Starting off her career as a country artist enabled the public to pigeonhole Tori Forsyth. But Forsyth can’t be tamed. Her voice – rootsy, impassioned, and earthy – has all the glorious storytelling, lived-through-it quality of a country singer, and Forsyth hasn’t packed her bags and left country. She’s eased out the door, but left it ajar.
“When you’re starting somewhere you’re going to get remembered for that particular thing,” says Forsyth. “Country music is definitely something I still listen to and love. As a musician, I learn from listening to different genres and I love indulging that. I do make a point of normalising creative freedom. I was 19 when I wrote that first EP and I’m 26 now, so I’ve had experience as an adult that impacts how I see the world, how I consume and create music. I’ll always make music that is true to my life. Who knows what’s next for me?”
Her newest album Provlépseis is a maturation following her debut EP Black Bird in 2015, and her debut album, Dawn Of The Dark in 2018. Its title means ‘predictions’ in Greek – though Forsyth isn’t fluent, she understands the language due to her mother’s Greek heritage. It was written pre-COVID, but Forsyth says, “It’s interesting to see how much more relevant this record is to me now in post-COVID times than it was when I wrote it.” While that might be true lyrically, Provlépseis will likely sound like a bit of a throwback to those of us brought up on Sonic Youth, Hole, L7, PJ Harvey and Liz Phair.
“I was listening to predominantly ’90s [music] when I was writing this record. A lot of PJ Harvey, a lot of Hole, a lot of Soundgarden, even some Audioslave…a lot of Alanis Morissette and The Cranberries,” admits Forsyth, adding that the album “is very much a ‘90s lovechild for me.”
There are moments throughout the album where the very ‘90s grunge vibe feels less like a homage and more like a nostalgic indulgence. The promotional artwork for Provlépseis does seem like a recreation of PJ Harvey’s iconic 1993 album Rid of Me, in which Harvey is depicted in black and white, her dark, wet hair whipped around her bare face. In other artwork to promote the album at the time, Harvey is in a bath, half emerged. Forsyth, too, has released promotional media shots of herself…in a bath. “[Is it] a complete copy? Absolutely not,” she says. Having been born in 1995, Forsyth is not reliving the ‘90s – she’s discovering it anew, and if younger listeners are inspired to seek out the ‘90s artists who’ve inspired current acts, they’ll be richly rewarded. “I’ve definitely pulled inspiration from PJ – like I said, she was a massive influence on this record. It’s not my intention to be a carbon copy of somebody else, but I definitely pull inspiration from artists that I listen to.”
Another ‘90s icon gets namedropped in the slow-burning clap-back “Courtney Love.” Forsyth croons, “I paid rent, so long/Empty house, broken throne,” and it’s hard not be furious on her behalf, even though the melancholic acoustic ballad doesn’t quite reach “Violet” levels of scorched earth. In a video directed by Emily Avila, Forsyth sits in a bathtub full of dirty water, hugging her legs as the water goes cold.
She’s also worked extensively with Bradley Murnane, who directed the video for “Down Below,” both glamorous and grungy in the style of Garbage and Nine Inch Nails. When it comes to her videos, though, Forsyth says, “I’m definitely very heavily involved, probably a control freak. I love the visual element of creating a story in conjunction with a song. It’s another facet of creativity for me to indulge and I feel lucky that I get to do that in this career. I write the concepts up for pretty much all of my film clips.”
For the new album, Forsyth has again called upon nationally-celebrated producer and country artist Shane Nicholson. “I met Shane at the very beginning of my career,” says Forsyth. “We have a really great friendship now and I worked with him on Dawn Of The Dark. We get along so well because we have very similar musical tastes. It’s an awesome relationship that is built around love for a lot of different music.”
They recorded Provlépseis in Nicholson’s home studio in Gosford, on the central coast of New South Wales (Forsyth had been living in NSW at the time of recording but has since moved back to Queensland). “As far as production, Shane was heavily involved in engineering and producing both my albums. We’ve gone heavier on guitars, which was hinted at on Dawn Of The Dark, but it’s definitely expanded here [on the new album],” says Forsyth.
Provlépseis was written with the intention of being performed live and Forsyth is still in the planning stages. “I’m definitely organising a tour for after June,” she says. “This record was very much written with live shows as a focus. I want to do the songs justice in the way that I see them. When I tour, I’ve got a band: Reece Baines and Zach Miller, who have been a permanent fixture with me on stage for a long time now. My ex-partner was my guitar player so we’re in an in-between stage at the moment.”
Once the logistics are worked out, Forsyth will take her show on the road – enabling her audience to discover the weird and wonderful voice she’s learned to prize. “Early on in my career, I was told I had a strange voice. A singing teacher told me my voice was hard to work with because it was ‘different.’ Being told that it’s weird kind of sticks in my head, but now I’m pretty grateful for my weird voice,” shares Forsyth. “For me, creativity and writing have been about that therapeutic element of self-expression. Having a career out of that as a by-product is incredible and I’m grateful.”