INTERVIEW: George Alice

George Alice has quickly asserted herself as one of Australia’s leading pop “artists to watch”. After winning the 2019 triple j Unearthed High competition, the Adelaide based singer-songwriter came in at number 64 on the triple j Hottest 100 with the breakout single ‘Circles’, and has since been touring the country with her bubbly and emotionally penned tracks. 

After witnessing her 2020 Brisbane headline show at The Zoo, we had this to say… “George Alice is truly a force to be reckoned with. Her hook writing is bold, her storytelling is captivating, and the production is super tight. This live show was a strong introductory into who she is as an artist, and showcased her strong incoming trajectory. So prepare for a George Alice takeover.”

Following the release of her singles ‘Stuck In A Bubble’, ‘Teenager’, ‘Mid Years’ and the recent ‘Hold On’, she is finally ready to unveil her debut EP to the world. ‘Growing Pains’ continues that introductory story with honest tracks that follow her journey from being 16 and leaving school to follow her dreams. 

I recently chatted to George Alice about the coming of age sentiment behind her debut EP ‘Growing Pains’, discussed how playing songs live helped find the production style, and reflected on one of the craziest live shows she’s played. Check out the full chat BELOW;

THOMAS BLEACH: Your debut EP ‘Growing Pains’ is out now, and it really does feel like a time capsule of a very crucial and explorative time in your life. When you look back at the EP now, what are the feelings that feel attached to this body of work?

GOERGE ALICE: I feel like it is exactly what you just said. It was a lot of exploration while growing up, and now I feel like I’ve just put my child out into the world and I’m like… “go run free, don’t do anything stupid, and my heart hurts a little” *laughs*. I feel like it is a really bittersweet thing because it was my little secret for so long. I always had an EP or at least a group of songs up my sleeve since, and now I don’t. 

TB: ‘Band Aid’ opens the EP with this synth banger of a hook which has been a staple in your live set for a little while now. So from playing it live, seeing how people react to it, and getting quite immediate feedback, did the track evolve over time because of it?

GA: I think so! At first it was meant to be this slightly sassy, carefree but still beautiful track as I was speaking about rich kids in a high school, and how I wasn’t a rich kid in high school *laughs*. Like, “your dad bought you a Rolls-Royce? Cool for you. But you’re still a loser” *laughs*. I made this decision to go and chase my dreams, and people back home aren’t always going to be supportive so you just need to rip the bandaid off and run away. 

Playing it live though, it became this explosion of happiness. It was the first thing people heard and saw of me when I performed, and there was such an excitement and energy that started to circulate with that song so we needed to reflect that in the studio version. Beforehand it was a little more mellow and less full, so in the end I needed to make it so it just erupted and reflected that feeling back to them. 

TB: What song on the EP went through the most versions to get it to where it is now?

GA: Either ‘Nervous’ or ‘Hold On’! ‘Nervous’ was a song I was really unsure of. I have been sitting on these songs for so many years now that I was unsure if I had just heard the song too many times, or if it actually sucked. It was this horrible battle in my brain and I kept telling everyone that the song sucked and everyone was like “no, it doesn’t”. But I’m so glad it ended up making its way onto the EP as it did go through so many different versions. And thank god for Gab Strum for being so patient because I did just keep going back and forth with him *laughs*. 

TB: Talking about songs you’ve played live… ‘Heartless’ was a song that shook me to my core with the lyric “I would give my heart, but right now I’m heartless”. Has that song ever eventuated further than the demo and live stage? Are we ever going to get it? Can I ever cry to it again?

GA: *Laughs* ‘Heartless’ is still my favourite song of mine that we have locked away. We haven’t done anything with it yet, and it’s still in the demo phase with my 16 year old demo vocals and piano on it. It kinda just stayed exactly where it stayed in the live show. I wanted to have my little Adele moment, and I think I will keep that one a little secret until I’m older and get to collaborate with someone you’ve dreamed of working with your whole life. 

TB: ‘Haunted’ is this really beautiful and experimentally charged track that closes out the EP. Can you explain the creative process behind this track?

GA: ‘Haunted’ was the first song from this body of work that I wrote. I was about 14 years old, and I was still at school but would regularly not go to classes and would just go to the music rooms and say that I was working on something that I wasn’t working on. I remember working on these lyrics and just feeling like there was something about this verse and chorus. I recorded it on my Apple headphones and produced it on GarageBand. Then I screen recorded it and put it on my Instagram. This was before the “George Alice” project, and I was like to my friends, “here is a song I wrote, I hope you like it”, and it seemed to do pretty well. But then I just left it and never touched it again. 

