Gordi – Some of My Best Work

The following three articles were written during an internship with the podcast department at Mushroom Group.

A series of articles were written about each episode of their Some of My Best Work podcast. Due to a website redesign none were published.

Finding sounds in unexpected places

Gordi’s latest album Our Two Skins came out in 2020 and featured songs written while touring around the world. But instead of just sitting in the world’s best studios, Gordi discovered several unusual locations which served as inspiration.

Warehouses and Festivals in Germany

In 2018 Gordi travelled to Berlin to take part in PEOPLE, a festival co-founded by Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) and the Dessner Brothers from The National. 

The festival invites artists to write songs and perform at Funkhaus, a building which was once the site of East Germany’s communist radio broadcaster, and has since been converted into a recording studio.  Gordi said,

Every day we would go from the hotel where we all stayed, get on this little boat, it was very idyllic, we [were] taken down a river to the Funkhaus, which was an old like radio station…and it’s now been turned into like a massive music sort of studio, like Nils Frahm works out of there.

Gordi had begun writing her song ‘Volcanic’ a earlier in Stockholm, recording an initial demo on a hotel’s grand piano. But as Gordi explained, it all came together back in Berlin inside a seemingly chaotic new location.

I was searching for a space to sort of just start doing some of my own writing. And I came into this big warehouse. And there was all this, like, metal work being done around me. But it was kind of cool, because it meant I could just like, go for it. And no one could really hear what I was doing. And I got out this page that I’d written all these words on, and just started playing the piano in this big warehouse. And, yeah, in the in the day, I kind of had the song written.

Getting The Band Together 

Between 2017 and 2019 Gordi toured with Sean Carey alongside Zack Hanson and Chris Messina, and was recording her own demos on a laptop on the tour bus. 

With the tours all done, Gordi came back to Australia to record her album and landed back home in Canowindra, a small town in NSW whose name means ‘home’ in the Wiradjuri language.

Zack Hanson and Chris Messina flew in from the US to take part in the sessions, and the trio spent four weeks in a cottage recording. 

This included collecting sounds from the local environment and using the cottage itself as an instrument, as Gordi said:

We basically like walked around the farm with a field recorder….like swinging the gate, like as if there’s a right way to do it. And, you know, recorded that, and then we would kind of come back in and put it all like airdrop it to the laptop and put it all into the song.

Other sounds included whipping chains, and revving Gordi’s car, with the sounds manipulated to creating atmosphere and ambience such as on Aeroplane Bathroom.

On Volcanic, Gordi returned to demos she recorded on her phone while on tour and added these to the final songs.

We’d kind of rock up every day and just start playing whatever and then eventually just add layers on top of these demos…I’d recorded a sample of someone playing a cello within e-bow on my phone, which is the drone that runs underneath the whole thing… 

Once the album was complete, Gordi returned again to Canowindra to film the video for Volcanic directed by her friend Madeleine Purdy. 

Following the release of Our Two Skins, Gordi moved to Melbourne where she has been recording new music. Stay tuned.

On writing Volcanic

Gordi’s ARIA nominated album ‘Our Two Skins’ features the single Volcanic, released in 2020 alongside the amazing video directed by Madeleine Purdy.

Volcanic started life as a demo while Gordi was touring the world following her debut album Reservoir, and the song first came together in Stockholm.

I had kind of gone through a big period of quite personal sort of upheaval in my life, and was really sort of coming to terms with that, that that’s what the record is about. And when I wrote Volcanic I, I basically wrote the words first I was in Stockholm, and I sort of started to go into a bit of a spin and a bit of a panic. And you know, when you start freaking out about something, it’s just like this absolute spiral. And I think I got right to the bottom of the spiral, and just wrote all these words, I guess it was essentially kind of a poem.

A week later Gordi was in Berlin with the poem in hand, and finished writing Volcanic on a piano in a large warehouse. 

