Category: tori darke

Tori Darke finds her silver lining

As she heads into the 2016 Tamworth Country Music Festival, Tori Darke takes a new single, ‘Silver Lining’, with her, as well as a nomination for the 2016 Female Artist of the Year. Recently I spoke to Tori about the single, her album of the same name, being an independent artist and, of course, Tamworth. Tori will appear during the festival on Tuesday 19 January at Wests Diggers, 3 p.m. 

We’re here to talk about ‘Silver Lining’, which is your third single from the album of the same name. How have your fans responded to the album?
The response I’ve received for the album has been more than I could have ever asked for. I have had nothing but praise and good reviews from fans, and from industry. As an artist that’s all you ever really want. It’s always very daunting releasing a new album, wondering if people are going to like it or hate it, what are they going to say about it. To have such a good response on a second album that I’ve put literally everything I have and everything I own, all my time and effort and money into, means the world to me.
I know you play quite a bit and do your regular shows in Tamworth – is it always a bit nerve-wracking to play new songs for your established audience?
Yes, it is. [I’m] always saying, ‘If you guys like a song, let me know’, and if they don’t say anything you think, I guess they hated that one. It can be really scary playing new songs – just not knowing they’re going to react. How anyone is going to react, really. And then you think, Maybe that one’s not going to work – maybe it’s not a good track for an album. But sometimes it can just be one person’s opinion, so you can’t necessarily take their judgement, or not saying anything, as the final say.
Going to the name of this track, and the idea of a silver lining, what’s had a silver lining for you in the past?
My life in general. I’ve gone through a few rough patches over the last few years and that’s why I thought this title and this song were so fitting for my album, because sometimes you just have that really down moment and you think, Nothing is ever going to get better than this. Or you break up with your boyfriend or your partner and you think, I’m never going to find anyone. Then you release there’s a silver lining – I’ve met someone or I’m happy, or something’s progressed in your life that’s made you take notice that life isn’t so bad and you can’t take everything for gospel because it’s happened to you. You just have to move on, pick yourself back up and get going again. And I guess that’s what I feel like I’ve done with my life, with several different things that I’ve gone through, and that’s made me a better person too.
A lot of people listen to music to help them through things, and no doubt some of your fans are listening to your music to help them through things. What’s the music you have turned to in the past, to help you through challenging times?
I guess there’s not one particular song or artist. If I’m feeling a bit down I try to listen to something a bit happier. If I’m miserable because of a boy I’d probably listen to something sad and probably just drown in my own tears – which a lot of us females probably do [laughs]. But I guess I just try to relate to something that’s fitting and I’ll then probably listen to it over and over and over again, because that’s just what I’m like. There’s so many different, great artists not just in country music but in all different styles of music that I try to listen to a bunch of different things and stay really broad, I guess.
I think that’s a good policy.
Yeah, you have to listen to a bunch of different things in order to be able to be not so one-sided when it comes to songwriting, because if you are then you immediately dismiss something that could have been a great idea – ‘Oh no, that’s too pop’ – and then you miss this really great opportunity.
You’re working in a field you obviously love – then if you’re a musician and a performer you need to love it. But sometimes if you work in a field you love you can stop being a fan like you used to be. You have to listen to music in a different way and look at performances a different way. Do you find yourself doing that, or are you still able to listen to music for pleasure?
I definitely listen to music for pleasure … but you listen to some things and you might not have been so critical before, whereas now you listen to a song and you might think, I don’t know what they did there. I wouldn’t have done that. It does take the fun out of it a little bit because you become so critical and so judgemental.
You put a lot of emotions into your songs. When you’re recording a song and you have to do a few takes – as happens – what’s it like trying to get into the emotion of a song each time?
It can be really difficult. You might just get it straightaway and other times you can be having a really bad day vocally or mentally or just anything and it doesn’t happen, and you have to just sit down and reevaluate everything and think, What am I trying to get out of this song? What kind of message am I portraying? How do I want it to sound? Rather than just going bull at a gate and thinking, I’m just going to sing sing sing sing sing, and then realising that it didn’t work.
So it sounds like in those moments when you are feeling that challenge, you think about your audience – you think about how to connect to your audience.
Yes, a hundred per cent. You have to think about how this song would connect with some of fifty [years of age] and someone of twenty-five. Can this song be versatile? Can this be a song that’s relatable to lots of different people? And a lot of the time it can. You just have to put a lot of thought and a lot of patience and a lot of effort into something. It doesn’t just come naturally sometimes.
And I guess it’s harder when you’re in a recording studio. When you’re onstage and you can see your audience in front of you, you know who you’re singing to, but in a recording studio that connection can feel a bit … disconnected.
Yes. In a recording studio you are in there all on your own. It gives you a great opportunity for you to connect as an artist with yourself and your voice, and really finding what fits best, but then there are times when it can be really disjointed and you think, I’m just not connecting with it today. And sometimes all you need is a break from it and you come back to it and just nail it, and the producer says, ‘I don’t know what you did, but keep doing that.’
Just to link all this back to the song – this is your third single and I’m always curious as to how singles get chosen. As it’s the title track some people might think it should have gone first. So how do you approach choosing singles to go to radio?
I’d love to say that it’s the easiest thing you’ll ever do, but it really isn’t. Some of the time you can wrack your brains for month on end trying to decide what to release and what not to release. I originally had a different song picked for my third single but then I thought, No, that doesn’t fit. This one fits better.I think it’s just putting a lot of thought and effort into the decisions you make because once that decision’s made, it’s made.
Am I right in thinking you’ve put out this album as an independent artist, and therefore you do get to make your own decisions? You don’t have someone else coming in and overriding you?
Yes, that’s exactly right. I am an independent artist, so I do have a lot to say when it comes to the creative side of things as well. When it comes to the recording process and deciding which songs and everything in between, it’s my opinion, really, and I can take other people’s opinions on board but whether or not I choose to listen to them [laughs] … You’ve got to follow your heart, in a sense, because the song that you don’t record because someone tells you that shouldn’t but it’s a song you feel like you should, you’ll always regret it. I feel like I’ve been really lucky because I’ve worked with a really good team to record this album and I don’t feel like I’ve made any wrong decisions at all.
I’ve talked to quite a few country artists now who are independent. For some artists in a different genre it wouldn’t be as viable, but I think when there’s such a strong audience relationship with the artists, as there is in country music, it’s really interesting to me to see how many artists are making a go of it as independents – and of course it means you do get to choose your producer and your songs, and the albums coming out of this process have all been terrific, including yours. It must have been a bit scary, though, I would think – at least initially, to think, Oh no, I have all this responsibility.
It’s the scariest thing you could ever imagine. Going onstage before my album launch [in 2015] it was one of those moments – my band were saying, ‘You’ll be fine’, and I was saying, ‘Oh my god – what if they hate it? What if this whole thing’s a flop?’ Because you spend so much money on it and you put your heart and soul – and, like I said, everything you own – into that. So all you want to achieve is a good response where someone goes, ‘That was awesome! We love it and everyone else will as well.’ That’s all you want to hear, really. But if you don’t get that response it would be absolutely heartbreaking – not that I ever have, thank god. But if I did, I don’t know how I would respond to it. Maybe I’d think, Music isn’t for me.It’s a massive risk that you’re taking as an independent artist, putting yourself out there, putting your music out there, and you’re really just lying your whole heart and your life on the line because a lot of those songs that you’ve written are so personal.
But it does come back to that relationship with the audience and the performer’s