I then got in touch with Ethan Gruska who has worked with Phoebe Bridgers and King Princess and he was keen to finish writing and producing it with me and Gab Strum. So we sat on Zoom and finished the track. I also knew I wanted it to be the last song on the EP because it kinda just makes you cry, and I feel like it is a nice note to end on something so serious. 

TB: ‘Hold On’ is already one of my favourite songs of the year. The storytelling is heartbreakingly beautiful, your vocal delivery is stunning, but the production is just phenomenal. When that beat comes in at the end, it feels like a cathartic release of grief. Was that the intention of building it up to there?

GA: Yeah, I think so. There is so much emotion that you’re holding back for the entire song. And when I perform it live that is how I feel too. I feel like I get to that last chorus and you’re just as equally mad as you are upset. “Thinking bout your new life, and how you left me dreaming” is the most savage line ever. And I remember thinking that I needed something in the background to match it, to make sure that feeling is heard. That was definitely the part we kept going back on as we knew it needed to feel a certain way, or otherwise it wasn’t going to land the same way. I think playing it live definitely helped to find where it needed to go. It needed to be massive with lots of drums and synths. 

TB: ‘Teenager’ was a song that you heard you asking if you could just live your life as a teenage and make mistakes without people constantly giving their unsolicited advice and thoughts. With how hectic your life has been since Unearthed High, do you think you’ve been able to live truthfully to this sentiment? 

GA: *Laughs*, I actually think I have with Covid getting in the way. It kinda brought everything to ground level for a moment, and I think it really needed to as it got to a point where I was 16 and hadn’t seen my friends in 6 months. I didn’t even say goodbye to them when I left high school, I just up and left without even clearing my locker out. But I got to a point where I felt like I didn’t get to do any of the kid things, and there really are so many things you need to do to figure out who you are as a person, and just experience those things in general. So that time was great for getting my drivers license, and silly little things like that.  

TB: What is a fun or random fact about the creative process of ‘Nervous’ you could tell us?

GA: When Maribelle and I wrote ‘Nervous’ I was really jetlagged as I had just got back from London the day before, so I was not in the creative state and feeling really anxious. But then I started writing about how people make me nervous. So my fun fact is that it’s probably just based on my anxiety of being jetlagged *laughs*.  

TB: ‘Circles’ is a song that has had a complete life of its own and has capitulated you into the spotlight. So where has been the strangest place or timing that you’ve heard the song being played?

GA: I got tagged in this Instagram story from New York Fashion Week in 2020, and on the runway they were walking to ‘Circles’ which was so crazy. And then another time I was the airport and I walked up to Boost Juice, and just when I was ordering ‘Circles’ started playing and I had a little giggle, but nobody else laughed *laughs*. 

TB: When you were putting together the track listing for ‘Growing Pains’, was there a particular journey you wanted to take listeners on?

GA: I think my main focus was probably the live show, and I do think how I play things live had a lot of reflection on how I wanted things to pan out. I think it kind of takes you on a rollercoaster, which is what I think it needed to do. The emotions of how it starts with ‘Band Aid’ is so happy and vibrant, and it’s all about the beginning of my journey and how I decided to leave everything behind. But then it takes you on the journey of what happened afterwards with ‘Teenager’, ‘Nervous’, Mid Years’ and then ‘Hold On’, before closing out with ‘Haunted’ which is this very serious note that I wanted to show people I could do. 

TB: You have toured quite extensively over the past few years during the pandemic playing festivals and headline shows wherever you can. What has been one of the funniest or weirdest thing you’ve seen when you’ve looked out into a crowd?

GA: There was this time in Brisbane when we were playing at Mountain Goat Valley Crawl and I was just playing out on this big stage, and all of a sudden The Debbies opened up a pit during my cover of ‘Creep’, and it was just so random and nothing to be moshing to. It was this massive circle of everyone going crazy, and then I looked to my left and there were all of these underage kids blocking the road watching my set through the fence. The police came and tried to clear them and they wouldn’t move as they knew they were able to stand on the footpath. There was a lot happening. 

TB: Let’s play a quick game of rapid fire questions about the EP. Are you ready?

GA: Let’s do it!

TB: The emoji that best describes my debut EP ‘Growing Pains’ is…

GA: The smiley face with all the hearts around it.

TB: The song that nearly didn’t make the EP was…

GA: ‘Nervous’.

TB: A lyric that still hits me deep in the feelings is…

GA: “You know they say opposites attract, but maybe we’re the opposite of that”

TB: If your friend has never heard my music before, the song from the EP I would make you play first would be…

GA: ‘Circles’ I reckon! The OG!

‘Growing Pains’ is out now!

George Alice Australian Tour

Wednesday 18 May – Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane

Thursday 19 May – The Lansdowne, Sydney

Friday 27 May – The Gov, Adelaide

Thursday 2 June – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne