INTERVIEW: George Ezra

There is something that has always been so soothing about George Ezra’s vocals. He has this luscious tone that is immediately comforting, and will have you swooning as he poetically sings directly to your soul. Amidst the theatrical nature of the arrangements, and the many hits that comfortably sit in his discography, there is a lot of raw emotion and vividly charged storytelling at the roots of his artistry. Following the release of his critically acclaimed sophomore album ‘Staying At Tamara’s’, it would have been really easy to just release an album full of ear-worm hook led songs that become inescapable like ‘Shotgun’. But he wanted to push himself.

His third studio album ‘Gold Rush Kid’ is the result of a lot of inward looking. He started the process of the record stuck in his flat in London during the first initial lockdown. Having the first amount of extended time in years to truly stop and reflect, he started to look back at old memories and read old journal entries. Inspiring himself to be more direct with his songwriting and break through the poetic mannerisim’s of his previous releases, this album became a journey of understanding.

To celebrate the release of ‘Gold Rush Kid’ I had a chat with George Ezra about how reflecting on the past allowed to him to focus on the present, and explored the creative processes behind tracks like ‘Fell In Love At The End Of The World’, ‘Don’t Give Up’ and ‘Dance All Over Me’. Check it out BELOW;

THOMAS BLEACH: Your third studio album ‘Gold Rush Kid’ is a breezy, upbeat and celebratory collection of tracks that feels like a breath of escapism. So when you listen back to this record from start to finish now, where are you personally transported to?

GEORGE EZRA: Really happy times, which is funny because it’s not necessarily the truth. Somehow once you finish an album you put on your rose-tinted glasses and pretend that it was all of the vibes all of the time, which just isn’t true. But in saying that, especially compared to the record that came before, it was relaxed and it was chilled. 

For the most part it was me and Joel Pott who I’ve written with for over 10 years now. He also produced this record, and we actually never left London to work on it. And of course, we were trying to make it happen in and around the lockdowns. There are some artists who can do remote writing sessions, and I take my hat off to them, but personally, fuck that. I just could not have done that, and that’s why I was so lucky to have known Joel because we could keep working the way we were after the first initial serious 2 month lockdown. We were sending each other a bunch of different voice notes with ideas, and were able to dive into it from there. There were definitely different waves of productivity on this album compared to previously. 

TB: You did something for this album that not a lot of artists do often when beginning a new project, and you went through old notebooks to find lyrical inspiration and ideas. When you were going through these notebooks, what were you essentially looking for? Like, what was on your vision board for what you wanted this record to capture for you? 

GE: The thing that got me to reading the old notebooks was quite separate to writing the album. I had no intention of reading these things back. It’s almost that the act of writing them is enough. I found the last record really difficult at times, and I found it quite a strange experience. And not just the last record, but the last eight years or so, they’ve been a bit of a whirlwind. 

When the lockdown hit I was living alone for 5 weeks in this flat. It was the first time I remember feeling comfortable in reminiscing properly, and going back and seeing what those experiences were like. And it was incredible man as I got to read through these things that were funny, and not deliberately so, but you were reading things you wrote when you were 18 years old.

When I was going through the notebooks there were things I wrote before the second record and during that I was like “oh, I could use this. Thank you previous George, this is good stuff”.  

TB: Do you remember an idea you read back and went – absolutely not, what was I thinking? 

GE: *Laughs* Not specifically, but I can say that the hit rate of useless stuff has to be 90% useless and 10% gold. 

TB: Were there any lyrical ideas that you went – wow in hindsight this would’ve been really great for ‘Staying At Tamara’s’ or ‘Wanted On Voyage’?

GE: I don’t know, because I can sit here with my hand on heart and say that this next record is the best record I could have made relative to me. But I also know that if we get to meet again and sit down in four years time that I would be like “dude, there is so much I would change about that record”. So when it comes to things I could change about the last few records, there is a lot *laughs*. But I also know that they are as they should be. 

TB: ‘Fell In Love At The End Of The World’ is the immediate standout to me on this record. I love the drama of the orchestral delivery and the way it sways back and forth. Can you explain the creative process behind this track? 

GE: Thank you! That song is the one song where the first time I sat down with the label after recording about seven of the album tracks, with that song included, that the head of my record label in the UK pulled me aside and said “dude, I think you’ve got that one wrong”. The first production take we did of it was a White Stripes sort of beat, and it was really guitar driven and rocky. But we honestly got it wrong. I listened more to his comments on it because it was the only song where he had proper notes on, and he said to me “I think you would regret recording this song this way as it is an incredible song”. So I went back to playing it on the acoustic guitar, and we had been working with Tobie Tripp who is this incredible strings arranger, and we did a demo and once time and curfews permitted we got all the players in the studio to lay it down. But the strings really changed that song. 

