Singer-songwriter George Ezra is brilliant, so we caught up with him on his biggest-ever UK tour to chat about travelling around Europe, his debut album and touring with his sister…
How’s the tour going?
‘It’s been great, thanks! It’s been long, but very good. We’ve done about twenty dates and it’s been really good fun.
What’s your favourite song to play live?
‘I don’t know… I do love playing Did You Hear The Rain, and I’ve opened my set with it for the last eighteen months, so I guess it’s just a song I’ve always enjoyed playing.
You’ve just announced another UK tour, but this time with a full band – do you enjoy playing with a band?
‘I have no idea yet! The band are actually rehearsing away right now while I’m on tour, so the plan is for me to jump in later on and hopefully watch it all click into place. Cam, the guy who produced the Did You Hear The Rain EP and the album, is kind of being the musical director for it, so I’m hoping it’s all going to work out well. I’m a bit apprehensive, because when I play on my own I can think ‘oh, I’m going to do this now’, but when I’m with the band I suppose I’ll be a little more constrained with regards to on-stage improvisation.
What’s the best thing about playing live?
‘Well, it helps that there are people at the gigs now! I guess it’s just the fact that no matter how many gigs you do you’re never quite sure what it’s going to be like until you’re actually on stage. You judge a room as soon as you get there, so it’s always exciting to see how it all pans out.
‘I mean, most of the time you’re wrong – you assume a gig’s gonna go a certain way and then it goes in a totally different direction, but I guess that’s just the way it is.
‘I also love travelling around. I think I’m naturally just quite comfortable with not being in one place for more than twenty-four hours at a time, so I guess it just kind of suits me. I take my sister on tour with me now, too, and because we’re quite a small unit we’ve just got quite a family feel going on. Before this tour I just did it all by myself on trains, but I couldn’t have done it with this one – it would have been too lonely!
Your new single Cassy ‘O has been getting a lot of airplay on Radio One – can you describe it for us?
I took myself travelling around Europe a little while ago, and I got around on the train. I had a very student-y realisation that the trip was coming to an end and that it wasn’t in my control, and then I laughed because I had that thought. I just wrote a load of tongue-in-cheek verses, picked a couple and turned them into Cassy ‘O.
Were you ever expecting it to get picked up by radio?
No! I mean, it’s quite a strange feeling. You turn on the radio and they’re playing your song, and it’s just hard to remember that the rest of the UK is listening to it too. It just feels like you’ve pressed shuffle on your iPod. Fearne Cotton’s been great, too – she was my crush when I was a kid, so it’s nice that she’s been saying nice things!
Have you finished recording the album?
‘Yep, all done! We started in November and finished it off in January. I’ve done all I can do – we’re just waiting for it to be mixed and mastered, things like that. We’re hoping to get it out in June or July. I think it’s fitting that it comes out around the festival season, because it’s quite an upbeat album.
You’re playing a few festivals in the summer…
‘Yeah! I love festivals. I can remember I got to Glastonbury once and they were like ‘you can either camp behind the stage, or you can go and camp with your friends’. I was like ‘I’m camping behind the stage, there’s a shower!’. I used to go to a lot of festivals with friends and I didn’t care at all how I came home, but once you’ve seen what it’s like with a shower…
What made you want to start making music in the first place?
‘I think it was just a happy accident. My friends were doing it at school, and it was just something I kind of picked up. It’s a weird one, because I left school at the age of sixteen to study music at college, so I guess that the idea of being a musician was always somewhere in the back of my head.
‘It’s not like I ever assumed that I’d ever be able to do it – I just saw it as a way of wasting time and putting off getting a proper job.
‘When I moved to Bristol I kind of realised that unless I absolutely went for it and gigged as hard as possible nothing was going to come of it, so I went for it.
Who’s your ultimate musical icon?
‘Probably Bob Dylan. He was the person who really got me into music – before I listened to him I don’t think I really understood it properly.
Which song do you wish you’d written?
‘Hmm… There’s a song by a guy called Tennessee Ernie Ford called Sixteen Tons, and I don’t know whether he wrote it or not, but I’d be pretty chuffed if I’d written that.
How does your songwriting process work?
‘I carry around notebooks and fill them with nonsense, or fiction, or snippets of conversation, and once a notebook is full I’ll leave it for three months. I’ll then come back to it, and when I read it the words mean nothing to me and I can just play around with them. I’m always playing around with the guitar too, and I guess I just start saying words over it and seeing what works. The one thing I’ve learnt is to not be precious about my songs – it’s always best to just write a load of them, even if it means you’ve got to put two together to get a good one.
Who would be your dream collaboration, living or dead?
‘Johnny Cash or Eels, for definite.
What have you got planned for the next year?
‘Well, I’ve got three days off and then I go over to Europe and do the tour there. The whole of April is being put aside to practise with the band, and then we’re on to the album and festivals.
Describe yourself in three words?