GEORGE EZRA – Interview

Wenn ein Künstler ein neues Album macht, bedeutet das nicht nur Songwriting, Studiozeit und die reine Produktion des Produktes, sondern eben auch Marketing, Promo und Co. Auch für George Ezra, den wir gefühlt zu einem 15-Minütigen Speed Date Interview in Berlin trafen, ist das nicht anders. Keine Zeit, keine Zeit – also direkt los – George Ezra im Interview!

Foto-© Isabella Nadobny

George, it’s a great pleasure meeting you! Unfortunately, we only have 15 minutes, so let’s dive directly into your new album Staying at Tamara’s. You stayed at Tamara’s place when you were in Barcelona, right? Why did you dedicate the album to her?
It’s definitely not dedicated to her, it’s more dedicated to my time in Barcelona in general. I have that struggle to be creative when I’m at home, where I’m too comfortable, where there are too many distractions. So, travelling works fine to get new ideas. In that one month at Tamara’s I also got to know her friends, who were all musicians and artists, designers…The flat was full of records, it felt like a very creative environment. It couldn’t have gone better.

As a touring musician naturally you spend a lot of time travelling. I could imagine, it’s rather a tedious, annoying and distracting experience. But it seems like you are using traveling as a source of creativity.
Sort of. For the first album, I went traveling around Europe by train. That was amazing, I’ve barely been outside of England before, so everything was new and exciting. Barcelona was a place that I loved, but I could spend only two days there. I am very fortunate that I now had the time to go somewhere for a long time. I had no commitments, my phone didn’t ring, nobody knew me. Just a month of very slow adventure. I didn’t do anything extreme, I was just walking around and I absolutely loved it. Sun, tapas and beer.

Your last album Wanted on Voyage was released in 2014 and was a big success. What happened between now and then?
There was a lot of touring in between. I’m somebody who wants to travel a lot, so that’s what I did, but you travel in a very particular way. You don’t see much. Like now: today we came to Berlin and tonight we are going back home. The thing I was worried about during the first album was, what effect it was going to have on my private life, once I stopped touring. Because it’s easy when you’re on the move. But nothing happened, nothing was different. I was still with my friends and family.

And how is it to be busy again?
It feels brilliant to be back and to be busy again, I think that’s what I missed the most. Having a focus. I wouldn’t change this for the world, but while I was off tour I was jealous of my friends who were working 9 to 5, Monday till Friday because at least they knew what they were doing, they had a structure. I did have a purpose, a job to do, which was to write, but you have to rely on your creativity and you can’t turn it on and off. You just have to sit back and hope it is there.

You said once that making new experiences inspires your imagination. Is this your recipe for creativity?
I think some people do an amazing job by just writing about things like the town they grew up in or about the world immediately around them. I don’t do that. I think I do much better writing about dreaming, imagination and what-ifs. That is what I enjoy about writing the most. And traveling helps with that, it liberates my mind. I enjoy being offline and unavailable – not setting alarms, which I normally do.

Are the songs on the album not taken out of your life?
They are this time. The main thing I needed was to escape out of this circle of not having a structure. In my time in Barcelona I was dreaming a lot and I was reminding myself to switch off. All those breaking news notifications on your phone and stuff like that… It wasn’t good for me. It’s ok to switch off and I think also other people appreciate that; it’s necessary to slow down from time to time.


Hold My Girl is a very intimate song. Can you tell me more about it?
Yeah, this one is very personal. The second theme on the record is love. Just near the end of the first album I met my girlfriend. When we met, it was perfect. Things started to slow down, I had a bit more time. It couldn’t have gone better in that sense. I was able to meet somebody and get to know them. And of course, that’s going to have a huge impact on your life. And also, your creativity. I think a relationship can be the best form of escapism.

When I listened to your song Shotgun for the first time I was busy getting somewhere, it was cold and grey, but your song put a big smile on my face. Perfect escape from dirty Berlin. Most of your songs are happy songs, does it mean you are a happy and easygoing person? No dark sides hidden somewhere?
I do have my dark and cloudy moments. But when I am going through a rough time, why would I turn that into a song and highlight it? In that case I would never be able to escape. And then I have to tour with those songs for years and remind myself of that. It makes more sense to do the opposite and see the good in it.

People are fascinated by your remarkable voice. I had the impression that you played more with it in the album before, you were experimenting more. Are you now getting closer to a personal style?
I think I can sing better now. Technically. Healthier. There are a lot of male singer songwriter artists, so I guess on the first album I was trying to stand out. I don’t think I knew that at the time, but when I hear it now, it sounds like that. I don’t regret it! I think I was trying to say “look at me”. Now I don’t have the need to do that anymore. I think I’ve learned a lot about touring as well. It’s hard to do it every night. So, having a different approach to singing is helping.

How do you feel about the first album now? Do you still enjoy to play the songs?
I like to play them live, I don’t like hearing the album. I still love the album and I don’t regret anything about it, but I feel like I can do better now. But you have to tour to know that. Listening to the second record sounds like a big improvement to me. It’s nice to see a progression.

Do you have a favorite song?
I love them all of course, but there are two in particular, Hold my girl and Get away. The hard thing here was to write negative lyrics in a positive way. The chorus is: “It’s never been this way before, shut down my anxiety.” I think if that was sung on a darker melody it would be the darkest song on the album. But it’s the happiest melody on the album. I like the contrast.

You work together with Joel Pott, guitarist and former frontman of the stereoscopic guitar band Athlete. What does that look like? Do you have split tasks?
We worked on the first record together as well. We are very fortunate to have this partnership. We work best when we start something from scratch together. If he were here, we would play the guitar and suddenly one of us says “Oh, that was cool” and then we start playing with it. But if I had to be honest, I would say he is better at melody and I’m better at lyrics. Not always, but if it had to be black and white that’s how I would break it up. It starts with jamming, playing around. Often, I would come with an idea, like it was with Get away for instance, I had the verses of that song, played it to him and asked: “What do you think?” And it’s good to have a partner who is able to say, “No, that’s rubbish” and you are not offended.


What will your next weeks look like?
The next milestone will be the release of the album in March. Between now and then I’ll be dedicating all my energy towards that, there will be a lot of little trips like this, promotion stuff at the moment. We announced the first tours, there will be more little concerts like yesterday in Munich in front of 250 people.

What do you enjoy most? Working on music, touring, working with creative people? Giving interviews?
If I break it into three jobs it’s writing, recording and touring. I think my favorite is touring. It is addictive. You get addicted to the stage, you get addicted to the kind of circus, getting on the bus, you get driven to another town. You kind of feel like an outlaw. I remember in particular on the first tours we did, we were just in the back of a van, no one knew who we were, I didn’t have a big audience… I just loved it! I felt like I was on the run. I don’t know what from, but it was just great being on the move.

Do you enjoy more playing in front of a big audience? Does it matter to you?
Once it gets to a certain size it doesn’t matter how big it is. A lot of people are a lot of people, whether it’s 5000 or 20.000. Playing in front of 250 people is tough, you are really in control then. It’s very intimate. You can hear the silence. You’re the only person in the room facing the wrong direction. Spotlight and all eyes on you. I am maybe a little bit out of practice, but we are doing more and more now. I’ll be back on it.

Isabella Nadobny

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