- 15 Jul 14
He’s the husky-voiced troubadour of the moment. Ahead of his Longitude performance, GEORGE EZRA reveals how, in order to find himself, he had to get lost on the byways of Europe.
While UK singer-songwriter George Ezra is thrilled his debut album Wanted On Voyage is finally out, he encountered a slight problem picking up his own copy.
“I went to buy my own record yesterday because I’ve always bought CDs. I wanted to experience buying my own album,” Ezra says as he sips a homemade smoothie in his back garden. “I went to the counter and my credit card was declined.”
Despite his credit crunch, the 21-year old is enjoying a phenomenal rise. One short year ago he played the BBC Introducing Stage at Glastonbury. This year, he returned to a packed John Peel stage. Elsewhere, Ezra has had a number one hit in
Austria with ‘Budapest’ and a string of top fives across Europe.
“I have this inability to process what’s going on until about six months after,” Ezra says. “I consider myself very lucky. Music is moving so fast right now in terms of how people consume it. You could last two years, two decades or two months. I’m enjoying it while it’s here. Maybe someday, someone will tap me on the shoulder and tell me to get a real job.”
As well as landing his dream occupation with a record contract, George also went inter-railing around Europe to accumulate enough material to write the album.
“The whole point of the album was going on a journey around Europe and a lot of stories came from that,” he explains. “It also took off elsewhere before it did in England, which is crazy. Whenever I play a gig to a full crowd I realize I’m quite far away from home.”
“I pissed off the record label at first because I’d only been signed for six months and I was off travelling,” he continues. “My excuse to them was that I was travelling between Bristol and London every day and not seeing anything new. The whole point is to put yourself in new situations and out
of your comfort zone and not on your sofa
“So I went to Paris, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Malmo, Berlin, Milan, Vienna and Barcelona... I’d only been to Barcelona before. The album comes from people watching really. I’m only 21 and I’ve only experienced so much. When I was working in the pub I used to steal people’s conversations: it’s a perfect way to make stories.”
Ezra’s creative approach to observing humanity comes from possessing a curious mind. “When I was working at the pub when I was younger I realised that if you’re at the bar with your friend and I hear a snippet of conversation I can make up what comes before and after it. It can be anything I want and I can make you the nicest guy in the world or the villain of all villains. I’ve complete free rein.
“People-watching is great, whether you’re writing songs or not. Being nosy is awesome. When I went travelling I’d get off a train and follow someone from a safe distance – never in a creepy way. I’d see where I’d end up which was always fun. I’d usually end up at a block of flats or an office, it was usually quite boring and I’d have to work my way back to wherever I started.”
Life on the road isn’t a non-stop exercise in surveillance. Lately, George has made it a family affair. “I take my sister on tour with me now,” he reveals. “You’re away from home for a very long time. If you start out in a band you’ve got your band of brothers in a way but I did two years of travelling by myself and I felt a bit lonely.”
“The common misconception is that you get offstage, get blind drunk and wake up next to a different person every morning. I’m sure that some people keep that up, but unfortunately, if I’m not well and able enough I’d have to pull a gig. If there are pictures of me off my tits every night, then people would have every right to get angry at me.
“I find myself packing up after the gig, saying hello to as many people I can and going back to the hotel. On the outside it may look like I’m travelling to all these beautiful cities and people might feel I’m having a bit of a jolly. I don’t get to see too much. Although I’ve booked a holiday in Barcelona for a week in August, I love it there, so that will be amazing.”
Ezra is said to have an “old man’s voice” for a fresh-faced 21-year old. “I listen to Tom Waits, Bob Dylan and Paul Simon,” Ezra says. “Those guys were only 20 when they started making music, so it’s not all old codgers in an old people’s home tapping spoons.
“People say I sound like an old man but don’t look like one,” Ezra laughs. “My voice is how I sing; it was a conscious thing from when I was about 16. I couldn’t sing very well. I tried to sing like [30s bluesman] Leadbelly. It’s how I found my voice and I realised I could sing. My voice was very bland and not very tuneful. People now say my voice is a surprise. It’s also a huge surprise to me.”
George Ezra plays Longitude on Friday, July 18. Wanted On Voyage is out now.