The lyrics were inspired by reading about volcanoes, and Gordi picked words which stood out to her.

I liked, you know, how freeing that was, but still, how much it’s sort of reflected on the core of the lyrical content, which was this sort of slow eruption, and all these kind of feelings and thoughts bubbling up to the surface. 

The song also allowed Gordi to explore a stream of conscious style of writing, taking inspiration from Maggie Nelson’s book The Argonauts.

There was this line that really stuck with me from it, which was that, like, “words are not enough”. And I think that was sort of something that I was thinking about a lot when I was writing Volcanic, like, there’s a line in the song that’s like, you know, “it’s all words and bookmark lines leaving us all undermined and wrung out”, because so often we’re trying to put, we have to explain ourselves, so often explain what we’re thinking. 

When she first wrote Volcanic, Gordi said it felt like it was the best song she’d ever written, and even though many of the words in the song had been inspired by volcanoes, they still meant something to her personally.

It’s also a song which has resonated with her fans, who were inspired by the honesty and fragility Gordi puts into her songs. 

Someone wrote to me saying, Volcanic, like, I’ve never heard a song so sort of aptly capture what it feels like to panic. 

I had a real outpouring from people online being like, you know, I listened to this song, and then I came out to my family, or I listened to this song, and it repaired my relationship with my grandparent, or all those sorts of things, which, to be honest, it’s hard to really like, comprehend that, you know, you sort of think that, that addressing that to somebody else. But yeah, it is, like such an amazing byproduct of, of, you know, being vulnerable and being honest. 

How Gordi recorded an album while working as a doctor

Gordi’s fantastic album Our Two Skins was released in 2020 after several years on tour and writing demos.

But in 2019 Gordi had taken the year off from music to focus on her other job as a medical doctor.

After seven years studying at medical school, she began working at a hospital in Sydney and gained experience in cardiology, psychiatry, emergency and general surgery. 

She called it, “one of the most stressful and rewarding years of my life.”

Gordi decided she needed to put out the music she had been working on and decided to take four weeks of annual leave.

Originally she had planned to move to the US to work with her friends Zack Hanson and Chris Messina, but when their studio was unavailable they decided to record in Gordi’s hometown of Canowindrain NSW.

With the album complete, at the start of 2020 Gordi quit her hospital job and prepared to tour Europe.

But her plans were put on hold as the Covid-19 pandemic spread across the world and Australia closed their borders.

Gordi moved to Melbourne as the city suffered through a tough lockdown and returned to her work as a doctor.

2020 was not what I had expected, as most people would say, and I was supposed to be kind of on tour all year, obviously wasn’t. And I was in Melbourne, which was obviously so affected by, you know, the pandemic. And so I got a lot of casual work in hospitals around Melbourne, which was, you know, a pretty gnarly experience. But I’m glad that I was kind of part of that effort. 

Her efforts brought her to the attention of both the music and medical press around Australia, who all wanted to know more about the musician doctor and she released a statement on the conditions medical staff faced.

When asked about the experience of releasing music during a pandemic, Gordi said:

It was strange but for once I was pretty thankful for social media. We just had to come up with creative ways to reach our audience and I think lots of artists and bands have really excelled in doing that. The main obvious difference is no touring but I think the world is coming around to paying for a quality live-stream.

Gordi also took part in the charity concert ISOL-AID, which saw musicians come together online to perform and raise money for artists who were unable to work due to the pandemic.

Now that Australia’s state borders are opened again, Gordi has begun juggling her two careers as touring has become possible again.

Now, I’m essentially trying to get to this sort of balance, which I’ve been hoping to get to for a long time, which is, I’m doing a lot of kind of songwriting, a lot of creative stuff. But I basically work a couple of shifts a week in hospitals around Melbourne, to just sort of keep me like, fresh and kind of, you know, make sure I don’t have too much time off, because no one wants to see a doctor who’s never been in the hospital.