Interview Series: Hannah Georgas
Hannah Georgas. In 2010, she swept in and took the Vancouver music scene, and even the Canadian scene, by storm. Her song Deep End was a huge hit and anyone who bought her album because of it was sure to realize that it wasn’t a fluke.
Hannah’s debut LP This is Good lives up to its name, as she was nominated for two Juno awards this past March, for New Artist of the Year and Songwriter of the Year, proving her debut is perhaps a little more than “good” . An impressively successful start to what’s sure to be a long and even more successful career, but how did Hannah get her musical start?
As I stroll into the Starbucks on Oak and 22nd in Vancouver on a typically wet spring afternoon, I scan the café and spot the lovely Hannah Georgas sipping on a beverage as she patiently waits for my tardy arrival. After introductions, I let the digital recorder roll and get to know the talented singer/songwriter a little better (and try not to gush as I listen; I may be a bit of a fan…)
MoreThanAFeeling Interview with Hannah Georgas:
Dylan: So, you’ve been on the independent music scene for 3 or 4 years, released your EP Beat Stuff in 2008, but how long have you actually been writing and playing music?
Hannah: Since I was six years old. I’ve been playing forever. My mother put me into piano lessons when I was six and as soon as I figured everything out on piano, and figured out how to write, I started writing music.
Dylan: And guitar?
Hannah: I picked that up later. I started playing guitar in late high school. I worked at a lodge for a couple years and the thing to do when we had time off was to go to a bonfire, play music and so I started playing and learning there. And then I played in a band in high school and our guitar player gave me some lessons.
Dylan: And did you learn piano by ear or did you take lessons?
Hannah: I took this method called Suzuki, and that method is really heavily based on ear training. I had a book I’d learn from and I would listen to every single song from the book on the tape every night before I went to bed.
Dylan: So growing up, listening to music, playing music, who were some of your biggest influences?
Hannah: My dad. He was a musician, amazing piano player and he was playing all the time when I was really little. It was a huge inspiration for me just seeing how happy that made him. He listened to a lot of Spike Jones and Pinetop Smith. So, that was a big inspiration and then also going to live shows, I got really into seeing concerts. My mom took me to my first concert when I was in grade 4 and that was MC Hammer [laughs].
Dylan: That’s awesome!
Hannah: It was just inspiring to see people doing it [performing live] and instantly it sparked something in my and I wanted to be doing it.
Dylan: So what point in your musical venture did you decide to take a run at the professional industry and say “I wanna do this, and only this”?
Hannah: I knew for a long time that I really wanted to do it, but it was always kind of one foot in, one foot out. Whether it was going to school full-time and trying to play places or playing in a band and working three jobs, I finally made a decision in my mind to—[the vacuum cleaner at Starbucks interrupts us briefly, we laugh it off]—I think it was the third semester into UVic, and just being like “I don’t feel right, I really know what I want to do so now’s the time”, and that was the big step for me to just stop school and just say, I’m gonna get a part-time job and do everything I possibly can to get myself out there. I’ll go to every single open mic, I’ll go by myself, I’ll try to find other musicians who want to play with me and just putting my heart and soul into it.
Dylan: And you were roughly how old when you decided this?
Dylan: Prior to your being nominated for a Juno—congratulations by the way on that.
Hannah: Thank you!
Dylan: At what point, did it kind of click in your head when you realized you “made it”… or have you had that already, where you can say “I can actually do this for a living”?
Hannah: Right, I think I’m always pushing to get to another step with my music. I have these things I really want to accomplish and I feel really thankful that I’m able to just put my whole heart and soul into and just focus on that now. Yea, I don’t know if there’s ever a time I’ll be like “I’ve made it” [laughs]—
Dylan: [laughs] For lack of a better term..
Hannah: I think just to be able to do what I’m doing right now is pretty sweet, it’s really awesome. I just want to continue doing it for the rest of my life and I’ll be happy.
Dylan: Going back to the Juno’s, how was your first—and I purposely say “first”—Juno experience?
