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Album Release: Tori Forsyth – Dawn Of The Dark

It may be a little more than two years between writing her first proper song and the release of her debut album, but Tori Forsyth would tell you it’s not exactly right to say her dreams are coming true. Sure, the success of her early singles, including hitting #1 with more than 2 million streams on the Spotify most viral chart with New Walls, and her continuing work with award-winning producer Shane Nicholson, is exciting.

And she loves the sound and feel of this album which can spin from traditional, almost homespun sounds in Grave Robber’s Daughter to rock-splashed guitars in White Noise and beautifully arranged strings in Hell’s Lullaby.

However, there are some dreams Forsyth wouldn’t admit to herself for a long time, growing up first on a rural property on the Central Coast and then a 62-acre spread near Congewai, a tiny Hunter Valley village where “literally the town is a street” she describes with an affectionate laugh.

Poetry and songwriting was stuff other people did, not this farm kid. Even with the encouragement of a grade 5 English teacher who “was the only teacher in the school who made poetry a thing, and it was really cool”, she didn’t rate her writing, declaring “I always just fluked English”. (Though if you are fluking English every year it’s probably not a fluke is it?)

So when Tori started putting those words to music, inspired by Stevie Nicks and another of her parents’ favourites, the folk singer Melanie Safka, she wouldn’t let anyone hear them, or let anyone else shape them.

The first song she felt was good enough to be heard, Johnny And June, would end up on a debut EP she worked multiple jobs to pay for, and Tori describes it as having “absolutely no structure to it, because I didn’t know what I was doing. But the beauty of it is I feel like I had a very naïve start to music, which I think was really good, because I didn’t have any expectations.”

That’s no longer the case. Expectations, and dreams, are upfront now, beginning with writing her songs alone, rather than in the co-writes so often encouraged for young artists.

“I tried to co-write, I did a lot of them, but I didn’t feel that they were a reflection of me and I wouldn’t be comfortable putting them out,” she says, arguing that being true to herself mattered more than fitting in. If I was to have an album full of love songs that would be dumb, it wouldn’t make sense. If I was making an album about drinking and having a good time on a Friday, that wouldn’t make sense either.”

That honesty is a feature of Tori’s songs which can be blunt about some of her early experiences in the country music towns of Nashville and Tamworth – “It was like a war zone, it was like a battlefield. I felt like I was in high school again.” – as well as revealing about her own struggles with mental health in a song such as Snow White.

There’s plenty of that truth in her storytelling, with its characters looking for ways to make sense of the world, and her voice, which can be languid or strong but always straight to you. Not surprisingly, Tori is honest about where she sits musically. While happily seeing herself as a country artist – there’s no denying it in the pretty, chiming loneliness of Heart’s On The Ground – Tori isn’t restricted by it.

See for example how the deliberately “dirty” vocal sound and frank examination of religion in Redemption draws on a modern rock band like Pretty Reckless as much as old time music.

There’s plenty more where that came from says Tori. “I love the ethos of country music, but I do think I can float into to other parts of music which is why is a good title for what I do.”  And she’s only just begun.

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