Mullum Music Festival | 15–18 November | mullummusicfestival.com.au
Georgia Fields’s postcard-perfect pop combines the astral with the ordinary, earning her a reputation as one of Australia’s brightest independent singer/songwriters. Brimming with an intoxicating melodicism, her stellar songcraft draws on influences as far-reaching as Greek mythology, lunar folklore, and the succulent anatomy of citrus fruits. She has released her latest album Afloat, Adrift, a raw visceral and sweeping old-world romance.
The Sydney Morning Herald described your songs as ‘darkly-coded collisions of fairytale and myth’. When writing love songs with a pop edge, how important is it to give them a little darkness?
I enjoy songs with light and shade; and yes I absolutely love to play with that in my own work! If I’m writing a song about love, I want to weave a little darkness in. If it’s a heartbroken ballad, I’ll want to put just a little bit of humour in.
What’s your songwriting process? Do you work from emotional responses or are you more conceptual?
I always start with the lyrics. I can’t sing until I have something to say. There’s a certain challenge in attempting to write a song about an abstract or non-autobiographical concept. Lately I’ve been returning to very personal themes.
What is it about fairytales that draw you in?
Is there something deeper in the mythology about the human condition?
I’m really interested in archetypes and the common emotional threads that allow music to communicate in metaphor, yet still speak so personally to people. For me, pop music is mythology. And as a writer of pop songs, I’m asking myself, ‘How can I distill this emotion or this story into the purest essence?’ Fables such as Red Riding Hood or the Greek myth of Sisyphus are well-worn pebbles, yet they still hold so much power to mirror back the human experience.
How did making your second album Astral Debris differ from your latest offering Afloat, Adrift?
Astral Debris was a very carefully crafted production, and album creation took over a year. With Afloat, Adrift I wanted to return to more classic album-making techniques where performances were captured live, and mostly in one room. Because I’d spent a lot of time getting the string arrangements just right I was able to walk into Newmarket Studios with the Andromeda String Quartet and engineer Callum Barter (Courtney Barnett; Saskwatch), and focus on capturing the best whole performance of each song. We’d finished recording in about four hours.
You have chosen strings on this one. How does this shape the feel of a song over making the piano or keys more dominant?
Strings have always featured in my band sound, and for a few years now I’ve been lucky to work on the side as a string arranger, composing orchestral accompaniment for other pop artists – from art-rocker Olympia to the more adult contemporary Anthony Callea. With Afloat, Adrift I wanted to showcase the beautiful Andromeda Quartet all on their own, and go deeper into more textural ‘extended’ string techniques, inspired by Bjork’s collaboration with the Brodsky Quartet. Being mostly strings and voice it’s a more halcyon offering, but there’s a real energy and rawness with the live performances, and The Andromeda Quartet are just sublime.
It seems that you have had a wonderfully collaborative career. Who are the other artists who have inspired or worked with you along the way?
Last year I did a national tour with Phia, another Melbourne artist who I admire so much. Phia trained as a jazz pianist, so she has this formidable musical training, but with her original project she’s embraced a more eclectic DIY-pop sound with an ingenious use of the African kalimba and loop pedals. She is a brilliant arranger/producer. Many years ago I performed at Queenscliff Music Festival in Victoria with the RocKwiz Live Orchestra, alongside grunge pioneer Kim Salmon. I remember asking him backstage what advice he would give someone like me who was starting out at the time, and he just laughed and said, ‘Georgia, you worry too much!’ Those words have stayed with me!
When you take the stage, what kind of experience do you want to give your audience?
For myself, but I love to see a concert or a live artwork that is transformative in some way. As an audience member, I love to watch performers who are able to articulate the unarticulable, whether that’s through a wail or a venomous guitar sound or a gentle lilting hum. I want to walk out of the room a different person. That’s what I aspire to as performer.
What should we expect for your shows at Mullum Music Festival?
I’ve got a bunch of new songs that haven’t been recorded yet, and I’m really excited to share those with people! When I play solo I like to utilise a variety of textures, so I’m bringing my electric guitar, my vintage Casio and 80s Omnichord, and there’ll be some layered vocal loops.
Georgia Fields is one of the exciting new faces at Mullum Music Festival 15–18 November. To find out more about go to mullummusicfestival.com.au.