willingness to have it. I think if you and other artists who have done this weren’t interested in pleasing your audience or even having much to do with them, yes, there’s a risk that you put out an album that they don’t like. But when you’re responsive to your audience, when you’re in Tamworth playing shows – I think you did three shows in 2015 – that means you’re making that connection and you’re really respectful of what they want, and it would therefore be hard to put out something that they don’t want, because you know what they want. Does that make sense?

Yes, it totally does. You know what your fans expect from you, to a certain degree that it’s okay to change it a little bit, but not to the point where they’re saying, ‘We don’t recognise you – what are you doing?’ You always want it to be to the point that your fans hear your voice and say, ‘That’s Tori Darke – that’s a new song’. But at the same time there are good moments when you can change yourself a little bit, change your style a little bit, and they will go with you.            
So what’s next? Are you planning a new album? You’re planning some tour dates in 2016 but I would imagine you also have some writing and recording in mind.
Definitely. I want to be writing and recording. I’d love to go back to Nashville to plan for a new album. It’s really just one of those things where you have to take each day as it comes, and for me 2016 really holds a lot of touring and I want to get back into the studio and I want to start writing again and just being really, really active with my career.
But there’s a lot to do, isn’t there – social media, for example. When you’re an independent artist you’re also your own manager as well as your own record label manager. So do you have a very organised diary?
I do have a very organised diary but sometimes it can go all over the shop. When you’re an independent artist you are your own boss, your own manager – you’re everything. So you have to have your head screwed on pretty tightly. I work a full-time job as well as being a full-time musician so a day off for me is very, very rare, unfortunately. You have to have all you ducks in a row so that when the time comes that you need to do something or you need to be somewhere, you’re there without any hesitation.
If you’re working a full-time job as well then maybe you can’t get a lot of time off for Tamworth. Can you tell us about your own show and whether or not you’ll get any time off to see any other shows?
I have one ticketed show in Tamworth which I’m absolutely thrilled to be doing again. The show is me and Mick Lindsay, co-headlining. We’ll do a two-hour show where Mick will be opening and I’ll be closing. We’ve also got the beautiful Rachel Farhim – she’s doing the support. Then I’ve got a few different things here and there. Little guest spots for friends and things like that, helping out a little bit. But other than that I plan on relaxing and enjoying myself, because I never do and you always usually end up run off your feet, and of course I’ll be doing radio interviews and things like that as well, but I do plan to take a bit of time just to listen to some music because that’s what we all want to do as well..

Tori Darke shows her star power in Tamworth

Rising country music star Tori Darke has quite a bit happening at the 2014 Tamworth Country Music Festival, including her one solo show, at West Tamworth Leagues Club on Tuesday, 21 January 2014. She is also a finalist in Toyota Star Maker.

I spoke to Tori about her Tamworth plans.

Tori, I’m surprised you entered Star Maker – you’re quite established, you’ve been playing for a few years, you have an album out. Why did you enter?
 I entered when I was a lot younger, when I was 18 and 19. A lot of thought went into me entering Star Maker this year – I thought, Do I do it? Don’t I do it? I really took a lot of time to think about whether I was doing the right thing and doing something that would be beneficial as well. The main reason for me entering Toyota Star Maker is that, even with having several conversations with the organisers of it, ‘Do you think it would be a good idea for me to enter? Do you see any reason why I shouldn’t?’ I’ve had so much support from Rural Press and all the organisers of Star Maker with me deciding to enter again. I really made this decision because when I was 18 and 19 entering Star Maker, I was the new kid on the block, I was fresh out of Country Music College, and I was really just making a start in country music. At that point in my life if I had won Star Maker, I don’t really think I would have been able to use it to my best advantage and to use all the amazing tools and opportunities get from it. Now being a few years older and having done everything that I’ve done, I really saw it as an opportunity to take all of my experience and everything I’ve learnt and put it into something good. If I was to do well with Toyota Star Maker then I’d know exactly how to work it and exactly how to get out there and start making an even bigger career in country music.
You’ve already been to Nashville and written some songs there. A lot of people would think that that’s great in terms of using industry contacts. What does Star Maker offer beyond that?
The opportunities are so amazing with Star Maker – you get to record a full album with a renowned producer and playing at all the different festivals throughout Australia in 2014 and 2015. I guess in a little bit of a way it is [about] all the people you meet through Star Maker but it was really a decision just for me to stay that I’m ready to do something like Star Maker, whereas a few years back maybe I just was too young.
You’re still young but also more experienced. If you’d won it when you’re a teenager, the amount of attention can come from that and also winning it at that early stage could have sent you in a direction that you didn’t end up wanting, but now it seems that you know what you want and this is a way to help you get it.
Exactly. Now I look at it and think if I was to do well with Star Maker I’d know exactly where I’m going, I’d know exactly how to approach everything that I’d be heading towards.
I have to say, though, Tori, having seen you perform, if I were the other finalists I’d be a little bit nervous.
Oh, no, don’t be silly! [laughs]
You have your own show coming up on the 21st of January during the festival, and the final is on the 19th – will you feel different about playing that final than playing your own show? Will you be more nervous? Less?
I’ll probably feel the same way about both. I know when I did my own show in 2013 I was shaking in my boots until the moment I went on stage and for the first few songs I was still a little bit jittery because it was my first ever ticketed show and for me it was a really big step and I was really worried about how it would go or whether people would turn up. I just didn’t know what was going on. And the fact that I had a sold-out show was amazing and I was absolutely so stoked with how my show went and how it all turned out. So to have that experience it made me even more excited to go back and do it all again and hope for the best.
Do you have the same band for your 2014 gig?
Yes, I have all the same band bar one. Unfortunately my bass player has another gig on that he’d already said ‘yes’ to. So I have a different bass player and he’s a wonderful bass player, so I’m really looking forward to him becoming part of the band this year.
Do you go to Tamworth ahead of time to rehearse there?
Funnily enough, two of the boys in my band are Queensland based. So when we get to Tamworth we just go to one of our houses and hang out and have an acoustic jam to make sure we have the flow going right and what song’s going into what – just to work it all out for us.
 I read that you’re planning to play some new songs at the show because you have about 30 songs for your new album and you’re trying to work out which ones to record.
There’s going to be quite a bit of new material played this year and I just hope that everyone enjoys it. I’m thinking of what ways I can get the view of the crowd who are there as to what songs they do like. Maybe if I give them all a marking sheet or something as they walk in, and they can give a little tick and let me know which songs they like and which songs they don’t. Choosing songs for a new album is always very difficult and as an artist you fall in love with so many of your own songs and then it’s like they’re all your babies and you don’t know what to do with them.
With that many songs you could always keep the ones left over for the album after that and save yourself some work.
That’s exactly right. I still have some left over from my first album so there’s still some to choose from there as well.
Do you get to see other people play at the festival?
I really hope so. Tamworth for me is really great for catching up with your mates who you may not have seen all year. You may have spoken to them but just not caught up in person. And it’s honestly one of the hardest things when you work in country music and you’re all in the one place at the one time and you think you will be able to catch up but it’s so difficult. Having just the one show and StarMaker this festival, I really hope I can get around and see my friends play.
It sounds like next year you have things to do, regardless of what happens with StarMaker.
Whatever happens I’m just honoured to be part of such a prestigious competition within the country music industry.

