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George Ezra 04 HI please credit Robert Blackham

Interview: George Ezra

Two days into his first ever UK headline tour, gravel-voiced singer-songwriter George Ezra is currently hunched over a table in the back room of Oxford’s Art Bar. With a scarily large knife in hand, and a fine selection of groceries laid out one by one, the peculiarly jolly 19-year-old spends our entire interview chopping and squeezing, then chopping and squeezing some more. We find out why.

Planet Notion: What the hell are you doing, George?

George Ezra: I squeeze all of these until I’ve got a pint of pure lemon juice. Nah [laughs]… half a lemon, a bit of honey, but I haven’t got any honey, I don’t think. I didn’t think that far ahead, but there we go. I’ll chop up some ginger now.

PN: Is this part of your therapy?

GE: Yeah, well, this is supposed to be good for your voice, and I just quite like the taste now. It’s quite nice to get to the venue and make yourself up a little concoction.

PN: Is the fact you’ve sold out an entire tour getting to you a little bit?

GE: It’s ridiculous. It’s nice just knowing that you’re going to get to the venues and there’s going to be people there. That’s a blessing. Because if it wasn’t sold out, we just wouldn’t know. Last night in Norwich was really cool, but I still don’t know if I’ve got the etiquette of headlining down. I don’t know if there’s something I need to be doing differently.

PN: You’ve got roughly 20 dates to hone that.

GE: And hopefully the next few years at least to hone it, too. Come and see me in a few years and we’ll see, I may be a magician up here. Like, a wizard at it.

PN: You tweeted this last night: “Plz no pics of penish or bobs but bobs maybe that fine but defo no penish xx”. Have you found yourself accumulating a particularly weird or clingy fan-base?

GE: Maybe I have developed this weird following. I like to think they understand what I’m on about. I think they do; I think they appreciate it.

PN: I’ve seen you call them the ‘Ezranites’ before.

GE: Yeah, I did it once about a year and half ago because I noticed the Directioners and they sound like scout group or something, don’t they. And then there’s the Beliebers and they just sound soft. And I thought it would be quite nice and ironic to call mine that because there’s all like these old religious groups like Hittites and stuff like that.

PN: Have you ever been a mega-fan of anyone?

GE: Erm, I’m sure I will have been, definitely. When I was really young, Fratellis. I loved the Fratellis. I probably shouldn’t admitting this into a Dictaphone, but hey-ho. But I only went to see them twice. I missed out on the whole going to gigs thing. I’ve been to see Billy Bragg the most out of anybody, but that’s not exactly going to win me any kudos I don’t think, going to see him because he plays quite a lot, isn’t it.

PN: So, how has George Ezra got to this point?

GE: Just gigging, supporting a lot of people and things like that. Supports, open mics, sessions. The thing is, the hard thing with sessions online and stuff and is that you’ve got to strike a balance. You don’t want to whore yourself out and you’re on every single blog.

PN: You want one amazing session, really.

GE: And I guess you should do a cover of Daft Punk or something.

PN: Didn’t you cover OneRepublic in the Live Lounge?

GE: Yeah, I did ‘Shooting Stars’. That was a really weird experience, man. You have to pick something that’s been play-listed in the last four months. I don’t know if that’s a little BBC secret that I’m letting out there, and then you pick a few, and they tell you yes or no, because someone’s already done it or asked to do it, or whatever. So I picked a few. I picked ‘Royals’ and it just didn’t sound any good, so it was a good thing someone else had already done that.

PN: People talk about your voice a lot, and how it sounds ‘well beyond your 19 years’. The question is, who do actually you look up to as having a brilliantly powerful vocal?

GE: There’s all sorts. I never wanted to be a vocalist. People I was listening to didn’t have good voices, but then I got into people like Van Morrison and they’ve got mega amazing voices, do you know what I mean? I think it’s more about how believable you are, the story you’re telling and the way you deliver it comes in the vocal as well. I think that’s always interested me.

PN: You were on a lot of ‘hotly tipped’ lists at the beginning of the year. Did you care?

GE: I don’t know. Some people took them the wrong way. They were seeing it as a competition. ‘Who do you want to beat?’ and stuff like that. But I was like, ‘what are you talking about?’ It’s music. All that’s happened is that a group of people have decided they like my music. You don’t have to agree with them, and it’s not about winning. It’s not about any of that. I just see it as helping me. It definitely has. It’s put me to a wider audience.

PN: Which can only be a good thing.

GE: Yeah, and I appreciate it massively. I appreciate the fact that I’ve been considered. But next year, there’ll be a sound of 2015 and people will hype about those people, and it’s like, people are saying ‘this is your year’. I was saying, ‘well, what, are you saying I’ve got a one-year shelf life and then I’m back in wherever I used to work?’

PN: Tell me about your latest single, ‘Cassy O’’?

GE: Well, it was while I was going around Europe. I just realised the trip was going to end. It wasn’t in my power to change that, and I didn’t really want it to end, so I wrote some tongue-in-cheek verses about time. You know, it’s the whole studenty thing to sit down and sort of mull over how time works, so I thought I’d sort of, not take the mick out of it, but at least approach it in a different way.

PN: Was ‘Budapest’ written with that in mind, too?

GE: Yeah, ‘Budapest’ was the city I never made it to, so I wrote a song about things I don’t have that I’d give up for somebody.

PN: Do you think you’ll play there one day?

GE: Oh yeah, I think they love it. I think ‘Budapest’ is going really well in Budapest. I had this Hungarian blog ring me up for an interview and their first question was like, ‘do you like Budapest?’ And I was like, ‘I’m really sorry, I’ve never been’, and they were just stuck for the rest of the interview.

PN: When are you releasing your album?

GE: I think it will be released in June or July. I think once the summer’s up and the festivals start, I think it’d be wise to drop it then. A lot of it is a really fun sounding album. It’s really upbeat sonically, so drop it for the festivals, man. I just think, like, give it to people when they’re in high spirits.

PN: What’s the worst thing you could possibly name it?

GE: ‘Selling Out’ [laughs]. I kept joking to my manager, ‘I’m going to call it ‘Sold Out: George Ezra’.’ And I’ve also always been keen not to call my album my name. I mean, there are some other terrible things I could call it. I could get myself in some trouble, I guess. It wouldn’t do me any favours.

Words – Huw Oliver

Photo – Robert Blackham

George Ezra’s The Cassy O’ EP is released March 16th via Sony Music

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