George Maple on her new album, embracing chaos and being her own hero
Shine on you crazy diamond
"Dance the pain away and f#$% everything". As far as interview one-liners go, this is up there with the best. It's exactly the kind of irreverent sass we've come to expect from the girl from Sydney's northern beaches turned alt-pop queen, otherwise known as George Maple.
George Maple first shimmered across our air waves in 2010 with soaring vocals on Flight Facilities 'Foreign Language', setting the wheels in motion for a record deal and subsequent hits 'Fixed', 'Vacant Space', and 'Talk Talk', which saw her collab with fellow northern beaches whizz kid Flume.
She describes her new album Lover, due for release on October 27 as a "series of intimate events", revealing a long-held fascination with exploring the nuances of sex, relationships and longing. While many artists wax lyrical on the ups and downs of amour (let's face it, sex sells), there is an emotional depth, a vulnerability even, about George Maple that resonates on a soul level. She bares herself with reckless abandon in the name of her art; a yearning to express that fills each verse with meaning. It seems that Lover is truly a labour of love.
You will soon be releasing your debut album Lover. What was the process of writing and recording it like? Can we expect a similar sultry disco vibe as your previous tracks?
Well, it's been a very long time coming. I guess the record is an amalgamation of my experiences and observations over the past few years. When I finished it, I was putting together the track listing and I re-visited each song. I tried to identify its mood and intention to make some sense of what I had written. I rarely write music with intention, it's something that seems to just spill out and I have to scramble to find ways to capture and arrange.
My process is quite random and chaotic at times, so this period of reflection was very important as it helped to solidify the story. It turns out I have an obsession with intimacy. I have always wanted a record that felt theatrical and narrative driven. For me I work in 'tapestries.' Each song or group of songs is a chapter. The record has changed and evolved sonically since its inception however I feel it is very true to the time it was written and to my experiences as an artist and human being.
The first single off your album, 'Kryptonite', has a wild music video in a Kiev warehouse. Can you tell us a bit more about the experience of filming that and what kind of mood you were hoping to translate?
That was a wild experience. It all happened so quickly. I was in Sydney for shows, it was 30 degrees and summer and then I basically closed my eyes and woke up a palace in Kiev in -10 degrees and snow. All the cast were street cast. Lisa Paclet the director hand-picked them from bars, drag clubs, parties across Kiev. The intention of that video was to embrace freedom of self-expression and do something a little provocative, sexual and confronting.
I wanted to translate some of the experiences I'd been having at the time into a music video. I'd been through a pretty heartbreaking few months. I'd been re-connecting with a part of myself, coming to terms with being alone, re-discovering new forms of sexuality, expressing myself, dancing, drinking, I partied for a good 3 months and it was sad and beautiful. I met so many incredible people and learned a lot about different communities I hadn't been exposed to in the past.
This video was one of many steps in healing. I just wanted it to feel like 'letting go' and kind of escaping into the beauty of the chaos. It sounds cliche but I always want to encourage people to express themselves freely and really just believe and be authentic and real. To let go of judgement. There are so many constructs and rules that we feel pressure to conform to. This was a kind of antidote to those rules. A little bit of 'dance the pain away' and f#$% everything. It was a pretty crazy period when I look back on it, and I think my state of mind certainly reveals itself in the video.
Do you feel torn about revealing too much of your personal life in your music, or as an artist do you feel it's important to remain authentic and raw in your songwriting?
I like to think that I'm pretty open when it comes to my personal life and experiences. I'm an open book in a lot of ways. I definitely wasn't always. The 'George Maple' project has been a platform / canvas that's enabled me to work on deconstructing my own boundaries. When I first started writing, I was terrified of everyone seeing my war wounds, insecurities and desires. It was a fictional world and George was the character in that world rather than it being attached to my own self.
I think it still is that to a certain extent. The project is still an amplified version of myself and experiences however the lines are very blurred now because I don't really care if people know all about me. I've signed up to do this in the public arena and so I think there's always an element of responsibility beyond your control. If I'm preaching for people to live authentically and not be afraid of revealing themselves, being vulnerable etc. then I need to step up to the mark even if it is challenging.