Hannah: It was fun, it was great! There was lots of stuff happening around the Junos, they were in Toronto and so I was out there playing a block party with City and Colour and Shad. I played another show at a club there [Toronto] and so that was a lot of fun. To be part of it was really amazing; I got to walk the red carpet and I saw my friends there. I got to see people like Shania Twain sitting in front of me and saw The Arcade Fire standing nearby, it was pretty rad. It was just amazing to be there.
Dylan: Shifting to your latest album, This Is Good, one thing I didn’t know until I bought the album and actually looked at the liner notes was that Ryan Guldemond of Mother Mother played electric guitar on the album. Was it every song or just a few?
Hannah: All of them. Actually, another guy named Aaron Joyce who used to play with me played some guitar on the record, but Ryan did the majority of the guitar. He’s insane, so..
Dylan: Well you kind of answered my next question: how was that experience for you, working with him?
Hannah: Great! Yea, he’s amazing, we have really great chemistry and I’m in the process of looking for a new producer for my record that I’m doing in the fall. I just hope I can find somebody who’s like him, that has the same connection because that’s important to have when you’re working with somebody all the time that really gets where you want to go with your music and you’re on the same wave. It felt so easy, it was like “I wanna work with Ryan”. He didn’t really produce a lot of other things in the past except for his own music and a couple of other people, but I didn’t care, I thought, “I love his music and I’m gonna roll with it.”
Dylan: In terms of lyrics on your album, I noticed that a lot of your songs have an upbeat tempo but they seem to have pretty personal lyrics. Did you do that on purpose to “disguise” the personal aspect of the lyrics, or did the songs just write themselves that way?
Hannah: Kind of like that. For me, I have to emotionally connect to—in my own personal experience for my songwriting, I emotionally get myself into a place and I’m affected by something and therefore I want to go and pick up the guitar and start playing piano because I’m affected by something. That’s how my songs always end up happening. Whether it’s about me is a different thing, it could be about something unrelated to me but I feel like I need to say something about it.
Hannah: Yea, and “upbeat”, that just kind of comes out too in the way or whatever I’m feeling at the time.
Dylan: Were you at all surprised by the success that your album received, especially the track Deep End? It was the second song on the album I heard and I fell in love with it the first time I heard it, as I’m sure many other people have. Was that surprising to you at all?
Hannah: It makes me smile and it’s awesome. It’s an accomplishment and that’s what I want, I want people to be able to relate to it and feel like they can connect with it. That’s the thing I get off on, and that I get really excited about too.
Dylan: What advice would you give aspiring musicians? I mean, you’ve got to be lucky but you’ve got to be good too, so is there any advice you could give somebody who’s wanting to…
Hannah: Do it?
Dylan: Yea! Sure [laughs]
Hannah: My advice is, if you really wanna do it, work really hard and surround yourself with people who you’re on the same page with creatively and personality-wise, all that stuff has to be in line. I think if you really love what you do and you’re willing to put your days and nights into it, I don’t think you cannot not do it. And you have to be talented! [laughs] You have to have that going for you, too.
Dylan: Musical ability.
Hannah: Yea, people that have had success, it’s because they’ve worked their butts off day and night for it. It doesn’t just happen, I don’t think it happens to anybody overnight. It may seem like it in our eye, but it doesn’t. Some people it might, who have a lot of money but…
Dylan: Ok last question and I’ll let you go. In terms of the independent music world, your album has been out for a year, that’s kind of getting old (in our time), and we want new music from you! When can we expect to hear something, a snippet or—
Hannah: I want to be making a record in the fall. Right now I’m back [in Vancouver] and I’m finishing up my demos and nailing down a producer. I hope to have my record out by next February. But that’s not for sure. It all depends on how things line up before hand, but I got new music to share!
Dylan: I can’t wait to hear it!
Hannah: I can’t wait to record it! Yea, I’m stoked!
Dylan: So am I! Well, thanks, Hannah.
Hannah: My pleasure.
Thanks again to Hannah for taking the time out of her busy schedule to do this interview! It was muchly appreciated.