- 18 May 18
"I met my girlfriend towards the end of the last record. And that’s huge. For anybody, meeting somebody, it’ll turn your world upside-down. You’re overcome with this feeling – and yes, I’m aware that there’s maybe been one or two love songs written before now – but you want to sing honestly about it. And it was a beautiful thing to do, because it means that you’re confronting your feelings and reminding yourself of them regularly.”
“Come in, come in! Take a seat. Here, do you want a glass of water? Take anything you want from the table over there. How are you today?”
George Ezra is positively beaming when Hot Press enters a quiet room in the Hilton Hotel for a chat. There doesn’t seem to be much occasion for it; after all, it’s a drab day in Dublin and I’m one of the many journalists he’ll have to meet this afternoon before his headline performance in front of one of his toughest crowds yet – the dreaded student rabble at the Trinity Ball. But none of that has rubbed off on the man himself – George Ezra, it seems, never needs an excuse to be happy.
Four years ago, the singer rose to prominence with his debut album, Wanted On Voyage. A record of rousing folk-blues, sung with a voice all the more exciting because it was steeped in Deep Southern soul, it was the last thing you’d expect from a man from middle England. Naturally, it became the third-best selling album in the UK in 2014, and led thousands of people to fall in love with a statuesque young man from Hertfordshire.
An extensive world tour, a frustrating fallow period, and the cloud of depressing geo-political events all conspired to bring the singer down in the years that followed, but they were no match for his indomitable spirit.
“There were a lot of things going on,” he says. “It was a combination of me not enjoying my time off tour and then beyond that, all of a sudden seeing breaking news notifications on my phone of shit happening on the other side of the world, and beating myself up that I couldn’t change things. It felt like there was a lot of opportunities for people to fuck up, and they did. And the result of that was that I absolutely wanted to write an upbeat record.”
Staying At Tamara’s is an unabashedly positive album, but it wasn’t just intrinsic happiness that it made it so. George exiled himself to an apartment in Barcelona for several months, staying (funnily enough) with a woman named Tamara. This led to a period of clarity that produced the lion’s share of the songs for the record. His personal circumstances also gave him cause to celebrate.
“I think a big thing, and I don’t like to talk about it in depth because it is part of my personal life, is that I met my girlfriend towards the end of the last record. And that’s huge. For anybody, meeting somebody, it’ll turn your world upside-down. You’re overcome with this feeling – and yes, I’m aware that there’s maybe been one or two love songs written before now – but you want to sing honestly about it. And it was a beautiful thing to do, because it means that you’re confronting your feelings and reminding yourself of them regularly.”
While not addressing political matters in any overt way, Staying At Tamara’s acts as an antidote to constant breaking news cycles and social media fatigue. On album opener ‘Pretty Shining People’, Ezra sings, “Why why, what a terrible time to be alive/If you’re prone to overthink”, before qualifying this with “Hey, pretty shining people/We’re alright together!”
“I’d never written a lyric that bleak,” he laughs. “I was just sitting in bed writing it and I kind of laughed and said, ‘You can’t bring that into the world’. But then I decided, ‘Oh but you can, if you counteract it by writing the cheesiest lyric possible.’ I think I needed that as much for myself. I’m the one that has to perform these songs, so I want them to have a positive message that I can get behind.”
The singer was able share his positivity recently when he found himself being interviewed by ex-Labour leader Ed Miliband – an unusual cheerleader for positive thinking in UK politics.
“Ed was just the sweetest, most lovely person,” he gushes. “Too nice to be Prime Minister, I think. Not that he wouldn’t have done a brilliant job, but I think there’s so much good he can do where he is.”
Miliband also introduced the singer to Jeremy Corbyn, who George was thrilled to meet. Does that make him for the many and not the few?
“Politics is always something I’ve kept to myself,” he replies. “Not because I’m ashamed of it by any means, but just because you really need to be well-informed to back yourself up with those kinds of views, and I’m not sure that I am.
“I definitely grew up in a Labour family and that’s where I stand. But after everything that went on with the first record, I remember feeling completely out of touch with everything happening politically back home. So when anyone asks about it, I just say I’m not equipped to answer.”
Staying At Tamara’s is out now.