go of the idea of getting High Distinctions, that was a big turning point for me. [Laughing]

Because, while you can do both, excelling at both is pretty damn hard. You’ve got be prepared to make sacrifices.

With these [most recent] exams, my friends were studying for months before them and I studied for about 10 weeks, trying to cram all the content into those.

You’ve got to work for both, and if you really want to do both then that should be enough of a reason to keep at it. But there are always going to be things you have to sacrifice.

I’ve hardly seen my friends for the past three months because I’ve been so busy, and weighed down by all this stuff, and that does suck. It’s the part that sucks the most, because you’re so focused on yourself all the time [Laughing] that you can kinda vanish into this wormhole of things and then I kinda like—

AA: —reappear?

[Laughter]

G: Yeah!

AA: Everything’s still there when you come back, it’s still waiting.

G: Exactly.

AA: Whose music can’t you get enough of right now? Who are you listening to at the moment?

G: The new Gang of Youths record [Go Farther In Lightness], I love. It’s so, so good, I can’t stop listening to it. The new Alex Lahey record [I Love You Like A Brother] is also really, really good. It’s one of my favourite records of the year. And I’ve been listening to a lot of John Hopkins because while I was studying I was getting round the more instrumental playlists.

AA: What’s next for you?

G: Supporting Ásgeir on his Europe tour! Then I’m coming back for the Australian shows at the end of the year, which I’m really, really excited about. And I’m starting to write again. I hadn’t done so in a while, with everything going on, but I’ve started again. So I’ve got quite a few tracks now, and I’ll start thinking about getting back into the studio when I’m no longer on tour.

Catch Gordi on the Australian leg of her tour between the 25th of November and 9th of December!


Interview conducted by Anna Apuli

Images taken by Cameron Wittig and provided by Mushroom Promotions

Transcription, Introduction, and Edits by Emma Kate Lewis

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