George Ezra, the man behind the booming voice that’s been pounding it’s way out of radio stations for the last 10 months with hit songs like Cassy’O and Budapest, is tired. He’s been awake all night.
Like most young popstars that are just getting their first taste of serious success you’d assume it’s because he was out partying it up at some celeb haunt with a load of It Girls. He has after all got lots of reasons to celebrate, the morning of our shoot for example he had just completely sold out his UK tour and two months before that his debut album launched itself into the top ten of six different countries.
For a bright-eyed 21 year-old whom little over a year ago was still playing gigs in coffee shops, it’s pretty good going. We could definitely forgive him for going bat shit crazy and staying up all night on the sauce. But the real reason for his sleepy eyes is actually a little less raucous. He was watching YouTube videos with his brother and sister.
“It was good fun, we were mostly just listening to the old music we listened to growing up. That’s the stuff I like to do, just hanging out.”
You see, George Ezra isn’t like other popstars. Sure, he has the boyish good looks, unquestionable charisma and a voice that could melt a volcano – standard requirements for any chart topper. But he also has a humbleness that’s rare amongst the majority of his peers. He likes the simple life.
It just so happens that he’s also the most exciting musical talent to hit the airwaves since the noughties came to a crashing end. Which isn’t too bad at all for a man that describes himself as ‘a bit of a chancer’ who dropped out of uni before he’d even completed his first year.
“When I went to Bristol University, in my head I figured I’d just study music for a bit and then do something else. I had this constant mentality that someone was going to tap me on the shoulder and tell me to get a real job so I decided I should try to do something about that before it happened.”
When you dropped out people must have freaked out a bit that you were having a bit of a breakdown?
Haha, everybody was really supportive. A lot of kids think you go to music college and walk out with a record deal but I soon clocked that unless I was willing to work hard nothing would come so I started to do lots of gigs and went the other way. I put a song called Angry Hill on Youtube and a record label heard it and asked to meet me. Then other labels started getting in touch too because they were scared of missing out.
That must have been exciting, all of these big deal labels trying to grab your attention…
Yeah, I met quite a few of them and there was a lot of wining and dining but I wasn’t interested in that. That whole bollocks of buttering me up and taking me to fancy places to eat. With Columbia Records it was just a drink in the pub.
That’s quite a humble start for what’s been a mental year for you, is it all celebrity parties now?
Not really, if I’m free I just like to see my friends and do nothing. A lot of people think that the pinnacle of being famous is hanging around with other famous people, for me that’s a bit odd.
Do you hang out with any famous people?
At festivals and things I do, but that’s work, in my free time it’s just my friends. I don’t think they’re famous. But maybe they’re secretly Daft Punk or Banksy and I just don’t know?
You don’t really seem like the kind of person to play the celeb game of photoshoots, parties and being places to be seen…
You’re probably right, gigs are easy because that’s the bit I love and it can be hard to fully give myself to the other stuff. I think it’s good to see that side as the job part, and then me being on stage as the fun.
A necessary evil then?
Exactly. I met a lot of rockers who were all ‘fuck the man don’t sign to a major label’. It’s sweet but it’s kind of, ‘do you want to be able to perform music for the rest of your life? Do you want to do it as a job?’ There are some things you have to do.
Did a lot of people tell you that you’d sold out by going to a major?
There are occasions. I was in a pub in Bristol a few months ago and some hiked up idiot was saying “I feel sorry for George, he’s just a puppet now.” I mean there’s been a Bob Dylan song on a Co-Op advert, I don’t know if selling out’s a thing any more.
Does that rile you?
Oh no, that makes me chuckle a bit. I don’t really get mad too often. I woke up this morning in a bit of a bad mood because I left my window open and had a dodgy neck, which annoyed me a bit. What really annoys me? People that go to work on Segways.
What did you do with your first paycheck?
Not a lot. It takes a long time to get paid. If you’re the guy who sings ‘It’s Chriiiiistmasssss’ you get paid on Christmas day for the year before, it’s drawn out. When I first signed my record deal I went to the local Wetherspoons and I think people assumed I was going to be showing up in a chauffer driven car or popping up on Cribs.
If you were on Cribs what would be in your fridge?
Sandwich bits, probably a bottle of tonic for a bit of gin.
Gin? That sounds pretty refined, we had you down for ale…
I used to work in a pub when I was 16 and I’ve always liked beer, but on tour there’s a lot of drinking to be done. If I drank beer every night they’d have to start rolling me on stage. I decided to go with a drink that’s a little more slimming.
When did you realise you had this incredible soul voice and ditch the normal pub jobs?
It was a conscious development, I couldn’t really sing in tune when I didn’t sing loud. And then I read a thing about a Lead Belly record that you just ‘hear his voice’ before anything else. I liked the idea of that. I wasn’t in the school choir singing the way that I sing now. In fact I wasn’t in the school choir at all.
It’s quite a contrast to how you look in real life, you don’t ‘sound’ anything like you look like you’d sound, people must have been shocked…
There was a band from Essex, who asked if I could sing for them. I went to two months of band practices but was too shy to sing. Then they booked a gig and I came out singing like I do now and I don’t think they could believe it.
What music were you listening to at the time?
Anything, Woody Guthrie, Dylan, Van Morrison, Lead Belly, I got really interested in the musicians that influenced the musicians that everyone else was listening to.
You sound like you had quite a good musical education, what was the first gig you saw?
S Club 7. I must have been about six and my family took me and my brother and sister to see them S Club 7. I think I fell asleep but I did get an S Club 7 framed single though.
Not a particularly cool starting point then…
I think people try to make the press think they were born listening to cool music. I wasn’t. I was at primary school once and it was all S Club 7 and Boyzone.
You still live in Bristol, most famous people up sticks as soon they get a sniff of success.
It’s funny, my friends that still live at home where I grew up can’t think of anything worse than staying there forever. Whereas because I’m constantly all over the place I feel like I’m lucky to live there and got back to Hertford where I’m from. So no plans to move to the big smoke or go to New York… I’m off to America for the first time this year. But there’s no plan to move anywhere. America scares me a bit on paper.
The first poster we saw on our way to meet you was your face, which was slightly daunting, how does that feel to you?
It is strange. I’m aware the label have invested money and put it there but when you see it, it’s like: ‘Oh shit, that’s my face.’ That’s when it kicks in.
What other ‘pinch yourself’ moments have you had?
Hearing yourself on the radio and reminding yourself that there are other people listening too. It feels like I’ve just put my iPod on and checked a mix and then I remember that there’s hundreds and thousands of people listening.
Where’s the strangest place you’ve been recognised?
I was in a Superdrug recently and two girls asked for a photo. I thought surely this is the perfect environment to realise I’m just like you, I’m buying deodorant. I get it completely though, doing what I’m doing.
We noticed that you seem pretty obsessed with Miley Cyrus on Twitter, what’s that all about?
Over the last year it was the first time in my life I was able to watch something explode. Obviously she was already famous and people knew her, but even my parents knew who she was and then I realised that as many followers as she had on Twitter there was no way she’d ever see it if I tweeted her. So I started saying she was my girlfriend as a joke and then it turned out that I quite liked her.
Would you want her to be your girlfriend, we could make this happen probably (we probably can’t)?
I don’t know, she’s pretty loopy isn’t she? Maybe we could be the perfect antidote to each other.