“I never thought the Grammys was even in my field of vision” George Maple candidly confesses about where she saw her career going before admitting “The 9 year old girl in me from Newport was freaking out” in reference to attending her first Grammy’s only 2 days earlier. The Australian singer-songwriter (Also known as Jess Higgs) is calling me from New York slightly jet-lagged after only being in Australia last week to release her new single ‘Champion’ before flying to Los Angeles for the Grammy Awards and then flying to New York the next day for meetings before heading to Asia in a couple of days to continue the hustle. However this hectic travelling schedule is something Jess has become accustomed to over the years. Working with incredible producers like What So Not, DJ Snake, Flume and Goldlink, George Maple has become a name in the music industry that has continually been championing an incredible artistic evolution. The next chapter in her career sees her taking back full reigns of her vision and finding the self-belief inside her that she didn’t realise she had all along. She realised that anything was possible and was inspired by previous projects to get even more hands on this time around.
i recently chatted to George Maple about the defining moments that lead her towards this confident and empowering new sound, reflected on her debut album ‘Lover’ and how it has shaped her artistic vision for the future and the boundaries she wants to continue to push in her live show. Check it out HERE;
TB: ’Champion’ is a very experimental and empowering track that hears you adding a new polish to your sound whilst spreading a very important message of self-belief. So where did the idea of this song originate from?
GM: I think it’s something that has been hiding inside me for a very long time. I really took some time last year to take a breath because I’ve been kind of on the go for the past six years touring, writing and figuring my artistry out so I stopped for a moment and stopped putting pressure on myself to write which of course is when all the ideas starting coming to me *laughs*. So I wrote a film synopsis first which gave me a setting of how everything was going to be written, where the characters would live and how I would impact the storyline being the protagonist. Then I got in the studio with Adam and he played this drum beat and it all kinda just happened. I took it home and started working on all of these different sections and it just felt right. It was honestly a sound I had wanted to tackle for years and it all just fell into place. I think in the past I may have been a little safe within my decision making by thinking of what others would think and over thinking it all. I ended up letting myself connect with the most important part of music which is what I call the “source” which really is the unspoken magic that makes the song flow and feel special. There was no conscious decision making during tracking, it was all very intuitive.
TB: With some very DIY beats thrown into the mix and some cheerleading melodies includes, what is currently inspiring you in the studio?
GM: It was really about stripping everything back to allow myself to say whatever I needed to say. I think it was also a bi-product of my life experiences and a sign of the times with the beautiful movement of women around the world supporting each other. There are changes happening and it’s a very inspiring time to be a woman. So that message was really coming through my vessel.
I really was so inspired by women with this project. I spent a lot of time doing boxing classes and I noticed that there was a lot of women in the boxing class as opposed to men. And whilst I was watching each other, I noticed we would push and encourage one another and I thought it was so cool because there was a sense of comradery, competition and alignment with these people that I’ve never experienced before. I’ve been in sport groups before but I had never experienced that comradery before so I wanted to catch that.
TB: Along with the empowering stance of this track, what is some advice you would like to give to young women who are worried to show their vulnerability or be their authentic selves in this slightly confusing political state of the world?
GM: Band together! That’s what I would say. It’s all about community, and I think that is a message that is starting to shine through with this strange state of change that is occuring. What will define us and enable us to progress is as a community is going to be using empathy and compassion rather than the sense of winning or owning. And whilst I’m saying “You Wanna be a Champion” in the song, my message is very much about being introspective and making amends to your vision because you have to adapt as there are always going to be challenges but you gotta band together. So I really would say it’s all about compassion, empathy and community. I think that is the future. I think if we retain that sense of acceptance and of trying to understand each other then we will move forward. But if it’s a battle of the sexes again, then that won’t get us anywhere. I got could on for hours about this *laughs*.
TB: This new single also sees you leaving your major label and going independent again. Which is actually a really exciting thing creatively. So what made you decide to go down this path?
GM: I’ve always only ever had licensing deals so I’ve never been directly signed to a major label which has always been a point of difference for me. I think this new phase for me is about the art and the story so I don’t know where that is going to lead me in the next 6 or 12 months time. But right now this is the path that the music wants to make. I don’t think it makes quite a difference either way, but this is just a vision I have created for myself right now.
TB: Your debut record ‘Lover’ heard you opening up about your past relationships in a way that you hadn’t before. How did being so vulnerable and raw help you come to terms with these situations? And how has it impacted your songwriting on your next record?
GM: That’s such an interesting question! I think as a creative you’re creating pieces of work that you’re not really conscious of what you’re making as it’s coming from a place that needs to be expressed. When I look back at that record I can see a lot of pain and a lot of trauma that I was going through as a result of failed relationships and death of loved ones. There was quite a lot of demons I had to conquer and I had to deal with and I had to be really honest with myself. I definitely think it was one element of healing but the majority of the process came from me looking in the mirror and taking a hard look at myself and having a deep self realisation to start this next chapter.
