Young singer songwriter Georgia has had an interesting few years creatively and personally. Duncan Seaman reports.
Georgia Barnes feels she’s learnt “a huge amount” in the five years that intervened between her well-regarded debut album and its follow-up Seeking Thrills, which found her shortlisted for the BBC Sound of 2020 poll and finally gave her a commercial breakthrough when released last month.
“When the first record came out, I pretty much knew exactly what I needed to do to take it all to the next stage,” says the singer, songwriter, drummer and producer who turned 30 years old this week. “I just basically shut myself in my studio and began to figure out the direction that I wanted to take the new record in.
“I listened to lots of music. A lot changed for me too in my personal life, I stopped drinking, I got fit, I had a bit of a personal journey becoming a vegan. That whole personal journey has affected the way I approach the studio, I had a real routine.
“The first record was made in complete chaos and I didn’t want that to be the same for this record. I wanted the process to be very much in my control. I’d wake up at 6am or 7am, get to the gym, do some swimming, get into the studio for about 9.30am-10am and then do nine-hour shifts in the studio and then call it a night at about 9pm or 10pm. It was done very much in a strict routine and I think that gave me a disciplined approach to the song writing.”
Having a “template” to work on “really helped” as well. “I feel like I’m a different person, really. You grow with age,” she says.
Georgia has clearly warmed to a more methodical approach to making music. “I still think it’s nice now and then to be chaotic, and you can make really beautiful things out of chaos, but in the studio now I like to be methodical about the way I approach production and the song writing.”
Going clubbing while sober proved eye-opening. “I had my years of hedonism on the dancefloor,” Georgia says. “During the making of this record just because I was not drinking and not doing anything else, I didn’t want to stop going out, I felt like that would be sacrificing a lot. I love going out and experiencing things, especially London at night, it’s really when the city comes alive. I guess this time around I didn’t get involved too much in that hedonistic activity that goes on on the dancefloor, I just wanted to be an observer and it became really good material for lyrics.
“It’s such a fascinating place the dancefloor. At the parties and the clubs I was going to I was following the DJs that I love and they just created such an incredible atmosphere. I loved observing people. You realise these are all different human beings here and they’ve each got their own identities, each got their own lives yet they’re all here under one roof raving and having a collective experience. It fascinated me.”
Georgia, whose father Neil Barnes is in the chart-topping duo Leftfield, delved deep into the history of electronic music from Chicago and Detroit while making Seeking Thrills. “For about three months all I did was research the history of house music and Detroit techno. It was a powerful thing to uncover all the stories and all the history. You realised that these weren’t just music scenes, they were actual cultural movements that went on to change people’s lives. I was really touched reading all the articles about certain clubs in Chicago and the cultural significance of those spaces.”
There are a lot of artists pushing genres and pushing artistry to new places. I think Billie Eilish is a great example of that, you can’t really define her music, you don’t quite know where it fits in, but that’s the beauty of it.Georgia
As a drummer who has worked with artists such as Kate Tempest and Kwes, Georgia found herself particularly drawn in by the rhythms of the records. “The way that those infectious, repetitive drumbeats put people into these almost trance-like states really fascinated me,” she says. “I love the sound of the 909s [drum machines] and the patterns, I became completely obsessed with it. I quite like it when it’s a bit harder house music as well, like the Dance Mania side of it, it’s almost like the punkier side of house music, a bit more raucous, a bit more edgy, and the drums are amazing on that.”
Georgia has found working out who she is through music an interesting voyage of discovery. “I think music for me is powerful like that where you can find an identity within it. Certainly being on the dancefloors I found an identity with people, we shared the same interests. It was quite powerful. I guess on the dancefloor I can truly be who I want to be, obviously it’s a place of escapism where you can forget day to day life for a bit and just escape for a couple of hours or whatever. I definitely think throughout my life I’ve found my identity through music, it defines me, I guess, it is who I am.
“I went through a personal journey as well making the record and I do look back in hindsight and I do think that these songs really had a significance to me and I’m quite proud of the fact that I stuck to decisions and wrote these songs.”
Songs on Seeking Thrills such as Started Out and About Work The Dancefloor wholeheartedly embrace contemporary pop but Georgia adds experimental elements of her own. She agrees with the idea that some of the most intriguing production are currently to be heard in chart music. “That’s quite interesting, isn’t it?” she says. “With the rise of Billie Eilish, artists like that, mainstream chart music is going through quite a positive time at the moment. There are a lot of artists pushing genres and pushing artistry to new places. I think Billie Eilish is a great example of that, you can’t really define her music, you don’t quite know where it fits in, but that’s the beauty of it, and I’ve always really admired artists like that. I’ve always loved pop stars who you can’t really define, they’re the best for me.”
As she embarks on European and UK tour dates, Georgia says she is “loving playing live and the whole process way more” than she did five years ago. “Maybe it is because I had the first album campaign that didn’t quite go the way we all anticipated,” she says. “This time around it feels really great, I’m really enjoying it and trying to enjoy it as well because you don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Seeking Thrills is out now. Georgia plays at Brudenell Social Club Community Room on March 9. www.georgiauk.com