Having recently returned to locum work as a junior doctor, today Gordi is proud to share a beautiful pair of lyric videos for twin ballads ‘Radiator’ and ‘Look Like You’. This follows the release of her ARIA top 20 album Our Two Skins in late June via Liberation and Jagjaguwar (outside Australia). Often cited as the emotional core of her second album, the songs and the self-directed videos tenderly document Gordi’s journey from an internal, personal enquiry of love and self-identity, to the external presentation of those ideas. And the notion that isolation belies appearances.
As Victoria continues its isolation through an extended Stage 4 lockdown, the 27 year-old medico-muso returned to work as a doctor in hospitals around Melbourne and regional Victoria. Having put international tour plans on hold, Sophie Payten returned to the medical field on a “locum” basis to help out during the COVID-19 crisis. Spending the last few weeks rotating around various hospital wards in inner city Melbourne, outer Melbourne and regional Victoria, Payten has had a chance to reflect on releasing music in a pandemic – the ups and the downs.
Discussing the nature of work she has been tasked with, Sophie elaborates,
“I’ve kind of been the medical equivalent of gap filler. Victorian hospitals are having huge numbers of staff being furloughed – meaning because they’ve had exposure to COVID-19, they have to go and isolate for 2 weeks. This means huge staff shortages so I’ve been filling the gaps where I can”
“Healthcare workers are stressed and working outside of their comfort zone. One hospital I was in had had their palliative care ward turned into a ward with COVID patients on it requiring serious intervention measures. Nursing staff who work on the palliative care ward are used to end-of-life care and not to patients in such critical conditions.”
As many healthcare workers have reported, the working conditions are challenging and unpredictable. Payten has experienced first hand the level of caution adopted by medical facilities in Victoria , especially with the level of personal protection equipment needed,
“Every time we enter a ward we have to put on full PPE which is really unpleasant to wear. It’s hard to have a drink bottle with you because it can’t remain sterile so you’re constantly dehydrated…. Every morning after I park my car I put my own personal mask on and wear it to the hospital foyer, then I sign in, get my temperature checked and exchange my mask for a hospital mask, wash my hands. Then I get to the doors of the ward, I pack everything I don’t need into my backpack, get out my stethoscope and clean it with sterile wipes, wash my hands, put a single-use very hot plastic gown on, wash my hands, put safety glasses on, wash my hands, and then go into the ward. If there’s a patient we see who potentially has COVID-19 then I put on an N-95 mask, safety glasses, a face shield, a new gown and gloves (washing my hands between each new thing I pick up) – and then take it all off when I exit there room; the cycle continues!”
Embracing the ad hoc nature of the pandemic, Gordi recently announced a run of national Our Two Skins album shows set to take place next month, and continues to add new shows and cities. Set up in socially-distanced format, shows in Sydney and Brisbane instantly sold out, indicative of the appetite for live music despite generally cautious community attitudes and fans’ response to the triple j Feature Album.
The tour announcement followed the Canowindra songwriter’s debut performance at the Sydney Opera House last month. The show was broadcast globally as part of the Sydney Opera House’s digital program which has featured archival performances by Jónsi & Alex Somers, Air, and Ólafur Arnalds, as well as new live sets by Alaska Orchestra, Low Life and Bow & Arrow, streamed online to audiences around the world. Watch full performance with her five piece band from the Joan Sutherland Theatre stage HERE.
“I did always imagine that if I ever played a show at the Opera House, there would be a few more audience members. But strangely the pandemic has quickly conditioned me to be used to no real audience. Sitting at the stunning grand piano that had been tuned twice since we got there, I thought of all the artists, bands and creators that had stood on the same stage. The real life experience was as epic as it had felt in the last decade of my dreams.”
Gordi’s international album launch show at the Opera House rounded off a string of other appearances including her emotionally-charged rework of Miley Cyrus’s ‘Wrecking Ball’ for triple j Like A Version, a beautiful, sparse rendition of manic album ballad “Volcanic” for ABC’s Q&A and a high energy full band taping of album lead single ‘Unready’ for ABC’s The Sound TV show. Gordi also shared her experience in quitting her job as a doctor to go touring only to have that cancelled, yet unable to find work as a doctor – she joined current affairs program The Drum as a panelist, and discussed this with ABC News Breakfast over recent months. Last month Sophie was invited to deliver Jenny Morris’s keynote address at the National Press Club last month on music and arts reform, alongside industry peers John Watson, L-Fresh The Lion and Ngaiire.
Our Two Skins was produced alongside Bon Iver’s production team, Chris Messina and Zach Hanson, who flew from Wisconsin to Sophie’s farm in regional Australia to set up a temporary studio. The album is an exploration of identity, community and isolation, as Payten came to terms with her new identity against the backdrop of Australia’s marriage equality vote.
Gordi’s detailed reflections on her return to hospital can be viewed here.
GORDI – TOUR DATES 2020
Thursday 15 October | The Triffid, Brisbane (early sitting)
Thursday 15 October | The Triffid, Brisbane (late sitting) [SOLD OUT]
Thursday 16 October | Newcastle City Hall, Newcastle
Wednesday 21 October | The Factory, Sydney (early sitting)
Wednesday 21 October | The Factory, Sydney (late sitting)
Thursday 22 October | The Factory, Sydney (early sitting) [SOLD OUT]
Thursday 22 October | The Factory, Sydney (late sitting) [SOLD OUT]
Friday 23 October | Altar, Hobart
+ WITH BON IVER – 2021
Wednesday 24 March | RAC Arena, Perth
Monday 29 March | Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne
Saturday 27 March | AEC Arena, Adelaide
Thursday 1 April | Riverstage, Brisbane
Monday 5 April | First State Super Theatre, Sydney
Tuesday 6 April | First State Super Theatre, Sydney