George Ezra Thought Aussie Audiences Hated Him At First

9 June 2022 | 11:15 am | Liz Giuffre

"I can be quite an insecure person, especially back then, and I thought, ‘Oh no, they hate me.'"

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George Ezra knows how to throw a party. Eight years since his debut with Budapest from Wanted On Voyage, and then another few since Staying At Tamara’s with the earworm-y delight Shotgun, Ezra’s newbie is Gold Rush Kid.  So far it’s given us Anyone For You and Green Green Grass, both upbeat singable tunes that keep pop positive. Green Green even had pride of place as he performed live for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, with a minor tweak to the lyric “you’d better throw a party on the day I die”. Fans called it censorship, but it was all class and horn section in reality.

“There’ve been conversations and we’ve come to agreements,” Ezra says, smiling as he talks about how the song’s lyric might be modified in the leadup to the event. In the end, the part about ‘the day I die’ was simply taken out. Talking with respect about it, obviously, Ezra is also humble about being on a bill with The Queen (Head of State), Queen (Band) and Diana Ross (Musical Queen). He says it was all organised through his record label to begin, although does add, “I heard that Kate [Middleton] has [my] CDs in the car, so I know that there's that link.” Dear momentary monarchy music lovers – are we picturing the future kings all rocking out to Shotgun while fighting over the front seat?

New album Gold Rush Kid satisfies existing Ezra fans, but also builds. For those who want a future wedding soundtrack, Sweetest Human Being Alive is going to be your jam. “That song is, I think, my favourite song on the album because when I hear it, it still gets me,” Ezra says. Although written for someone he’s yet to meet, it captures the simplicity of finally meeting someone who makes sense. What it tells us is that he’s a bit ol’ hopeless romantic, and what a delight it is.

“I've got different friends, you know, and some who have been in relationships for a long time. I'll kind of go around those for dinner or have a drink and naturally, they can't help themselves, they’ll be like, 'Are you dating?' And some of them, I can tell they look at me as if I'm choosing to make it difficult for myself… and I don't know if this will come across badly, but I'm sure I could go out and meet somebody today and, you know, choose to spend time with them. But if you don't want to, then it's 'who are you doing it for'?"

Ezra’s music has been the soundtrack to many moments for lots of people so far. If you were a Joe Wicks/Body Coach convert during 2020's Lockdown: The Original, you might have heard Ezra’s tunes while doing your starjumps. At his Mum’s request (a primary school teacher as well as proud parent), Ezra was able to wave his royalties and donate any profit from the series to the NHS – a process that he called “a bit silly” given how many moving parts there were – but gave back at a really important time.

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It’s not the first time Ezra’s heard of his music being used for big life events though. "Hold My Girl from the last record was kind of the most ballad-y song I've written… and often dads will be like, ‘Oh, that was the song when she was first born.’ And I hadn't ever anticipated that, but then I remember my dad used to sing Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison to my sister. You know, it's like that kind of makes sense to me now like that father/daughter connection, that's love, too.”

In addition to making music, Ezra’s also an accomplished podcaster having made two great series George Ezra And Friends (where he interviews some HUGE international musicians), and Phone A Friend (where he and his mate explore mental health). In each case, Ezra’s genuineness jumps out of the earbuds. “We had started to record another series of George Ezra And Friends, where I interviewed other musicians, and it's just... it's really hard. It's a difficult thing, just for my involvement, but to get artists in a room together because of their tour diaries.” Here he adds, laughing, that he’s also keen to “make sure that you have an episode each week, so it's not just the flakiest ever podcast.”

Far from flakey, what really comes across is how Ezra can cross generations as a fan as well as an artist. In one of his biggest episodes, where he interviews Sir Tom Jones, the men are separated in age by decades, but quickly nerd out as fans of music pretty quickly and easily. “That's a testament to Tom Jones,” Ezra says. “As soon as I hit record and asked him about music, honestly, it was quite emotional. He just lit up, you know, you saw his eyes light up. And at which point, you know, there was no stopping it. That's him, not me.” 

For Erza there was a clear intention to cross boundaries with the medium. “The reason I wanted to start the podcast in the first place was... there was a moment where, especially growing up, music was quite territorial. ‘I like this so I am this and ‘you like that so you are that.’ And then you get backstage at these huge festivals where there's all kinds of music. And you realise, ‘Oh, regardless of if I like your music or not, I know how tiring this is, and you're here, and you're doing the same promo.'" 

What comes out is the golden rule in music (which is also what Tom Jones emphasised in that podcast ep too): “You must love what you're doing… and that only drive is the fact that I love it.” As Ezra puts it, “That's inspiring, and it means that regardless of the noise people make, there's a passion.” Building on the “someone special” discussion earlier, he adds: “When you're dating, or I found, the thing is if someone's interested in something in life, they're instantly attractive. So if you've got something that you can talk about, then let's go. This is great.”

Once The Queen’s done with him Ezra continues his tour schedule, including dates in Australia in October and November. He’s been down our way before and loves it (of course!), although we’ve had a strange way of showing our appreciation at times. Talking about the nuances of touring, he starts with his own patch. “I think some people are surprised to hear that where you go, like geographically, the audiences are affected massively, even in the UK, like, the further North you go, the better the crowds, really. And I know that's like a generalisation, but that's kind of how we experience it.”

In addition to lots of energy, there’s also been lots of DIY merch which has been delightful to see as well as follow on social media. “Honestly, we did three dates around the UK and the amount of kids that have made their own Gold Rush Kid denim jackets, it’s just so cute,” Ezra says. There’s always been something that’s connected with his music and younger audiences too – something he’s especially proud of. “I think it's just the coolest thing. With Shotgun, I remember when it first released and kids started kind of going mad for it. It became like the unofficial kind of kids' playground song. And then you listen to it, it's kind of like a nursery rhyme. The melody is simple, it's easy … now I know this is a really hacky observation, but [so many kids] live without feeling insecure or self-conscious, it’s is beautiful.”

Here in Oz, we do things a bit differently again. He begins, “It won't surprise you to hear that Australian audiences are just very fun,” but explains (and warns), “The first time I came over to Australia to play festivals I had a rubber chicken thrown at me! And I was like, you know, I can be quite an insecure person, especially back then, and I thought, ‘Oh no, they hate me,’ but it was, ‘Oh no, they love you mate,’” he says laughing.

“Maybe don’t print that bit because then everyone will do it,” Ezra giggles as we wrap up. It’s too good a story not to include but also, dear Australian music lovers who have been starved of live music for so long – with this we are trusting you. George Ezra promises to bring a bloody great show and stellar group of songs, but maybe leave the rubber chickens at home.

'Gold Rush Kid' is out tomorrow, June 10, ahead of George Ezra's 2022 Australian tour in October and November.