George Ezra finds perspective on pop – The Irish Times

George Ezra spent the summer of 2018 worrying about becoming horribly famous. In May, her sweet single Shotgun – don’t pretend you don’t know the chorus – spent three weeks atop the UK charts. A sunny anthem was born and, though obviously overjoyed, Ezra feared his life would never be the same again. He quickly discovered that while people loved Shotgun, they were completely disinterested in George Ezra. He was the invisible superstar.

“I was worried that the success of Shotgun would affect my personal life,” he says. “The truth is, that’s not the case at all. When these songs get as big as they are, you really have an audience that just wants to hear the song. They don’t care about you.

Ezra speaks on Zoom from his parents’ home in Hertfordshire. It’s the week before the release of his third album, Gold Rush Kid. A dynamic collection of singles, the LP is sure to please the vast audience who discovered him through Shotgun – no matter if they care what he had for breakfast or his underwear from favorite color.

Gold Rush Kid also sees Ezra (28) struggling with an existential crisis or three. With her 30th birthday looming, her vulnerable side is on display like never before. And so, alongside the dreamy backpacker anthems it is synonymous with, we find it taking stock of life and dealing with issues such as anxiety and OCD.

It’s quite a turnaround for an artist who, on his first records, had “happy go lucky” practically stamped on his forehead. And he has a very specific memory of where his perspective changed – both as a songwriter and as a person. It took Ezra organizing a funeral to finally understand the meaning of life, he says.

“I was in Saint Lucia [in the Caribbean]“, he recalls. “There was this huge barbecue party – lots of dancing, cuddling.”

It was definitely a party. But not the kind he was used to growing up with in rural England. He had come across a wake for a recently deceased member of the community. It was a celebration mixed with sadness.

“It turned out to be a funeral day. In my diary I wrote: ‘green, green grass, blue, blue sky – you better throw a party the day I die’ .

The juxtaposition of celebration and loss, joy and despair spoke to him. And he poured those complicated feelings into Green Green Grass, Gold Rush Kid’s latest single. It plays out like a kind of bubbly Gen Z remake of Road To Nowhere by Talking Heads or Day I Die by The National – two of the great uplifting songs about mortality. And the chorus is that very line he jotted down in St. Lucia: “Green, green grass, blue blue skies / You better throw a party the day I die.”

As a lyricist, Ezra will never be confused with Sleaford Mods or Radiohead’s Thom Yorke. The Shotgun hook, after all, features the lyrics to the nursery rhyme “I’ll ride a shotgun in the hot sun / I feel like somebody”. Yet, as Green Green Grass demonstrates, it deepens Gold Rush Kid. The title track arguably goes even further, in that it finds Ezra wondering if his career is really just about someone changing his arm and making up as he goes along. “Gold rush boy, robbing the bank,” he chirps. “Run and learn to dance.”

“I don’t want to be the person who thinks ‘life is good’,” he says. “I don’t believe that’s necessarily true. I can talk about that on this record and the nature of life’s gold rush.

The philosophy he proposes, he says, is that we should all learn to live in the moment. “Go after this thing while it’s here. And that’s great. In fact, I started applying this way of thinking to everyday life. It’s much more powerful then [to remember our time on Earth is f

inite and that we should make the most of it]. It’s the truth, I think.

Until 2018 and Shotgun, Ezra was a reputable member of the “After Ed” club. He was one of many boy troubadours lucky enough to join as Ed Sheeran turned young men with guitars into the hottest concept in pop.

He was popular but not quite a phenomenon. It was also a crowded field, which also included Tom Odell, James Bay and Dermot Kennedy. And then he brought out Shotgun and suddenly went from headlining theaters like Dublin‘s Olympia to outdoor performance venues like the 20,000 capacity Malahide Castle. A superstar is born – or at least a superstar song. Four years later, he still has trouble assimilating everything.

“Luck played a big part,” he says, although he adds that Shotgun was an explicit attempt to create a mega-hit.

“I chased him. Before that, I didn’t know exactly what had to happen to get us to this place. Starting from the kid who played open mics who really didn’t know pop music at all – to ‘oh I get it – let’s see if we can go through with it’…”

In other words, he had picked up enough tips to finally figure out how to write a custom smash. And yet, despite his ambitions for the track, Shotgun still surprised Ezra. The most shocking revelation was, as noted above, that when people fall in love with a number one, they don’t necessarily fall in love with the artist.

