Southwold: George Ezra talks Latitude, songwriting and more

George Ezra, playing Latitude this weekend. Photo: Rob Blackham

George Ezra, playing Latitude this weekend. Photo: Rob Blackham - Credit: Archant

If you haven’t heard of George Ezra by now then you’ve been living under a rock.

George Ezra, playing Latitude this weekend. Photo: Danny North

George Ezra, playing Latitude this weekend. Photo: Danny North - Credit: Archant

He started to play bass guitar when he was a young teenager, but it was always just messing about. His friends were doing it and it was more just an opportunity for them to get together and do something. In bands up until he was 16, the other members were always older and moved to uni.

Now 21, he’s a chart topping success around the world.

“When I moved to Bristol I studied for a year and realised ‘I gotta get busy’. I was studying songwriting at the Bristol Institute of Modern Music. It was great. The thing with those sorts of places is you get out what you put in. A lot of kids go there and think they are gonna get it on a plate, but you realise it’s a job. I’m happy. It’s quite strange doing a hobby as a job. It’s no longer just me playing in front of my mirror. It’s a job but it’s a fun job.”

I’d hoped I hadn’t woke him up, given his busy schedule that comes part and parcel of this “fun job”.

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“It’s almost 1pm,” he laughed. “Although I must admit I was in the pub last night watching the football, seeing this one group of friends who I just don’t see as often.”

I guess that’s what happens when your debut album shoots to number three in the UK chart in its first week of release.

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“And I was in the pub garden and it’s the first time I’ve been in the pub with my little brother.”

When he isn’t writing hits, he’s performing them. This Sunday he will be on the BBC Radio 6 music stage at Latitude, doing what he loves, with that immediately recognizable voice so few artists can calim to retain.

“I’m very excited about Latitude. When I was 16 it was a kind of a rite of passage that you had to go to Reading Festival. So I went there and it suited me at 16 but by 17 I had grown out of it.”

A couple of years later he went to Latitude.

“I loved it. The best thing about Latitude is it’s undeniably a family friendly festival. What happens is it kicks off harder than any other at night. See, the families and the kids take themselves to bed and it kicks off something rotten.

“Also what I don’t like is at festivals you’re told ‘here’s where you camp and here’s where the music is’. I much prefer when there’s a lot more going on and Latitude has so much. It’s a good atmosphere.”

Within a lot of this conversation, Ezra has already donned about five different accents in jest. He’s clearly a funny guy, as well as a talented one.

If you follow him on twitter - @george_ezra - you will realise he’s quite a joker. He has a fantastic appreciation for all things Miley Cyrus and makes a lot of reference to Geoff Ezra.

“So when I first went to uni in Bristol and started putting music blogs online, people would only ever get my name right. Then they’d type I’d be any age of 17-24 and I could be living anywhere from Brighton, Birmingham, Bristol as long it began with a B. People don’t have a clue. It kind of doesn’t matter either. So me and my manager made up Geoff Ezra, who has become almost my alter ego, a sad washed out George in a few years.”

Next to a name like George, Ezra sounds almost exotic.

“It’s my middle name,” he explained. So I was christened George Ezra Barnett, but Ezra had a bit more sass. I think it’s biblical.”

I thought it sounded quite “middle-easty”, which he laughed at. We then had a very comical and pointless conversation on how things sounded with a “y” on the end.

Ezra, who is very close to his family, taking his 23-year-old sister away on every tour, has always stated the songs on his album Wanted on Voyage come from his travels around Europe and he has tried to incorporate that into the lyrics of such songs as Budapest.

I asked a little more about the beautiful track Leaving it up to you and asked if it was about an ex?

“What I absolutely love to do is people watch and that particular story I remember being in a bar, either in Vienna or Amsterdam. I remember observing this table with a pretty girl and two lads sat with her. It was obvious the lads weren’t enjoying each other’s company. There was a third wheel there definitely and it was not her.

“I was just sat back and remember being a little bit merry and giggling at the situation. I’m sure we have all been close to a situation like that.

“I know full well when I’m people watching I can relate in some way and especially if I wrote the story with my hand. I know that there’s something in it for me.”

It’s no secret most of his work is his own, but he is quite proud to admit he writes with his friends, including Joel Pott.

“When I was at uni the lecturers always told us to write with people and make sure you write with your friends. All of us were too proud to consider doing it. Then I met Joel and I get so much more done. He opens up little pockets in my mind that I wouldn’t know were there.

“Some people worry about letting people know they write with other people. Whereas I think it’s a blessing. The songs came from my stories. We would go away a week at a time together in a barn in the middle of nowhere. No internet. No electricity. A fire for heat. Close off the rest of the world and write.”

With that he was heading off to London before popping over to Paris on the train.

“I love it and it suits me. I’m so lucky because not only do I get to do what I do but it suits my character completely to be travelling and meeting people. I’m a happy bunny.”

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