By Bec Wolfers
Smart, witty and talented Brisbane musician Georgia Potter stands out from the herd. With her well-crafted lyrics, experimental-yet-catchy songs and wealth of life experience, she’s been kicking butt on Triple J and 4ZZZ with her latest singles, ‘XO’ and ‘Reckless’. From keeping up with Georgia’s regular newsletters (which are a joy to read), I know that she has been traveling the world for the past couple of years, but is now back on Australian shores. She recently graced me with the following Q&A.
Bec: I know you’ve been holed up overseas for a good chunk of time now. Can you give us an overview of which countries you’ve lived, played and spent time in over the last couple of years? What motivated you to explore living/working outside Australia, and how did you support yourself while you were away from ‘home’?
Georgia: I worked & saved long & hard to get overseas, working as a social worker. I wanted a year away. So I had a bunch of money to travel with, and make a record. But I just blew the whole lot on travelling for a lot longer than I initially planned – definitely the right decision! I’ve been to Turkey, Egypt, The UK, France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Malta, Cyprus, California, New York City, travelling on my own and generally changing countries about every month. Sometimes I stayed a little less or a lot more, some places I revisited, and then I spent a Winter & Spring living between London & Berlin. Lots of one way tickets to random places & friend hopping across the globe, riding my every whim. I focussed on writing & recording demo material every week and I tried to get as remote as possible in the places that I went to – to get out of the tourist trail and to get out of myself.
Bec: What was your favourite destination, or did they all have their individual charms?
Georgia: There is nothing more thrilling than investigating a new place – nowhere disappointed me though I was often surprised. But by far, Egypt was my favourite. From the first time I went, it completely enchanted me. It’s full of contrast – the chaos of Cairo, the serenity of the Sahara, the darkness of the Sinai. Arabic is truly a poet’s language too & I took to learning it quickly and have continued studying it and returning to Egypt. I arrived just after the first uprising there in 2011 so that was a unique introduction – seeing a country in a state of revolution. It wasn’t how it seemed in foreign media. There was a lot of joy & celebration, a lot of open discussion. And new freedoms – check out the Cairo Street Art album on my facebook page for an example. [facebook.com/pottergeorgia] Then I went back exactly a year later, when a lot of that hope had lead to very little, and I saw much more desperation & hardship. Mostly though, I raced off into the desert oasis’ in the Sahara & picked fresh dates off trees, starred at the stars, swam in fresh water springs, patted donkeys & met some of my dearest friends. Egypt has my heart.
Bec: What/who did you miss most from Australia in your travels?
Georgia: My sweet dog Joy – she’s the apple of my eye.
Bec: Are you ready to settle back into Australia, or would you like to live overseas again in the future?
Georgia: It’s certainly been delightful being home for the summer, but I plan to keep moving. I have dual citizenship you see, so it seems madness not to make the most of the opportunity to live in Australia & Europe. Plus I’m not friends with cold weather, so I chase the summers between the hemispheres – writing, recording & touring as I move. I have a strong bond to ‘home’ in Brisbane with my family, but it nice to stay uprooted too.
Bec: How have gigs been going now that you are back and ready to embark on your ‘Reckless’ tour? What are Australian audiences like, versus overseas audiences?
Georgia: I’ve played a couple of shows with this new band, but we’ve mostly been in rehearsal, so the fun has only just started. As I type, I’m in a van with 12 other musicians headed to Sydney for our first performance of the ‘PINK DOVE’ tour – a Brisbane All-Star soul-review style show featuring my band, Laneous & The Family-Yah, MKO, Superfeather, The Well Alrights & The Melotonins. Hella excited to take this show down the East Coast. Audiences all over are awesome – I get such a kick out of singing for people & sharing music.
Bec: Your vocals are smooth, accomplished and extremely versatile. I also love how emotive and expressive it is. Do you find you need to get into a particular ‘zone’ to sing your best, or does it all come out very naturally?
Georgia: Lately I’ve begun seeing my voice as an instrument, and to treat it as such – I’ve been learning to understand it more. Singing had forever been like water from a tap for me, but now I’m interested it pushing my own boundaries. Certainly in a performance or a recording session, the best performance comes from being connected to the lyric, but that doesn’t require me being in a ‘zone’ as such, but rather shifting my attention to the words.
Bec: I hear some Lauryn Hill and Ani Di Franco in your style; who has been an influence on you vocally?
