WHEN Tori Forsyth steps onto the Toyota Park main stage during the Tamworth Country Music Festival it will complete a meteoric rise.
Just two years ago the Kurri Kurri alt-country songstress arrived in the music mecca absolutely terrified of performing.
Despite having already released an acclaimed debut EP, Black Bird, months earlier, Forsyth had only sang at a handful of open mike nights on the Central Coast.
She only dared unveil her beautifully melancholic voice in front of an exclusive group of people like her singing teacher and Black Bird’s producer Trent Crawford.
“I remember being dragged on stage to do Johnny and June,” Forsyth says. “I couldn’t do it, I was so nervous and so scared.
“I feel like it’s the most natural thing now, to sing in front of people. It’s funny. It was the best little push I ever had.”
That little push came from Newcastle bluegrass duo The Wayward Henrys at the 2016 Tamworth Country Music Festival.
“The Wayward Henrys had about 20-something gigs over 10 days and that was literally my crash course into music,” she says.
“I did backing vocals and they would give me a little 25 minutes to do my songs and that literally got me over my stage fear. Going to that festival and seeing everyone perform and having to do it that day taught me a lot.”
On her return to Tamworth last year Forsyth performed on the main stage and even joined multiple Golden Guitar winner Shane Nicholson for a duet of Rattlin’ Bones.
This year she’ll take another step by returning to the main stage with her band The Spurs on January 19 alongside Travis Collins, Aleyce Simmonds, and Gretta Ziller & Andrew Swift.
Then she’ll headline her own show, a single launch for the song In The Morning at The Welder’s Dog on January 25, which is close to sold out.
Many predict 2018 will be a break-out year for the 22-year-old. Last August she signed with record label Lost Highway Australia, which boasts Newcastle’s Catherine Britt and Adam Eckersley Band, Imogen Clark and Shane Nicholson on its roster.
In May she’ll release her debut album. If the first single, the dark bluegrass track Grave Robber’s Daughter, is any indication, the record is a progression from Black Bird.
In 2016 Forsyth travelled to the US with Melbourne alt-country artist Jemma Nicole for a writing trip. Grave Robber’s Daughter was the only song actually penned in the States, but the experience of travelling and expanding her horizons inspired several songs on her return.
“It’s just a more mature, more in depth take on growing up and having different things happen to you,” Forsyth says.
“It’s about being a girl, or a woman, in the 21st century I suppose and all of the craziness that is life.
“Growing up, is probably the most common theme and figuring out how to do it without destroying your life.”
Forsyth enjoyed an idyllic upbringing. She grew up between her parents’ farm at Congewai, near Wollombi, where they run the Australian Equine Institute, and at Ourimbah on the Central Coast.
“I love the country and that’s where my love of country music comes in,” she says. “I grew up with horses on a farm and it’s definitely a big part of music and the sounds.
“I feel they really get incorporated into the music.”
There’s also a real darkness to Forsyth’s music, which steers closer to folk than traditional country. Given her bright and bubbly personality, where does that darkness come from?
“Going into this music thing I didn’t have a straight goal to be the next big thing in country music, I just wanted to write music,” she says.
“I kind of fell into a lot of the right places in order to put music out. I didn’t really want to put music out, I just wanted to do it.
“It all stemmed from the fact that I have something to say. So a lot of my songs are very personal experiences, very therapeutic and that sounds very cliche, but it’s true.
“It’s kind of how the dark parts come in. Because in music l feel a lot of writers do it in order to move forward with things. That’s probably where most of the darkness comes from.
“The shitty parts of my life get put into a song,” she laughs.
Tori Forsyth & The Spurs perform at the Small Ballroom on February 16.