Tamworth: the picks of the gigs

Make that my picks of the gigs … These are the artists I’m most looking forward to seeing at this year’s Tamworth Country Music Festival. [All dates given are January 2014.]

Jess Holland

21  – Tudor Hotel Front Bar,  5.30 p.m.
23  – Qurindi RSL, 6 p m.

24  – Tudor Hotel Back Bar, 12 p.m. 

Ashleigh Dallas
21 – West Tamworth Leagues Club, 5 p.m.

Tori Darke
21 – West Tamworth Leagues Club, 8 p.m.

21 – Tamworth Services Club, 9.30 p.m.

Brad Butcher
22 – Tamworth Services Club, 9 a.m.
23 – Tudor Hotel, upstairs, 10 p.m.

Katie Brianna

22 – Tamworth Services Club, 9 a.m.
23 – Tudor Hotel, upstairs, 10 p.m.

The McClymonts
22 – TRECC, 2 p.m.

Kristy Cox
22 – The Pub, 8 p.m.

Shane Nicholson
23 – The Family Hotel, 7 p.m.

Catherine Britt
23 – The Pub, 8.30 p.m.

Lachlan Bryan and the Wildes
24 – The Family Hotel, 12 p.m.

Audrey Auld
24 – North Tamworth Bowling Club, 2 p.m.

Karl Broadie and Katie Brianna
24 – Tamworth Tennis Club, 4.30 p.m.

