Recently I met the pretty wonderful George Ezra for an interview for Forge Radio before his set at Sheffield’s Leadmill. He spoke about being hyped, his album which is coming out in summer, what #petan actually is… and I may have conducted a sanity check into him.
This interview was loadsa fun, LISTEN HERE or below:
The full transcription from the unedited interview:
Jess: So recently there’s a lot of hype surrounding you: you came 5th in BBC Sound of 2014, an iTunes artist for 2014, a MTV Brand New for 2014, one of the Virgin Tips for 2014, one of the VEVO DSCVR artists, one of the Launched C4 artists… I mean, there’s so, so many. You’ve supported Tom Odell on tour, you’ve just done a BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge – the One Republic cover which I really liked by the way.
George: Did you enjoy it?
J: Yeah, it was really good.
G: It was really nerve-wracking. Playing on the radio, I played my own song first and that was all well and good. Just the idea of killing someone else’s song on the radio, I wasn’t a fan.
J: You didn’t kill it. It must be so scary having Fearne Cotton just there, watching.
G: Yeah, and she was like my childhood crush as well. She did Top of the Pops just at the right time – I didn’t even know what a crush was at the time.
J: There’s so many people supporting you and backing you, does that make you nervous or spur you on?
G: Neither. I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve always been done. I appreciate it massively but I’m really fortunate because in all of them, I’ve come 5th or lower or just been part of them which is awesome because there’s no pressure but a load of people have heard my name. They may not even know what songs I sing or anything like that but my name is in their heads which is a blessing. When it was all starting, there was a lot of talk like, ‘who do you want to beat? Who’s the competition?’ So I wasn’t a massive fan of the whole process but I do appreciate it massively.
J: So your name is getting out there.
G: Exactly. For so many people to support me so early on, it’s amazing.
J: So when did you know that music was a career you wanted to pursue?
G: Do you know what, I was having this conversation recently with a friend of mine, and I’m still not aware that it is. It still feels like luck that I get to do it every day. But I did leave school at 16 to study music so I must have always wanted to do it but the fact that I’m doing it at the moment doesn’t feel like I’m owed it or anything like that. I feel lucky.
J: So the debut album is coming out soon, summertime, so how’s it going, what sort of stage is it at?
G: Done! Well, the recording parts are done. But we’ve recorded nineteen songs so now we’ve got to sort of hack at it to cut it down. It’s a good position to be in, to have more songs: it would be shit if I was sitting round needing a new song. But what’s standard, 12 max? I don’t want to do twelve I don’t think. 10 is like, old school, isn’t it. Maybe I’ll sit on the fence and do 11. Who knows.
J: It must be so hard, for all these songs that’s you’ve produced, to suddenly be like, ‘nah. Can’t have that’.
G: Yeah, but you can kind of rest easy that nowadays that so many bonus albums get released. You need b-sides, you need content all the time, so they’ll all be heard and they’ll all see the light of day, it’s just that you kind of want them all to be at home together.
J: So what’s the theme that ties all the songs and album together?
G: I think the travelling that I’ve been doing. Whether it was around England, gig to gig, or when I went travelling around Europe for a bit on my own and all of it was done on trains. Now, I’ve got a tour manager but the last two years I’ve spent sat on First Great Western trains – so I guess travelling. Not about First Great Western, though!
J: Yeah, it’s all just to promote a train company! So are you feeling excited for it to be nearly finished so you can give it to the fans or are you feeling anxious with so many people supporting you?
G: No, I don’t feel anxious. I guess the only thing that is almost a bit upsetting about it is that you look after this thing for however long, and build it and build it, and then the day it’s released, you’re kind of giving it to somebody. It’s no longer mine, in the sense that it’s as much everybody else’s if they’re interested in listening to it, whether they like it or not, and that’s quite a strange thing to get my head around.
J: Mm, it’s going to be weird for it to be out and people finally know exactly what you’re about.
G: I know, and you only release your first album once. No matter what I do, the first album I’ll ever release will always be this one. Thing is, though, sods law, in a few years’ time I’ll look back at it and be like, ‘well that was a bit crap’. I’m going to, aren’t I? Whether it’s just the way my voice sounds because that will change, things happen, and the way you deliver things change. I’m sure that I’ll listen to it and think, ‘you sound young’.
J: I don’t think anyone’s described your voice as young. It’s very mature sounding.
G: Yeah, but maybe the subjects and things, I might be like, ‘why were you wasting your time?’
J: What are the songs all about – from what I can hear it’s quite an elaborate story. Is it based your own experiences?
G: I love the idea of fiction but tying it in with reality. Like ‘Cassy ‘O’ is about time not being in my control. I knew the trip was coming to an end, I knew I couldn’t control that. I could have written: ‘I’m travelling, I don’t want it to end, but that’s not in my control’, but instead I made two fictional stories that are about that feeling. I do a lot of that – I can run with it more.
J: So build on the truth with your own imagination. So is that like ‘Budapest’?
G: Yeah massively. I don’t own any expensive stuff –
J: Or a golden piano?
G: No, no. Not yet. But exactly, that song is about giving up everything for somebody and I thought it would be quite sweet if just list a load of elaborate stuff.
J: So did you give up everything for somebody?
G: Um… almost! *Laughs*
J: What does that mean?!
G: I don’t know, I don’t know if you ever give up everything, do you?
J: Probably not.
J: So like I said before, you’re releasing the album in festival season – what festivals are you planning on playing at?
G: Um, I don’t know.
J: Has it not been sorted yet?
G: Thing is I’m in a bit of a sticky situation because I don’t know what’s been announced and what hasn’t. So I’ll say… all the festivals. *laughs* No, hopefully it looks like I’m going to be playing most summer festivals whether that’s in Europe or England. And also, festivals are a broad term now, because there’s cities that have festivals that last all day and all the venues get involved, and I think there’ll be a lot of them. I’m looking forward to it though, I’m looking forward to it being really busy and festival-y.
J: Yeah, because your songs themselves are really festival-y.
G: They are, aren’t they? When we recorded the album, we’d sit back and listen to bits and I kept saying, ‘imagine this at a festival!’ Especially once I’ve got a band. There are a lot that I hope will stand out at festivals.
J: So you said that you’re hoping to get a band –
G: Well, I’ve got a band. But not tonight. This whole tour is just me. I have a band who I’ve never played live with before, we’ve just been in the same room twice. It was more about getting people that I got on with, I’ve got to live with them.
J: So are they friends of yours?
G: No, one was introduced to me when we were doing the first E.P, on ‘Budapest’. You know there’s the guitar solo? That was originally a jaw harp. It’s like a piece of metal you put in your mouth with a little tong. It was a jaw harp solo which was awesome but listening back to it a few times I thought, ‘Is this a bit comedy-like?’ It sounded a bit like a cartoon arrow going in someone’s head. But the guy who recorded that is also a brilliant guitarist. And then I got introduced to the rest and they’re lovely.
J: Oh, good. So are they going to be a more permanent feature?
G: Yeah definitely. It’s just about when to introduce them. The beauty of me having done it on my own for so long is that I’ll always be able to do that, I’ll always be able to go on stage and be like, ‘This is me’. But once they’re involved, they’re involved, as long as they want to be. They might be like, ‘No, I’ve had enough!’
J: So I had a look at your Twitter the other day, and your Twitter is just ridiculous. And it said: ‘I try and do my research before interacting with anybody. A simple sanity check, that’s all.’ So, do ya know what, George Ezra, I decided to do a sanity check into you, I wanted to know how sane you are.
J: So these are my findings: you like to wear blonde wigs.
J: You make up your own words like ‘Petan’.
G: Petan, yep.
J: You think that you’re in a relationship with Miley Cyrus.
Follow me plz @MileyCyrus (ur my fuggin gf ffs)
— George E Z R A (@george_ezra) February 15, 2014
G: Um, well I am!
J: Ok, right. And you also seem to think you’re a woman, as demonstrated by your tweet: ‘I can’t help that I’m an attractive, headstrong, passionate woman’.
J: What do you have to say for yourself, George?
G: Um. *laughs* A lot actually. I love Twitter.
J: Yeah, I can tell.
G: Because it’s nonsense. What really frustrates me, especially with singer-songwriters – I don’t think the label ‘singer/songwriter’ instantly says ‘cool’ in my head. And they don’t do themselves any favours. I’m not naming anybody, but it’s like, ‘I’ve got a gig tonight ’. And then there will be a tweet in three days time saying ‘Just did an interview’. Do you know what I mean? BORING! So I took it upon myself to see how ridiculous I could make Twitter on my account. And I fell in love with it.
J: I think you’re a bit obsessed with it.
G: I kind of use it for social experiments.
J: Like what?! What kind of social experiments?
G: Making up a word! To see if people run with it!
J: It has caught on!
G: Yeah, I know! Also, on my Twitter, everyone knows that that’s what’s up. That I talk a lot of rubbish. You know Chloe Howl? I took over her Twitter account while she was doing a set at this gig.
J: I think I saw that! Like, really weird tweets.
Famously, Chloe’s middle name is Janet. But, who has more plug sockets, Ant or Dec? #PetanTO
— Chlöe Howl (@ChloeHowl) February 4, 2014
Chloe has famously just started playing her last song. But, Ant or Dec? #PetanTO
— Chlöe Howl (@ChloeHowl) February 4, 2014
G: Yeah! All of those tweets, if I had done them on my Twitter they would have been just outcries of hilarity. Everyone would have loved it. But her fans did not get it.
J: Really? What did they say?
G: Like, ‘Get off!’ So I kept doing it, thinking how angry could they get, and they just said, ‘This is shit!’
J: So you really got popular then!
G: Yeah *laughs*.
J: Made a lot of friends.
G: Yeah, exactly. I had to apologise to her, I was like, ‘I really didn’t think they were going to dislike it this much!’
J: I think you’re a bit too weird for Chloe Howl’s fans.
G: *Laughs* Probably.
J: How weird out of 10 would you say you are?
G: Um –
J: – 11? This is really mean. *laughs*
G: You are just grilling me! *Laughs*
J: I am! Can you do a Forge exclusive and tell us what ‘Petan’ means?
G: Yeah, there’s a long story which I’ll cut down. But my brother came to visit me in Bristol and I pointed at someone that worked in a popular fast food jacket potato outlet and said, ‘I bet his name’s Petan’. He was adorable, like he was doing his job perfectly, every step of the way, he was awesome. And then we laughed, shrugged it off, and then ‘petan’ sneaked into our life. Like, we started referring to people as being Petan, or things being petan. And it’s all with the eyes, like to say I’ve enjoyed this interview, I’d go, like, ‘Ah yeah, it was petan!’ It’s all about the eyes and how you deliver it.
J: Do you know what, I think I’m gonna just go now!
J: To be fair, that is all my questions done – unless there’s anything else you would like to tell Forge?
G: Um… Just keep it up, great work everybody. It’s been a pleasure. *Laughs for a good while*