Credit: Richard Freeman
Just twenty minutes ago, 23-year-old Sophie Payten was wearing surgical gloves. She, of the many stringed bow, is in her fifth year of medicine at the University of New South Wales and it turns out scrubbing just isn’t her forte. “You have to hold your hands in front of your chest constantly and never lose sight of them otherwise you lose the sterility,” Payten explains. “More often than not, I faint because I’m just not cut out for surgery.”
And luckily so. Gordi is the moniker of Payten who shot to prominence in 2015 for her Triple J Unearthed track Can We Work It Out – a “folktronica” hit that, along with single Nothing’s As It Seems, saw the young artist sign to booking agencies Coda in the UK (Surfjan Stevens, FKA Twigs and London Grammar) and Billions in the US (Arcade Fire, St Vincent, Mumford and Sons, Bon Iver, Future Islands). In fact, so impressed were the US management with her that she will become part of Billions’ founder David Viecelli’s personal roster. And today on set, the news of such a signing has only just been announced. “I lived on a farm outside a little town called Canowindra in Country New South Wales which has a population of about 2000,” she says with a smile.
“Every time something happens in my music world, it also happens in the Canowindra news. And Billions was big news.”
Known as the hot balloon capital of Australia, Payten moved to Normanhurst to board and spent most of her time in the music cells playing the piano, a skill her mum taught her when she was young. “To be honest, in highschool I never thought I would become a musician because it was such a passion and a hobby and I was kind of scared I’d ruin it if I spent too much time on it,” says Payten. “But it’s had the opposite effect.”
Today, it’s all about the music. Half-joking that the subject behind her wistfully-aching lyrics are indeed inspired by “awful men”, the Sylvia Plath poetry-reader isn’t afraid of the vulnerability of her telling lyrics. “You’re sharing some of the most intimate details of your life, hidden and buried in metaphors, to a bunch of people you don’t know,” Payten explains. “It’s pretty extraordinary that they are applying what you’ve written to their own lives. I don’t think you can connect with someone better than through music.”
Currently touring the country with Of Monsters and Men, Payten’s current single Wanting is at radio with an EP, Clever Disguise releasing on May 13. She will then head overseas to support this editor’s favourite Swedish band, Highasakite. Then, it’s off to Seattle to play alongside Florence and the Machine, The Cure and Jamie XX at Sasquatch festival. She will then headline a short string of dates from San Francisco to New York. “And then at the end of the year, I’ll be announcing a future album release.”
There’s been many a high profile name to emerge from regional Australia; Miranda Kerr hailed from Gunnedah, NSW, Kym Ellery from mining town Karratha in Western Australia.
Take note. We’re about to add another to the list. Surgical gloves, optional.
Gordi’s debut EP, Clever Disguise, is out May 13.
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Photographer: Richard Freeman
Stylist: Charlotte Stokes
Hair: Kieren Street
Makeup: Elsa Morgan