Interview: Tori Darke

Tori Darke has been busy writing a new album in Nashville, but her first album, Dreams & Chances, isn’t quite over yet … To celebrate the release of her new – and last – single from that album, ‘No You No Me’, I spoke to her recently and started off by asking about her trip to Nashville, where she recorded the new album.
‘Nashville was amazing,’ she said. ‘I got so many great songs written while I was over there.  I came home with fifteen new songs, which I am so excited about and I’ve been playing them heaps. I’m just re-listening to them and trying to learn them and it’s just really kind of I guess given me that motivation and inspiration to get back into the studio.’
So will she be able to record all fifteen songs, or will she have to axe some of them?
‘I’ll definitely have to axe some of them because there were some that I wrote that [I thought] that’s an absolutely great song, some that were a good song, and some that were just, “Oh, why did I intend to write that”,’ she said, laughing. ‘It’s all part and parcel. You’ve got to sometimes get through I guess what you would call the crappy songs to get the smash-hit kind of songs. So you really just are weaselling your way through to go, yep, well that idea didn’t work but then this one might, so I’m really excited about these ones.’
I was curious about whether or not Tori had a sense about how the songs would turn out as she was writing them – was there a little tingle up the spine or something like that to tell her that a song was really going to work? Or does it take a few drafts to really get an idea of it?
‘I think once you get a verse and a chorus, you kind of know,’ Tori said, ‘and you even know that it’s not going to be something that you’re going to love or you know that it’s something that you already love, and I guess you kind of know from that get-go of just going, “Yep, we’ve got a verse down and this is really cool, it’s going somewhere”. And then you get to the chorus and you get the chorus out and you just go, “Yep, that’s what it’s about”. And that happened for me several times in Nashville with some of the writers that I wrote with in mainly the last week I was there.  We wrote this one song called “Rain on a Rusted Tin Roof”, and it was an idea that I came up with in the car and we were just driving – I was just going to put some vocals down on a demo that we’d written for a song a few days before, and we were just talking about it and I came up with this idea.  And from just talking about the idea we all knew it was going to be a really special song, and it was one of the quickest songs that I’d written in my whole life.  We wrote it in about an hour and a half, and just listening back to it now and playing it to anybody and they go, “Wow, that is a great song. It gives you tingles, and that song really did it for me. I had the same reaction with a few other song as well while I was there.’
Performance is a huge part of Tori’s career, so I wondered if, as she’s writing songs, she’s partly wondering what the song is going to be like for her to sing.
‘You’re always thinking at the back of your mind what it’s going to be like to perform to an audience and how would people take this and how it would come across,’ she said, ‘and you’ve really always got to be really careful to look at it and go, “This is part of my image”. Because even if you do write a song that isn’t necessarily you, that’s the song that somebody else could record if they wanted to.
‘There’s always a chance to pitch an original song to someone else, and so for me, when writing a song for myself, I always try to make sure that the lyric content is something that I would actually say, because I have been in writing sessions before where you do have some writers that take a little bit too much control and it’s like but hang on a second, I wouldn’t actually say that phrase, it’s not something that it’s in my vocabulary, so even to sing it, it’s not being true to yourself. So I always try to be true to myself with everything that I write and with everything that I do because if it’s not, it’s very transparent and you can see straight through it.’
Tori started her country music career very young, as a teenager; as she’s growing older and now moving onto her next album, is she feeling more confident about saying things like that to people?
‘Yes, definitely,’ she said firmly. ‘I feel as though your opinion matters a little more the older you get … people will stand up and listen and hear what you’re trying to say through your songs. And the older you get, the more experience that you have in life, and three years ago when I recorded Dreams & Chances to now, even now there’s some things that I wouldn’t have recorded on that album, which I didn’t because there were songs that I’d written that I went, well at the age of twenty it just seemed like it wasn’t me and it seemed like I hadn’t been heartbroken, or I hadn’t gone through some really tough times. Whereas now I have been heartbroken and I’ve gone through some tough times but dealt with some hard things that I’ve really struggled through that – just thinking about them now it would totally make sense and I would everyone would totally get it, whereas it may not have been as believable three years ago.’
Part of the mystery of the process for a performer – or maybe a mystery for the audience but not necessarily for the artist – is accessing that emotion not only when a song is recorded but later when it’s being performed, and if the artist has to perform it a lot of times it seems as though it would be difficult to always access the emotion needed for a song.
‘We all have our good days and our bad days,’ said Tori, ‘and some days it may not even be an emotional connection. You may have something else going on in your head or in your life that’s really distracting you and that’s one of the things as an artist that you really have to try and just put aside and [say], “I’m here to do a job, this is my time to show people what I’m about, and what my music is about.” So you really have to try and do your best to just put it aside and just go, no, I’m going to show you the same emotion that I would to any other song.’
It seems like it would be hard to do that, though, and doing it more and more makes it wouldn’t necessarily make it easier because the artist is still a human being, so some days it must be quite hard to go out on stage and actually effectively cut off Tori, the person, and become Tori the performer.
‘You’re completely right,’ Tori agreed. ‘And one thing that I did tell a lot of people, being an artist you are also just a normal person like everybody else in this world, and some people see past that sometimes and just go, no, you’re a singer, you’re [famous] – and it’s just like, “Give me one second – before I was even a singer, I was a human being.” I’m just a normal average person and some people don’t necessarily see through that. They just say, no, you’re a singer, we want to know everything about you and we deserve to know everything about you, and that’s why, when it comes to social media especially and any kind of media, some people get really overwhelmed. And in the country music industry, we don’t really get too much of that because it’s such a family-based industry that everybody really respects here and respects everything about you, that it’s actually a really great industry to be a part of.’
            That industry has its counterpart in Nashville, of course, and Tori’s recent trip there wasn’t her first. I asked here if there is a community of Australians there now that she can loop into and she said, ‘There are so many Australians there now … there is a really great community of Australian artists that are over in Nashville. So it’s really wonderful to be able to learn from those people that are over there and learn how they’ve done it and learn how they’re coping in a city like Nashville.’
Some Australian artists relocate to Nashville for a time – or permanently – as opposed to going there to record and coming back; I asked Tori if that’s something she’s thought about, and she said, ‘Oh, it’s definitely something that I’ve thought of, but as I have said to a lot of people, I absolutely love the town of Nashville and I love how inspired I am when I’m there, but I don’t necessarily know that I could move there full time, but I could definitely do the commute backwards and forwards.’ So it sounds like we’re not about to lose her any time soon … especially as Australian artists do travel to Nashville quite regularly and have experiences, write songs and come back.
            ‘To be able to have that opportunity to do that, to just go there and to come back, that’s so special to us … it’s wonderful being Australian because everyone is so welcoming when they hear that accent of yours.’
And now Nashville has become a sister city to Tamworth so that’s consolidated the relationship even more.
‘It’s really wonderful that that has happened and that they’ve done sister city relationship there,’ Tori said, ‘because it’s really just opened up a lot of doors, I guess too – a lot of people previously have said, “No, you’ve got to do it all in Australia and you can’t go to Nashville to do it”, but it’s really proving now that that relationship being joint that you can do it in Nashville and you can still have a really successful career in Australia.
Of course, the official reason for my chat with Tori was ‘No You No Me’, the fifth and final single from Dreams & Chances. The album actually came out a couple of years ago, so I asked if it felt a bit weird for Tori as an artist to have the last single coming out only now.
‘It is really weird,’ she admitted, ‘because it seems like it was so long ago that I released the first one, but a lot of people in this industry said to me they really believed in the album and said that they think that it was worthy of this life and to be released. [It’s] kind of giving a little bit of closure on the album and I’m really excited to see how this one goes and to see how it’s received, because I really believe in this song, and it’s just one of my favourite songs.
            When it comes to releasing a single, for Australian country music artists there is not the same kind of chance for the song to be played on mainstream radio as a pop or rock artist would have, and Tori said ‘it is harder in the country industry because a lot of our radio stations are community-based radio stations, so they don’t have a lot of resources that a commercial pop station would have. So it can be a little more difficult but to have, still, that support of those radio stations behind you is really beneficial for all Australian country artists.
‘There’s so many supportive radio stations throughout Australia,’ Tori continued, ‘whether they be community or whether they be commercial.  So it is a little bit easier to be heard, I guess, through the commercial country station because they have a lot more accessibility to bigger areas and wider spectrums. But there are so many community stations that you can pretty much every turn you go to find a community country station which is wonderful.’
Tori will now move into recording the next album and go through the process of selecting songs; I asked how long the process would take from selecting the songs to getting the final mix, because a lot of people (me included) wouldn’t know.
‘A lot of people do expect that it just happens overnight … And it may only take a week or two to record but all the preparation and all the preparing for it can take something like a year to six months, especially for me – last year I went and did a writing trip in Nashville; this year I went and did a writing trip in Nashville. Now, none of the songs I wrote I’ve recorded yet, so you look at that and that’s a year in itself of just writing songs and preparing for new songs for an album. So it really can take a long time and it sadly doesn’t happen overnight. 
‘A lot of people say, “Oh, well, you just released now, so when’s the next one coming out?”  So you really want to say, “No, I just released one!” It does take a lot of time and a lot of effort, a lot of money, a lot of blood, sweat and tears really goes into album and I’m really looking forward to getting back in the studio and recording some of these new tunes and seeing the reception of them and how people will enjoy them.’
Tori said she’s ‘in no rush’ to release the new album – she is not planning to have it out for Tamworth 2014, although she does want to have a single out before the end of the year and then maybe release the album early to middle of next year. ‘Who knows what the next six months to a year is going to hold?’ she said. ‘I’m just looking forward to seeing how it all kind of pans out.’
            In amongst that recording process, she’ll also play some lives dates in September, hitting the road with Kate Cooke, who was on Australian Idol a few years ago. ‘I’m really looking forward to getting out on the road with Kate and doing some stuff there,’ said Tori, ‘because she’s really wonderful and her EP is absolutely killer, so I can’t wait to get on the road and really showcase both our different styles in music and yet very similar at the same time.’
            Tori has a lot ahead of her, but she’s also been doing a lot – so I asked her what her highlight or highlights from the last twelve months would be.
            ‘Well, one of my highlights from last year would be going to Solomon Islands and playing for the troops over there and also another one was playing at the CMC this year. I had an absolute ball at that festival … [you] see some of the most amazing acts that have really inspired you throughout your career.’
            Tori is a young artist clearly making the most of the opportunities that come her way; with the release of ‘No You No Me’ she is marking the end of one phase of her career – her debut album – and paving the way for the next.
To keep track of everything she’s up to, including her live dates, visit