Georgia: Both those influences are accurate, I listened to both of them when I was a lot younger and certainly Lauryn taught me to belt and Ani is such a supreme lyricist. I’ve listened to a lot of jazz & more recently I would say Frank Ocean, Yukimi Nagano & Emily King have inspired me vocally. When I find another singer that I strongly identify with, it feels like they awaken another facet of my voice that I previously hadn’t accessed. And even without outside influence, I always feel like I’m re-meeting my voice every few months, as it changes.
Bec: With your new tracks, there is a definite experimental shift from your last studio release, Living the Grey, to using more electronic sounds, samples and song writing concepts. XO and Reckless, for example, border on trip hop to me. Can you tell us about the motivations behind your shift in sound? The songs are fantastic, but did you worry about how people were going to receive it, given your quite rootsy previous works?
Georgia: Wondered, yes but worried, no. To me these last singles, XO & Reckless, feel like the beginning. Living the Grey was a little EP I made as a uni assignment, but the new music I’m working on sounds how it sounds because that’s what’s in my head.
Bec: In your music, I’ve always heard a whole bunch of different genres melding together, and now even more with your new album. Which artists have been an influence on you musically? Did any new influences get added to the mix with your latest album?
Georgia: I confess, I actually don’t listen to as much music as most musicians do. But my heroes, who definitely have influenced me, are Portishead, Thom Yorke & Radiohead, Bjork, Nina Simone, Georgia Anne Muldrow, James Blake, Rodriguez, Frank Ocean, Little Dragon and a healthy diet of RnB . There’s so many more that I love, but these are the artists that probably show themselves most obviously in the music I’ll be releasing this year.
Bec: As a solo artist, I know you have had a shifting group around you over the years, to help bring forth aspects of your music. How do you approach performing these days; is there a permanent ‘Georgia Potter’ band? How do you achieve your new, more electronic sound live?
Georgia: Nope not permanent, it shifts according to what material is being played. But at the moment, we are a four piece. I’m up front playing the voicebox & synths, Peet plays synths & triggers samples, Myka is on kit and Jack on lead guitar.
Bec: How do you go about recording a song – do you map out a lot of aspects of the music on your own, beforehand, or get the general idea of a song and take it to others to write their parts?
Georgia: I mostly write alone. Then I work on what I’ve written one on one with the producers & not with this band. It’s mostly programmed & played by myself and Yukon Snakes, with the occasional sessions muso brought in.
For the live set at the moment, I wrote everything on my own and made demo recordings. Then Peet and I made those demo’s into Live Ableton sessions, tweaked & reprogrammed as needed and used Myka, Jack & our synths to recreate as much of it as possible or trigger the samples live. Of course it’s a bit different to the recordings, but that point of difference is a good thing.
Bec: I’ve always loved your incisive lyrical observations and commentary about life, the human condition and where we are heading in the world. Are you an activist on any social or world issues, or do you feel that your art is activism in itself?
Georgia: Well thank you. I hope that all those things you said are true of my work. The making of art is very revealing for me, so I hope that when it’s received it’s revealing for its audience too. If I can have affected someone, with a melody, a lyric or a beat, then I’m on the right path. And I think it is a kind of activism in itself. Besides art though, I’ve been a part of the Indigenous rights movement in Brisbane for a long time. I was born in an Aboriginal community called Aurukun in Cape York, which has meant that I’ve had Aboriginal people & culture in my life on the daily – and it would be great if we could all say the same thing. Up in the Cape, it’s as wild & different as visiting a foreign country, but Australia is still riddled with cultural ignorance and racism. We’re missing out on something extraordinary.
Bec: What is ‘crappy music’ to you?
Georgia: Music with crappy lyrics – I don’t need lyrics to be necessarily heavy or intricate, but why be lazy & uninteresting? Melody provides an opportunity to spotlight words, so give me something! Don’t just cram any old word in there to fill the space & follow it up with endlessly stacked perfect rhymes. That’s crappy.
Bec: What can we expect from Georgia Potter in 2013?
Georgia: More releases! I have so much new material written that needs my focus in the studio.
Finish these sentences –
I can’t live without: solitude
I’m afraid of: drowning in big waves
I get really pissed off by: #hashtaggingreallylongsentencesunnecessarily #it’snotactuallycreatingausablehashtagesowhynotjustwriteitasacorrect
When I was a kid, I wanted to be a: singer!
Many thanks to the lovely Georgia for this in-depth interview. Keep up with her news at the following links: