Rising singer-songwriter and BBC Sound of 2014 nominee George Ezra is set to release his hotly anticipated debut album ‘Wanted on Voyage’ next month (30 June), which will follow lead single Budapest (15 June). Earlier this year, The Insight reporters Dean Hodge and Alex Spiceley caught an exclusive interview with George backstage just before he kicked off his first major tour in Clwb Ifor Bach in Cardiff. Check out the interview here as the musician gave his thoughts on his upcoming debut album, the Bristol music scene, breaking America and other topics.
You’re currently working on your debut studio album. Can you tell us about the type of sound people can expect from your album?
I’ve recorded about 19 songs for the record, so what needs to happen now is we have to do the gruelling task of axing however many songs. The whole point of the two EP’s I’ve released (‘Did You Hear the Rain?’ and ‘Cassy’O’) is they’re easing people into the idea of me having a band. I still gig on my own, but the album was recorded with a band and I have sourced a band now.
Can you describe your songwriting process?
Because there’s been a lot of moving around in the last few years, I’ve just been carrying notebooks and writing down anything like conversations or ideas I have and I allow myself to forget that I haven’t wrote any of it. So I come back to them a few months later, and then it feels like someone else’s words. I normally sing melodies or guitar lines into my iPhone. Then it’s just piecing bits together and trying stuff out. It’s interesting because a lot of songs I record, different versions, different melodies but the same lyrics.
Which artists were the biggest influences on you growing up?
The one artist I know who inspired me to go into music was Bob Dylan. But there was so much because when I was 13 or 14, the Arctic Monkeys came out and Britain had a lot of amazing indie bands who I listened to a lot. I also did a lot of rummaging around and found blues acts as well. But I think when you trace it back to where it all began, it all started with Dylan.
Did the music scene in Bristol have an influence on you as an artist?
I moved to Bristol about four years ago. Before I moved there, I’d always been in bands. I haven’t worked out whether that’s just because of the fact that I move to a city by myself and no matter where I went I was going to be inspired, but I do think Bristol has something to do with that.
I actually get to go back to Bristol for the first time since November and actually sleep in my own bed which is nice.
You’re originally from North London. Why did you go to Bristol?
I studied for a year at university there. I didn’t carry on, but I stayed in Bristol. A lot of my friends are in their third year now which is what I’d be doing now. I just did one year and at that point, I was in a position where I can still live there. When I’m in London, I find myself going home back to Hartord because it’s easier.
Was it always music for you, or were there other career ideas?
I don’t know if music is a career idea yet! I left school when I was 16 and went to study Music at a college. I enjoyed it but I think then I was just a chancer like everyone else and there was no point with me staying on at school. I’ve always wanted to do music but at the same time I don’t feel like I’m doing it, it just all comes naturally. It doesn’t feel like I’ve woken up and suddenly I’m a professional musician and get to gig every night. It’s just what happens.
A lot of your influences are ‘bluesy’ and ‘American’. Have you ever thought of performing over in America?
It will happen at some point. Whether it works or not who knows. At the moment, I’m not interested in going as it’s too big a place. I’ve only just started gigging across Europe and that feels quite natural and healthy to do that. A lot of people waste a lot of money flying a lot of people and gear over to America. Plus, there’s a different radio station in every state. You don’t even break America, you break one state. I want to know when I go to America that I got something to come back to, not go there just because I can.
You travelled to Europe for inspiration. What were your favourite places that you visited?
I went Paris, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Berlin, Vienna, Milan, Barcelona then back up to Paris. A lot of the album was written there. The verses of Cassy’O’ were written while I was going around. I took a guitar but I was written songs on the guitar, I was just writing every little thing down in these little journals. Vienna was my favourite place, I don’t know why, it was just a really pretty, good looking city.
Not to be cheeky, but how was your Valentine’s Day?
You know what, not great, it was my first day off since being on tour. I was so excited about having a day off and we were all in Manchester then. But then we woke up, and everyone was going ‘what shall we do?’ like the vultures in The Jungle Book. Literally, we wasted hours doing that. Then I randomly went to buy a mask – I bought a baboon mask the other week for £8 – and I went in the mask shop and the man had a go at me for putting the mask in the wrong place, right in front of everyone! I just picked this really awful mask off a shelf and tried it on because it was so bad and then put it back and he told me off. He even called me ‘good boy’ in front of the whole shop when I put it back in the right place. Then I did go and watch American Hustle but didn’t really like it. Afterwards, I just got pissed in the evening!
How to feel that most of your fan base who come to your shows are girls?
I supported Tom Odell last year and obviously his fan base is mostly female. Luckily, I also supported Ray Morris and Lianne Le Havas, and they both have really mixed audiences. So far on my first headline tour, mine has been mostly mixed. It’s been predominated 20 or over and a few young people. Cardiff is actually the most people I performed to before, it’s not been like that in any other city. There’s two girls that have been there every time and I met them supporting Tom Odell here. They got me a card and some Kinder Bueno.
Do you often see the same people at your gigs and does it ever feel odd?
I’ve never been somebody that understands wanting someone’s autograph. I got one from Mickey Mouse when I went to Disneyland. Also, I’m a fool! You don’t want my name written down because I’m just me. I just see myself as a bit of a muppet. People ask me for my autograph all the time and I’m just like ‘Yeah OK’.
So you’re still very down to earth then!
Definitely! Whenever I step on to any stage, I’m still a bit shocked that it’s sold out. Also, I’ve supported so many people and you meet a few who think they are owed something or should have attention, and it’s not about that. With all these pools that I was put in for 2014 (including the BBC Sound of 2014 poll), there are a lot of people asking me which artists I wanted to beat and who I considered my main competition, but they’ve got the wrong guy. It’s not about that for me, I just appreciate I’ve been considered.
Do you think having a band on your tour will change your style of music?
In my head, a lot of the songs, since recording them… I guess it’s just because I know what I’ve recorded on top of them. Because we were such a part of it, as in me and my producer didn’t get other musicians in but just did a lot of it ourselves, so it’s looser and more honest. People spend fortunes getting the best keyboard player, but they don’t care about what they’re doing , they’re just very good at playing the right note. We had a lot of fun making the album and that’s all I’m interested in, having fun.
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