TB: The title track ‘Gold Rush Kid’ represents a character for yourself – is this version an idealised version of yourself, or one you feel is a direct representation of where you are now? 

GE: We just played the Radio 1 Big Weekend last weekend, and it was our first big festival in three years. There is a bit of character involved with getting on stage, and I was very aware of that as I was walking out onto the stage and trying to figure out how I would act. But I felt far more myself this time around than I ever have. And I watched the set back last night to see how I looked and sounded, and I was aware that I was kind of moving around less than on the record before. I used to be quite manic onstage, and there was less of that. So I think this whole ‘Gold Rush Kid’ thing is probably more accurate than I thought. To be honest, I thought I was plotting this character I could lean into to protect myself from promoting the record, but I don’t think that’s true. Although it’s got the cartoonish name, and there is something fantastical about it, I actually think what I relate to about it is really simple. 

TB: Is this the closest we will get to a self-titled album then? 

GE: Probably! For me at least, the experience of all three albums has been “oh shit, there is no album name yet” and then one day I’m like “oh, that’s it!”. I can’t imagine ever calling an album just my name. So I think this will be the closest *laughs*. 

TB: Something I loved about the song ‘Don’t Give Up’ was the simplicity of the chorus just being “don’t give up”. When you were writing this song, why did you feel like the most important stylistic decision for this song was to be direct and not take away from that beautiful messaging?

GE: I tried to do it a few times on the record where I just held myself accountable for the amount of chaff I was writing. I tend to get really poetic, and especially during the first few lockdowns I had to keep reminding myself to break out of that and actually find what I wanted to say. There’s a song called ‘Sweetest Human Being Alive’ on the album, and that’s the same. There is this feeling you want to tap into but then the tradition of songwriting gets in the way. I had to find a way to feel okay to say what I really wanted to say out loud first, and see if it felt comfortable to say it, and then find a way to sing it. 

TB: ‘Dance All Over Me’ feels like a George Ezra take on an arena dance-pop song, and is a little bit reminiscent of Mark Ronson and Miley Cyrus’, ‘Nothing Breaks Like A Heart’. What were some of your references and inspirations for this track?

GE: That was a song that was resurrected from a pile of forgotten demo’s after I had a conversation with the label where they said “I think you’re missing a song”. That conversation has actually happened with all three of my albums now, and if it wasn’t for that conversation on the last record then I wouldn’t have written ‘Shotgun’. 

So me and Joel started working on this song a few months prior that was really “euro” in quite a funny way. So when the conversation came up that they thought we should dig and find another song, I put forward this song. I knew the way the song was at that present moment wasn’t in my line of delivery, so I started to pick it on guitar in the studio with the band, and directly referencing the Mark Ronson and Miley Cyrus song. I said to the band that they had given us the perfect blueprint of how to do country-dance, and I thought we could lean in on that, so we did.

TB: You will be heading to Australia for a big run of headline dates this October and November. The music video for ‘Anyone For You’ had these big projections of scenery that accompanied you on a big stage set up. Is this a little glimpse of what this upcoming tour will visually be like? 

GE: Yeah *laughs*. You’re good at this! *laughs*. I think this album compared to the previous two is far more cohesive from the artwork, to the videos, to even the promotional photos, everything all feels like it’s together. So we sat down recently with this artist called Kate who I was introduced to on the last record, and I think we are going to lean in on that. We haven’t landed on anything specific yet, but yes I think that music video is a great vision of where we are going for it. 

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

GE: Yeah, of course! 

TB: The emoji that best describes ‘Gold Rush Kid’ is…

GE: The red dress dancer!

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

GE: ‘Dance All Over Me’! If we were not pushed for one more song then it would have stayed as just another song on a hard drive. 

TB: The song I’m most looking forward to performing live would be…

GE: Probably ‘Green Green Grass’. 

TB: The song that went through the most versions to get it to where it is now was…

GE: ‘Fell In Love At The End Of The World’. That’s such a good question. 

TB: The first song from the album I’d want you to play to your friends who haven’t heard my new music would be…

GE: Probably ‘Anyone For You (Tiger Lily)’

‘Gold Rush Kid’ is out now!

George Ezra Australian Tour

Saturday 29 October – Aware Super Theatre, Sydney

Monday 31 October – Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Melbourne

Wednesday 2 November – Riverstage, Brisbane 

Saturday 5 November – Kings Park & Botanic Garden, PerthTickets are on sale now! More details available HERE