You were born and raised in Sydney but spend a significant amount of time abroad in London and LA. When and where do you feel most at home?
I actually have no idea anymore... I feel very much as though I live in this little cloud bubble wherever the music is living. I had a little bit of a quarter life crisis/ realisation that perhaps I'm never going to be attached to anything place or person because it's not the life I've chosen. I like the idea that we are put on this earth, given a body to live, (how lucky) but all our thoughts, the expectations, conditions, attachments to a place or a person, those are separate. It's wonderful to have a sense of love and connection with a place or a person but it doesn't define us.
You've achieved so much in the past few years, performing at huge festivals all over the world and working with influential producers. What stands out for you as your proudest or most poignant moment?
Releasing 'Hero' is definitely my proudest moment to date. I think it is a moment of release and appreciation of the skills I've developed over the years and my abilities. It was also a moment of realisation in my creative process on how I want to work in the future. When I was younger there was this crazy pressure to 'work with people' all the time, to co-write or to get a great producer etc. I don't know if it's because I was a girl or because I was younger and maybe hadn't earned my stripes yet... or perhaps it's just a bit of a factory process in the industry, but something about that always felt a little disingenuous and I found it stressful relying on other people to make big creative decisions. I would often end up in loggerheads with other producers because what I wanted didn't make sense or they just didn't understand what I was going on about it.
Don't get me wrong, I love collaborating, I love working with musicians and other writers and artists but sometimes you just have a vision for something and it's about breaking through the conditioning, backing yourself and just going for it. I wrote and produced the track and then felt it needed more of a lift and a particular tone in the engineering / sonic side of things, I'd just met another 'George' (Nicholas) who is an amazing producer/ engineer from Sydney (Seekae) and I sent him the track to swap out the drums and address some of the clashes in the synths I could hear. We worked together back and forth for a week or so and it finally felt finished. I also sent the bass parts I'd written to Mikey (Touch Sensitive) so that he could play them in on his analog synth. It was this kind of 'directorial production' process that I've always dreamed of.
It's also the first time I've ever referenced another piece of music. The refrain 'In your arms' is an interpolation from the 80's hit 'Waiting for a star to fall' by Boy Meets Girl. I had to seek the approval of the original writers in order to release the song. They wrote me a really lovely note about how they really liked the song. It was a really special moment for me as I finally feel as though I'm properly coming into my own as an artist.
Speaking of big festivals - what's been the most memorable live performance for you and why? It must be such a surreal experience getting to share those moments with thousands of people.
Certainly is! I think this last run of performances at Groovin the Moo were some of my favourite performances of my life. I really focused on connecting with the energy of the environment I was stepping into. The spontaneity of performance is what keeps me alive and I felt heavily connected to the audience and the music. Most of all, I just had fun.
This last year has been a huge period of growth across many levels in life and music.Physically I have been training and working on my ability to sing and dance at the same time (as tough as it sounds, no idea how Beyonce does what she does) I'm working with LED's and staging and it's the first step for a very exciting tour I'm planning right now. <3
If you had to pick an artist/s whose career you would most like to emulate or who is the biggest inspiration to you, who would it be and why?
I really love following the careers of Kanye, Kendrick Lamar and Beyonce. I also find Bjork fascinating. I think individually each of these artists have a real sense of authenticity. It's fascinating to re-visit their younger years and watch their development as an artist. I like looking back and seeing the relationship between the art and the point in time, the cultural and social commentary that comes through in the work in theatrical ways. Beyonce as an icon has helped so many people feel powerful and empowered.
I work with a lot of mutual people and I'm always asking questions about her process, the more I find out the more I respect her and just think that she has done so much good for humans in this generation. I think that's what inspires me the most - people who generate change with their art, and have the ability to change the thinking of others with their messaging. This can be both positive and negative however when it's done in a positive way, it makes my heart swell.
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