Interview: Tori Darke

Tori Darke may be young but her country music career is already well established. Still, the 2013 Tamworth Country Music Festival marks her this singer-songwriter’s first ever ticketed show, at Wests Leagues. I spoke to Tori ahead of what is surely a landmark in any Australian country music artist’s life.

I saw you play upstairs at the Tudor Hotel in Tamworth earlier this year [2012] at a songwriters showcase. So I thought I’d start by asking you: is that kind of a weird or unusual or even scary thing to do, where it’s just the audience sitting right there and it’s you and your guitar and you’ve got to talk about the songs?
No, not at all. I actually love that kind of stuff because it really kind of gives people an insight into what you do and how you do it as well, so it’s a really wonderful thing, I think, going into a songwriting session and being able to share with people why you wrote that song and what it meant to you or what it means to you.
As a performer it’s quite a vulnerable position to be in when it’s just you and a guitar, but you certainly seemed quite relaxed and your voice ‑ you’ve got this really strong, pure voice, so it’s suited to that.  Would you ever consider doing just acoustic tours or just acoustic gigs?
I do acoustic shows on my own as it is now, so I mean it’s nothing that’s really new to me, but doing a songwriter’s night, you have a lot more, I guess, communication with the audience because you’re telling them about the songs that you’ve written and why they came about.
For your headline show in Tamworth, you’re going to put together a band?
Yes, so it will be with myself and my band, which I’m really looking forward to.
How do you go about choosing a band for that, especially if you’re used to working on your own? I imagine it would be a little bit strange to have other people coming in?
Not really, because I do a lot of stuff with my band as well, so I kind of have it, I guess, broken up a little bit in some cases of sometimes it’s with just my band or sometimes it’s just myself.  So I love the band situation as well, because it gives people another totally different aspect of what you’re doing and how you do it.
And for you as a songwriter it must be really interesting to see how your songs change between being performed with you and then when you have these other layers added to them live. Does it make you see them in different ways or make you perform them different ways?
Oh, I think when you write songs like acoustically, letting them come to life when you put a band to them I think is one of the most fulfilling things of what I do with music, it’s so great to write a song and to kind of imagine how it’s going to turn out and where it’s going to go, but then when you actually get to where you hear it and you go, oh my gosh, this is my song and it’s got a full band behind and a full production, it’s just one of the really cool feelings.
I guess a lot of people who aren’t performers would wonder how you can play the same songs over and over again, sometimes for years, but I suppose when you’re really interested in the creative process, and it sounds like you are, you find it interesting that the songs taking on these different shapes.
Yeah, that’s exactly right. There are songs – I guess cover songs mainly – that you will get sick of singing and that will slowly dwindle out of your set, but when it comes to original music, I think, because it’s a story that’s meant something to you, it never really gets too old, kind of thing.
What was your very first Tamworth performance?
My very first Tamworth was – oh, gosh, when I was 15 years old, and I can’t tell you exactly what my first Tamworth performance was but I was doing the talent quest up in Tamworth back in – it would have been 2006, I think.
Was that the StarMaker or the Road to Tamworth?
Well, they’re the two big ones, but the ones that I was doing was like the CMAA and the Coca‑Cola and the Jazzer Smith Talent Quest. A few years ago I did StarMaker and Road to Tamworth but what got me started was the Junior Talent Quest.
And you went to Camerata and CMAA, is that right?
Yes, I went to the Camerata College and that was in the July and in the January I went to the CMAA College of Country Music.
Other artists have said they learnt a lot about the business of country music there as well, but pretty much everyone I’ve spoken to who went to CMAA in particular said it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to them as an artist.  Did you feel that?
Yeah, definitely. I learnt so much and I got so much out of it with working with some of the industry’s finest in country music and also working with some of our other artists as well in this industry.  It was such a wonderful thing and a great experience to be a part of.
You went to the Solomon Islands and played on a forces tour and I was wondering – because we occasionally see news items about people doing forces tours but no‑one really knows what goes on.  So do you play like a full set there?  Is there a house band you have to use?  What goes on?
Well, what happened was I took my own band with me, so we actually played two shows, one on the Friday night, one on the Saturday night and both nights were 45 minute shows. There were a lot of different artists that night too, so I wasn’t the only artist singing.
Country music gives people a lot of different opportunities, ones like this, but also the opportunity to travel around parts of the country, parts of Australia that a lot of other artists wouldn’t get to.  So, not that you’re very old, but you’ve been performing for a while, so have you been to lots of interesting different places?
Yeah, I’ve been to lots of different places. This year already [2012] I’ve been to LA, Nashville and the Solomon Islands, so it’s kept me nice and busy, which has been wonderful.
And what was Nashville like for you?
It’s a really, really great town, I’ve been there three times now and I just always get so much done and meet so many people there I can work with, which is wonderful, so I love going back to Nashville.
I suppose you’re at a point in your career because you’ve had a lot of attention and you’re still quite young, so Nashville is a good opportunity to meet people as you’re building for a long-term career because I would imagine that you want this to go for however many decades?
Yeah, definitely.  With the music industry it’s not just an overnight thing, you really have to stick with it and you have to stay in it.  You know, like they say, you have to be in it to win it, so it’s not something that happens overnight and it’s not something that comes easily either, it’s a really hard slog sometimes. But it’s so rewarding in the end when you get the results that you do.
I know that you’ve been on tour with the McClymonts in the past and one thing I notice about them and I think it’s probably true of you as well is that they always look like they’re having a good time, and so you would never know if they’re having a bad night, but it means that everyone in their audience also has a good time because they’re always smiling and happy.  In country music there are a lot of people who really understand that aspect of performance that you’re there to put on a show.  But there must be some days when you’re just really not feeling like it. So I was wondering if you have some kind of process basically to get out and perform when you’re not feeling like it?
