Purveyors of: Hushed pop/rock to play by the backyard pool on a lazy summer afternoon, or when tucked away in bed with the sunset light creeping in through the windows.
File Next to: Feist, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Jay Som
Playing: Sunday, February 21st, at Wavelength Winter Festival at 9PM EST on our YouTube channel. Tune in here.
Hannah Georgas’ All That Emotion drifted into the end of summer 2020 like a wistful August day, where the heat is blazing and the nostalgia is bittersweet. The Newmarket-born singer/songwriter’s album, released last September, was produced by The National’s Aaron Dessner, and unravelled like an old diary from adolescence, delving into Georgas’ innermost fears, memories, and musings on love and loss—all carried by the soothing lull of soft guitars, jittery percussions, and Georgas’ smooth vocals. Now based in Vancouver, she will be performing for Wavelength’s Winter Festival livestream on Sunday, February 21st. Wavelength’s Jordan Currie talked to Georgas about her quarantine songwriting process, what it was like recording All That Emotion, her dream collaborations, and more.
All That Emotion has such a melancholic intimacy to it. What influenced the sound/tone of this record, and how did you want it to differ from your previous albums?
When I first began writing the album I had settled into my apartment in Toronto and was spending a lot of time at home. I had recently moved from the West Coast where I lived over a decade of my life. It was sinking in that I really uprooted myself and I was also going through a break up that didn’t end that well. I was reflecting on some of my past relationships and how they would make it to a certain point and then the same issues would start to pop up. I was wondering if it was all my fault or if it was just simply the fact that we weren’t compatible. I started to think more deeply about my upbringing and the patterns I’ve created in my life to protect myself. It’s easier to push away sometimes then get to the root of your issues. I have a little upright Cameo piano that I was writing most of these songs on. I also like to use my Roland VR-09 synth and my OP-1 for sounds to inspire me. A big difference that influenced my sound was working with Aaron. He played most of the instruments and we recorded it all at his studio. We called upon a lot of great musicians as well to come and play. I think as an artist I’m just hoping to progress, grow, learn, get better and try different things when it comes to creating.
How has your creative process (from writing a song, to recording, and everything in between) changed since the beginning of the pandemic and quarantine?
I’ve been going through different phases of creativity throughout the pandemic. Sometimes I feel very creative and open and other days I don’t. I do think that’s all part of my process though. I wouldn’t really have things to write about if I was just trying to write all the time. I was focusing a lot last year on putting the album out and doing a bunch of different creative things to support it. I’ve switched gears and I’m feeling excited about the new music I’m creating now. I moved out of Toronto for a bit to get some space literally and mentally. It’s been good for me and I feel excited again about all of the new things I want to do.
We’re looking forward to having you perform for our Winter Festival livestream on Feb. 13. Of course, nothing beats live music, but is there anything about playing or watching livestream concerts that has pleasantly surprised you?
I did my first livestream recording with my band back in September and it felt really good. I remember getting in the room with them for our first practice (since February 2020) and it felt overwhelming in a way. I almost started crying because it had been so long and I forgot how good it makes me feel to play live with my band. I do miss the energy I get back from playing in front of a live audience but it’s been nice to do some of these livestreams too.
Talk about what it was like working with The National’s Aaron Dessner. How did you meet him? Did you know you specifically wanted him to produce All That Emotion?
I have been a fan of the band for a very long time and I have always wanted to work with Aaron. In 2016, my management at the time reached out to him about that possibility. He responded and asked if I could send any demos his way. We began a dialogue over email and we met in person for the first time at the end of 2017 when The National were in town for a show. We chatted a bunch about music and life. We made a plan to move forward to work together on an album and I started recording with him in Upstate New York in 2018 up until early 2019.
You got to work with artists such as Lucius and Emily King on your covers EP, Imprints. Who/what is your dream collaboration? Which artist(s) would you most love to duet with, write with, or be produced by in the future?
It would be a dream to work with Annie Lennox in some way. I have so much respect for her and love her music. I have admired her career and her authenticity. I’ve always wanted to work with Imogen Heap too. I could go on… Sade and Tori Amos are incredible artists that I have looked up to. I would love to work with Jack Antonoff because I’m a fan of his production. I also want to try producing myself. It’s been a (scary) goal of mine.
Themes of relationships, both with others and with the self, are prominent on All That Emotion. Does writing about this influence the way you move forward in relationships? Have you noticed a change in your relationship with yourself after releasing an album that so heavily focuses on it?
I do notice some things. I’m getting better at communicating but I still have my walls up from time to time. I’m working on that though. I’m not going to lie, it’s difficult at times to be in a relationship and be an artist. It’s possible but it takes a lot of work. Especially if the other person in the relationship is an artist. I’ve realized I have a whacky creative process. I work at something and then get up and walk around. I’ll clean the house and then go back to work and then go for a walk and I need a lot of quiet. If someone else is in my space I can get distracted. Basically, I’m weird!
Your lyrics and storytelling are quite visceral. Have you ever thought something was too personal or private to write a song about? How do you decide which life experiences to include on an album, and which ones to keep to yourself?
I try to keep in mind that I want other people to find their own story within the songs I write. I don’t want it to feel like I’m the only one that can relate to my music. The songs I love and feel inspired by feel like they are about me…or I hear a song that I love and it reminds me of what I was going through at the time when I first heard it or I couldn’t stop listening to it because it helped me get through something personal.
Picture a world post-COVID, where it is now 100% safe to gather with friends in public spaces again. What’s the very first thing you’ll do?
I would love to have all of my close friends over for drinks and food. We would play Nintendo and get drunk or something. It would also be really nice to go to a movie or go to a pub with my friends.
Interview by Jordan Currie
Jordan Currie is a writer and editor based in Mississauga and Toronto. In addition to her editorial work, she enjoys scouring the depths of the internet for new music, and constantly wishes she was basking in the stage lights at a concert at any given moment. You can find her on Twitter @jord_currie.
The Wavelength Winter Festival 2021 is all online, all ages, and entirely free, running now until February 27th.