I’m very proud to say this new chapter isn’t about a boy *laughs*. Because I think in pop music particularly we get stuck in a category of heartbreak and love songs and even though I love those type of songs I needed to express something different. I needed to look outside of my one version of intimate relationships. And with Valentines Day coming up tomorrow, I’ve actually been seeing these really beautiful little notes online that reflects on how I think society has misconstrued the idea love. We think of love as this one person forever as our intimate partner etc and that can be quite limiting because we have all of these incredible relationships that deserve the same amount of attention, love and care but we don’t value them in the same way as we do with this intimate lover or as the person that shares our bed at night. So this record was really about reconnecting with my love of friends, family, my community of art and finding new connections that challenged this pop vocabulary of heartbreak.
TB: I think its so easy for people to get caught up in relationships, like I can say I been there more times than I’d like to admit *laughs*. But it’s so important to focus on yourself and realise that there is such an empowerment in what we do as humans. I think it’s so important to branch out and help others at the same time but you need to look after yourself first.
GM: I think of the oxygen mask analogy a lot when it comes to this, which is you need to put the oxygen mask on yourself first to be able to help others. If you’re able to identify your own traumas, your own pain, and the things you need to work on then you are going to contribute more to society and to those around you as you are going to be more capable to do so. It’s such a foreign concept to women in particular as we are taught to be self sacrificing and taught to be constantly giving. How can you give if you only have half of your battery going? Recharging the battery and getting that fire going again is so important.
TB: What would you say is the most vulnerable moment for you as an artist so far from your upcoming record?
GM: Well I definitely have a ballad on the album, we had to have one *laughs*. I remember reviewing the record and I was like “Oooh, we need to have another slow moment” *laughs*. It was such a moment for me because doing an uptempo record was something I was so excited to do and to create something different. It’s a side of me that I’ve been surpassing and needed to wake up. But it’s important to reflect and after reviewing the record I decided to add another big epic ballad as the last track which perfectly ties everything together.
TB: Your record ‘Lover’ was broken up with some interesting interludes that included voice notes, interviews and comments about love. When putting together these montages and interviewing people, was there any comments that really shocked you or impacted your way of thinking about a past relationship?
GM: I think the intro ended up becoming really special to me. I will never forget when that whole thing came about. It was like 4 in the morning on Halloween and I was consciously searching for these interludes for the record because they were a really important element of the narrative of that record. I was speaking to someone who was very closed off about intimacy and they didn’t know what they wanted to say. And in the middle of having a half cooked comment came “Love is a four letter word” and this angel type of man came out of nowhere and started monologuing and said “it’s about Love, everything is about love” and that’s how the record begins. So it was that magical moment of inception between vulnerability and passion and it really opened my eyes to the complexity of human emotions. Which I find so interesting. And I don’t know if it’s because I’m German but I find I’m so analytical with everything and I forget to feel and maybe that’s why I’ve become an artist so I can actually express some sort of emotion *laughs*. We only have our experiences to base things off so it’s important to listen to others and empathise so you can grow and understand.
TB: With Valentines Day tomorrow, what does the word ‘Lover’ now mean to you?
GM: Good question! It feels like a lifetime since I asked myself that question *laughs*. But I would say to be a lover it is to just love. To be passionate. To put good energy out into the world which is what I would most importantly say it has become to me now. Rather than it being about an intimate connection it is about what you choose to put out there, its about what you choose to connect with, it’s about what you choose to focus on because whatever we put focus on we end up giving power to. Positivity is so important because by being positive and spreading that love you are actually recharging and allowing other people to feel open. So yeah, I guess I have changed my thought about what being a lover is which is really interesting.
TB: Now I want to talk to you for a moment about your last headlining tour of Australia because that was an incredibly theatrical and epic tour full of breathtaking visuals. So what was the biggest thing you learnt about yourself as an artist from that run of dates?
GM: That was the beginning of this next phase for me. It really cemented what I had spinning around in my head for a very long time. I don’t know if I had been focusing my energy in the wrong places but that tour for me was me putting my head down and going “alright, this is what I think I’m capable of doing, this how I want to express the show visually, and I don’t know if any of this is going to work but I have a pretty good team around me who are going to be honest with me and help me implement the vision”. And it weirdly taught me a lot about process which is the core of executing any idea and bringing it to life. That tour was me taking a massive risk and taking full responsibility of everything. If you had seen me during rehearsals I was running around everywhere changing light cues, moving props, and finding out that the fog was making the stage slippery *laughs*. I really wanted it to be on me if it all went up in flames and not anyone else. So in the end it’s ended up creating a big standard for everything with how I approach my art which is; Trust yourself, figure out the way, find the right people and make it happen.
TB: Lets play a little game when you answer these questions with the first thing that comes to mind..
GM: I’m so bad at these games! I think way too much about things *laughs*. I can’t even play charades. I went to a games night the other night and we played it and I froze *laughs*.
TB: The emoji that best describe my new single ‘Champion’ is…
GM: The trophy!
TB: My pre show pump up song is…
GM: I haven’t played a show in ages but it used to be anything by Kendrick Lamar
TB: Pineapple on pizzas is…
GM: Meh! Like I could live without it but I don’t mind if it’s there.
TB: Most mornings I…
TB: The most unexpected thing on my rider is…
GM: It’s probably not unexpected but I have Aperol on my rider in case if people come over *laughs*. I like to entertain!