I think with being an artist it’s a really big thing to just go,you know what, I’m out here to do a job and the people that have come to watch me. You really have to set aside if you’ve had a bad day, if you’ve got a broken heart, if you’re miserable, if anything, you really have to take that aside and just worry about it once you get off stage once you know your fans have gone and once you’re in a car and you then if you want to have a cry or something you can, and sometimes things do get the better of us, especially when we’ve written songs about people that may have hurt us or things like that, we do get emotional because of course we are human.  But it’s really a case of just going – I guess Lady Gaga or someone would be like a perfect example because she’s got that persona of being Lady Gaga but I’m sure when she’s at home she’s just a normal person and she doesn’t have all the big make‑up on and she’s still got like green or yellow hair or something but she’s just a normal person.  So I think it’s really like a good thing when you get out there performing, you show everybody what … I say to myself ‘what Tori Darke’s about’ and when I’m at home I’m Victoria Darke, but when I’m on stage I’m Tori. So it’s kind of separating the two and making sure that everybody that is there to see you.
You’ve been involved in music as a musician and as a performer since you were a child, so that’s an unusual childhood, most people don’t have that a lot of people don’t really get into big creative work or creative flow until they’re adults.  So did you have a sense as you were growing up that you were quite different, that you were in this world and in this work that your friends perhaps weren’t sharing?
Well, I did give up a lot of things during my childhood years, but at the same time, if I hadn’t given up those things, I also wouldn’t be where I am today with it, and like you said, a lot of kids, when they are young, they get into sports or they get into recreational things rather than creative arts things and a lot of people do get into it later on in life, in their twenties or even as a late teen, but for me I started dancing at the age of three and I grew up with two rock ’n’roll dancer parents so I was always surrounded by that creative aspect.
Do you have siblings? 
Yes, I’m actually the youngest of five.
And so are you all musical or dancers or anything like that?
No, I’m the only one. Two of my brothers are builders and one of my brothers lives in France and owns a ski lodge and my sister works for the police, so I’m the musician in the family.
I’m just thinking it would be so cool to have parents who did rock ’n’ roll dancing because that would have been unusual, but I’m thinking of your poor parents possibly looking at five kids wondering why only one of them turned out to be musical!
Because I have three older brothers – two older brothers and an older sister – who were from my mum’s first marriage. So my brother who’s 23, we did rock ’n’ roll when we were younger as well.  But I think once I got to that age of where boys and girls thought that we all had cooties, we stopped dancing.
[Laughter] And you continued, which is great for you not that I know if you dance a lot, but I think it’s all part of living with music, whether it’s dancing or singing or playing an instrument or doing all three, it’s all part of being musical.
Yeah, it really is, and when you look at so many different artists, they play instruments, they sing and dance or they know how to act as well, there’s just so many different aspects to the creative side of things that you can really take a lot out of it. And I’ve done all of these things throughout the years – I’ve danced, acted, singing for years and I played the piano, I played the flute, and now I play the guitar and the mandolin.
When I was reading about you I thought that you have a really busy life even compared to a lot of other musicians, there’s a lot going on for you, and I was wondering how you organise your time, in terms of songwriting and rehearsing and performing, and also just having time not doing any of those things?
Well, really, for me it’s a matter of just separating my time and making sure that I’ve got enough time to do everything.  I teach, I work, I sing, I’ve got so many different things going on that I just have to plan my week as it comes and go okay, well I know I’ve got a gig here and then I’m going to teach Tuesday and Wednesday, and then my work know when I can and can’t work. So it’s a lot of juggling sometimes but it all works out pretty well.
I wouldn’t have thought you had any time in that schedule to be doing work on top of it, and I know that that’s the nature of being an artist, especially when your career’s starting you have to, but that’s a really full life.
Yeah, it’s pretty full on but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love what I do and it’s really wonderful.
So in preparation for Tamworth, as any performer knows there’s a bit of ramp-up time required before you hit the stage it’s not like you just turn around and get on stage and sing, even if you make it look like that so do you get into Tamworth, give yourself a bit of time, hang out, watch the other bands before your show?
I’m probably going to get in on the Monday and my show is on the Tuesday. [Then I’ll] possibly hang around for a few days after Tamworth as well, so I’ll have the Monday to prepare myself and to hang out a little bit, catch up with a few friends in town and yeah.
So you’re just doing the one show if people want to see you, they have to go to The Outback Bar, they can’t see you anywhere else?
No, that’s exactly right – just the one show this year in Tamworth at The Outback Bar and it’s only $10 for adults and $5 for kids and it is an 8 o’clock show and it’s my first ticketed event in Tamworth, so I’m really looking forward to it.
West Leagues is definitely the place to play, anyone who’s anyone has played at Wests. Is there anything you’re looking forward to at Tamworth apart from playing your show?
I love the festival every year, it’s really great to go and see other artists play and just see what’s going on with everybody else, so it’s a wonderful place to catch up with good friends and catch up with your fans and also do your own show too.
Country music fans are really, I think, the best of any genre, they’re very committed but there’s also a lot of work, I think, particularly for younger artists these days keeping up with fans through social media, and it’s probably a lot more work than would have happened even five years ago. Do you enjoy that aspect of the job or does it sometimes take up a lot of time?
No, not at all.  I mean, there were people that helped me when I was young, so, I suppose, for me, if I can give back to everybody else, then that’s exactly what I want to do too.
And you’re working on a new record?
At the moment just working on new songs, so just writing lots of new songs at the moment and getting them together too, so hopefully record something next year.
When you come to that recording process, do you kind of go to the producer with a whole lot of songs and say you pick or do you like to choose which ones go on the record?
It’s a very long and gruelling process of going through songs and going through songs you’ve written or ones that people sent you, and experiencing all of those different aspects of going, yeah, no, this song, and then you might find a better song and then that song gets kicked out. So it does take a little while, but yeah, that’s pretty much how it works for me.
When it comes to your set list, though, I imagine you get to be the boss of your set list?
Yes, definitely. I do always plan my shows and plan what I’m going to play and, of course, just send that off to the boys and then we put on the show.
Tori Darke plays The Outback Bar at Wests Leagues Club, Tamworth on Tuesday 22nd January 2013 at 8 p.m.