Interview: Georgia Mae on life in Los Angeles, climate anxiety and “Gentle”.

Brisbane’s Georgia Mae is the next generation of pop star with a message. Having cut her teeth in California for three years, she’s harnessed the Los Angelean resilience and do-it-all attitude that is making her a force to be reckoned with in the Australian scene.

Now well and truly settled on home soil thanks to the pandemic travel restrictions, Georgia is giving her audience the first taste of her next wave with “Gentle” – a cry for climate action crafted into a neat little pop package.

Her push for change comes hand-in-hand with the climate activism we’ve seen championed by millennials, spurred by Greta Thunberg and echoed by movements such as School Strike 4 Climate. It’s undoubtably one of the most important conversations to face our generation and Georgia adeptly navigates conveying her message in the most palatable production.

I sat down with Georgia in a long-awaited reunion to discuss her transition from Brisbane to L.A. and back again, her work in production and the creation for “Gentle”.

Georgia Mae, the last time I caught up with your career, I was 13, sitting in the McCrae Grassie Sports Center in school assembly and you were playing “Rock It” by Little Red in the contemporary ensemble.

What! I don’t even remember that. Wow. In the band, the cool band. That’s priceless, I love it!

You held that quite a legacy at the school there. I don’t know if you’re even aware of it, but when I was in Grade 12, the music teachers would still talk about you and particularly how you could listen to a song and pick out sounds that were hidden so deep within that even they wouldn’t hear them until you pointed them out.

Well, that’s so lovely to hear. I was obsessed with my music teachers, like, you know, it was, it wasn’t healthy. I was obsessed with them. I would try to be their best friend as well. They were just all awesome and massive inspirations to me. That’s nice to hear that.

I bet. I mean, that music department was insane. You could go hang out down there for periods of time.

I know, I used to just be late to all my classes, just hanging out. In the piano rooms and with the music teachers and they’re like, “Shouldn’t you be in class?” And I was like, “Um, you know, no.” School was awesome, especially that music department.

Tell me about post-school, because you went on to study music production, which is something that is fairly obvious. You’re a great multi-instrumentalist, but you obviously had the ear for production.

Yeah, so originally I was going to do composition at the Con – the Queensland Conservatorium – and I was sort of steered more towards music technology because they’d said with the sort of things that I wanted to do, be an artist and working film and stuff, the technology side, I’m learning things like DAW’s and working out how to record people and learning about sound in a more deeper level was sort of what I kinda needed. And so I did that and it was really helpful to get me where I went and then to have me here now, it’s like been integral to everything.

Well, that’s what I love about you as an artist is that you have control of every aspect of your music. You do produce you, engineer, you write, you do everything. Do you feel like that’s a big part of you, to have that creative control?

Yeah, definitely. I’m a massive control freak when it comes to music. Anyone who’s worked with me is like, “Ooh…”, but I mean, that’s just the way it is. I’ve always been like that and I’ll always be like that. I love writing with people and obviously I love working with people, but when it comes to my creations, and if I have a message that I want to get across, I’m just very kind of possessive over that. So learning how to do it all myself was like the final piece of the puzzle and I was like, awesome.

And then you moved to Los Angeles – that’s huge. What was the logistics of that for such a young artist?

So the first thing for me is that I’m an American citizen and that made everything so much easier. I kind of used and abused that and went over. I did the whole like I graduated from university and the next month I was over in LA. I’d set up a bunch of meetings on all sorts of platforms like LinkedIn and people I’d gotten emails from that were producers and managers, labels. I had a bunch of demos with me… I was extremely naïve still at this point. I literally just booked like a month in a crappy motel and had meetings every day, literally every day.

And I’d just go out and I’d hired a car and I was trying to not drive on the wrong side of the road driving around LA. Um, but it was very eye-opening and gave me a better idea of what the hell I was doing. Because at that point, I just didn’t really have a good idea of that industry and then I was obviously trying to get work in film at that point as well. So like post-production, music and sound, so I was going to studios and kind of figuring out what that all meant.

So, yeah I ended up coming back to Australia as I ran out of money, as you do, but I landed a job over there so they were happy for me to work remotely while I was in Australia. And then I kind of did that and continued to release music here. Then one thing led to another and I ended up going back, working, doing the whole thing all over again, but staying for a much longer time.

Would you say LA was more positive than negative then if you’re going back?

Absolutely. I mean, I’ve definitely had my moments in LA where it’s like, you know, pretty shit. But I loved it and I still love it, but I loved it because it really did feel like endless opportunity. So I could meet with a label every day, if I wanted to. And even if nothing happened, I would be able to share my music and get feedback, or they’d put me in touch with another artist or, you know, the next day I’d be in the room with another producer working with me, or his song or her song or whatever it was. I started sort of feel like I was expanding as an artist and as a person, so it was positive.

And then you’re back in Brisbane, which we both know is a vastly different pace. Are you someone like me where I find it slightly agitating? Or do you like the slow down?

I miss LA, I miss the fast pace, but I can appreciate Brisbane and its slower pace now. I was over there for three years, so I had that and that was great. Coming back now, I think I feel more solid in myself and I know I have a better idea of what I’m doing which makes me feel a little bit more grounded and less needing to be stimulated all the time by everything. I’m kind of just spending a lot of time in my studio now and just doing my thing and I’m pretty happy doing that right now.

It sounds like it’s working out for you because “Gentle”, your most recent single, the first lines reference that you wrote this song in Brisbane.

Yeah. So when I first came back, I was staying with my parents in their house in Red Hill, because I came back for my sister’s wedding, so I didn’t actually know that I was not going to go back to LA and I brought literally a backpack and my laptop – thank goodness for my laptop – but my whole life is still over there in LA, like my car and I had an apartment that I was still paying for… I was renting it for six months while I was still here thinking I would be going back, but because of COVID, it had just sort of it aligned with my sister’s wedding and then I couldn’t get back and then I was kind of in this in-between for very long time. I mean like a year and a half down the track, almost two, I’m still here and I haven’t gone back.

But obviously I’ve built up my life here again, which has been a thing. But for a few months I was living with my parents, which was, you know, it was great. Like they’re great. It’s just very different coming from different lives. But I remember sitting on the front porch of their house and that’s where I started thinking about this song and now it’s out. So it was like, wow, cool.

It also is a good marker for you to feel like that was the beginning of this change. And it’s an ode to Mother Nature!

It is! It’s something that I’ve been wanting to write about for a long time. My relationship with conservation and Mother Earth has been strong since I was born, really. It’s kind of been ingrained in me. And I just never really thought I could really write a pop song about it. For a long time, I was too worried about sounding too preachy and people don’t really want to hear it when they’re listening to music, but I don’t know.

It got to the point where I was like, “Nah, this is extremely important to me.” I forced myself to come up with a way of expressing my anxiety around climate change in a more accessible, fun, lighthearted way. So yeah, that was kind of my goal.

I like that juxtaposition. It’s such an easy way to convey that message of climate change, which I think is the most important message right now. You mentioned it just then, climate anxiety, which I’d say is a new term that would have been coined within the last five years. What do you do for yourself in those moments when you feel that anxiety to self-soothe.

Sure, I like to get out in nature. I think not feeling connected to the earth is very unsettling after a while, especially when you spend all day on the computer. I like to remind myself that we are a part of this world, like we’re here. We’re not in this sort of social media, online internet world. We’re actually right here and just grounding myself by going outside and kind of just being amongst it. It’s usually something that makes me feel a little bit better. But I know it’s hard. There is a sense of powerlessness that doesn’t help with the anxiety. So, yeah, it’s a tricky one. I just hope that it’s about like, just keeping the conversation going and not letting people sort of fall off the bandwagon.

Yeah, because that in itself is another conversation of that there are so many conversations happening right now, and how can we keep it to the front?

I know and what takes priority.

I imagine that this is sitting in a greater body of work. What’s the grand plan for Georgia Mae?

Yeah, it is. So it’s my first single, um, I’m not sure what I can say.

There are things rolling around, we know that!

Something’s happening! But it’s super exciting because I’ve never released a body of work before under my name, which is kind of crazy. So yeah, I’m very much excited.

A big ‘Watch this space’. Georgia, it’s so good to see you back on Australian soil, and congratulations on “Gentle”.

Thank you so much. It’s so nice to see you!

“Gentle” by Georgia Mae is OUT NOW!

Keep up to date with Georgia on her website, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, TikTok and Spotify.

Tait McGregor

@taitmcgregor

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