“One thing I didn’t appreciate back then was that when a song is so important, you kind of rely on that ‘passive’ audience. It’s not a negative thing. They don’t aren’t interested in your B-sides, your demos, what you wear, where you shop. They’re not.”

Shotgun has one of those rising melodies that feels like it’s been around forever. Ezra remembers composing it fairly quickly. The hardest part was putting it on tape.

“The writing happened quickly,” he says. “I am an extremely slow writer. But it was a quick process to write the song. What took longer was the production. It was the song where the label said, “Come on…we want another single before we drop the album. I’m always grateful when they do that. The production, we were wrong several times. At first it was a little too ‘campfire’. In reaction to that, we did something that was a little too Eurodance. When I hear it now, it’s its own thing. It is the result of the meeting of these two worlds somewhere.

Ezra was born in Hertfordshire in 1993, the son of teaching parents. After school he moved to Bristol, studying at the British and Irish Modern Music Academy. His big breakthrough came in 2013 when he performed on a New Artists Stage at Glastonbury. The following year he was shortlisted for the BBC Sound Of… award. All that hype was justified a few months later when his debut album, Wanted on Voyage, charted at three in the UK.

He was always ambitious. However, Ezra is also driven by immense curiosity. That’s what led him to host a podcast, George Ezra & Friends, in which he interviewed musical heroes like Elton John and contemporaries like Jessie Ware and Ed Sheeran.

Sheeran’s episode was particularly telling in that it highlighted their contrasting perspectives. Sheeran spoke of having a long-term plan and aiming, from his couch surfer days, to sell Wembley Stadium. Ezra is not averse to success. Yet, listening to their conversation, one got the impression that he was more spontaneous than Sheeran – and perhaps less attentive to moving millions of units.

“Ed’s approach is quite unique,” ​​he says. “I don’t know if I heard him say that himself – but it’s definitely something I thought of Ed. Whatever it was or what he was going to pursue, I imagine he would chase him until he couldn’t take it anymore. That beats me. When I think about his production and his workload and all that. It doesn’t appeal to me anyway. I think he gets a lot out of it. He’s an example of a unique person, I think.

Ezra is a contradiction in terms of exuding both a fringed recklessness and a nervous energy that, even on Zoom, has an infectious quality to it. He has suffered from anxiety since childhood and several years ago was diagnosed with Pure-O, a form of OCD involving intrusive thoughts. He’s more than happy to talk about it. But he’s clearly still on a journey of discovery on the subject.

“There’s something here George,” he said [as a rhetorical device, he often refers to himself in the second person]. “It definitely affects how your days go. I kind of have to ask myself: for all the discomfort – and I guess discomfort is the word – would you trade it? Because I’m sure in some way that played a role in how you approached things.

In other words, he may have ultimately taken advantage of it. “I don’t know if that answers your question. Maybe it’s even worth reminding myself – before the second recording [2018′s Staying at Tamara’s] – I had not noticed it [his OCD] was that thing. I recognized it through life, I understood it. This is the first time I have embarked on a project of this size with a little knowledge. [about his psychological make-up]. It probably helps a lot.

He was always an anxious character, he says. After signing his contract, he was so excited about writing songs that his label sent him backpacking to Hungary to help him relax. The change of scenery brought out the best in Ezra, which gave Budapest a quick hit.

He repeated this approach on Staying at Tamara’s, locking himself in a Catalan Airbnb for a month and doing Shotgun magic. Third time, the pandemic forced him to stay at home. Fortunately, he had reached a point where he didn’t need the novelty of a getaway to connect with his mojo. For the first time in his life, he is comfortable in his pop star shoes.

” Do not mistake yourself. It is complete [with the album coming out]. But my stress and worry about it is much less. I’m sure it’s because we come to [a decade] to release the first disc. It’s that kind of – ‘Oh, it’s not so intimidating anymore. This is your life experience now”. Man, the energy I put on the first record was hilarious. I was convinced it wouldn’t last. Not in a negative way – “Chances are, George, this will be a fun time and you’ll move on.” I lost that on the second record and got way too protective of this thing that I didn’t want to lose.

The third time, amid the gray, numb horror of Covid, he pressed reset. It was time for him to take a step back – to love being a pop star. “We can get a bit of a headache. Ultimately, it’s pop music. And what you can offer people is a distraction. It’s funny.”

Gold Rush Kid releases June 10

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