Interview: Georgia finds home on the dance floor

Thursday, January 9, 2020
Photo by Joseph Connor

With Georgia’s sophomore album Seeking Thrills, the world of dance music becomes a place of retreat and release. After a difficult patch, Georgia Barnes invested her energy immersing herself in all facets of dance music, particularly focusing on Detroit and Chicago dance culture and dance music around the globe. She also began attending raves and clubs sober as a way of experiencing the unhindered rawness of these environments free from the influence of other factors. Seeking Thrills showcases her growth as both a musician and a young adult navigating life’s many challenges.

Seeking Thrills follows in the footsteps of her critically-acclaimed debut self-titled album, which was released in 2015. Originally it wasn’t her intention to wait approximately five years to share another album — after the excitement of sharing her debut, she was ready to launch into work on her second album, before her label Domino encouraged her to take her time to make sure she wasn’t rushing it. “It was my record label that sort of went, "Whoa!" And waved the red flag and was like, "Look, you need to take your time on this. You need to get this right.”

The encouragement from her label to take her time and explore what she wanted to do in more depth put things into perspective for Barnes. During our chat, she admitted that the nature of streaming means there is much more pressure on artists to shorten album cycles and release music quicker to feed demand, but she doesn't let that push her to release anything that she isn’t comfortable to share.

“[Domino] telling me that put things into perspective. It's really changed my idea that we don't always have to rush out records. I wanted to get it right, and time and patience was a major factor in that. So I'm really happy that we took our time over it because I think this record has way more direction, and it's more concise in its sound.”

Working on Seeking Thrills was a transformative experience for her on a personal level. Amongst working on her new record, she found balance and routine, which included waking up at 7:00 AM in the morning, swimming, working out more and making sure she was getting an adequate amount of sleep.

“I stopped drinking, I got very fit, I began to take care of my nutrition and what I was eating. I lost a lot of weight. I guess I began to look after myself and take care of myself in a way that I didn't do for the first record. So it was a really important time for me. I look back at these songs and I see them not only kind of reflecting this idea of 'seeking thrills' and this kind of fun element, but also a personal journey that I went on.”

This personal journey also included attending clubs and raves sober, where she observed and took in her surrounds as well as being a participant. “I've been a sort of hedonistic participant in the past. But this time around, I was observing as well as participating. The observations I saw were just the fact that people needed these dance floor experiences, and speaking to people in clubs, finding out what they do and finding out more about their lives.”

She met a range of people, including those who worked mundane 9-to-5 jobs and retreated to dance music as a form of emotional release and self-expression. “People were also saying that they love being around people collectively, forming a kind of collective energy. That had a huge effect on me. I think it's never going to die, this kind of idea of collective dancing, and it's lasted for so long. It’s a huge part of people’s lives as well as a big part of my life.”

The phenomenon of dance music is something that has surrounded her since her youth, having witnessed her dad play, “I was brought up witnessing thousands of people dancing to his pulsating rhythms, techno, house. And I've always been fascinated by it, even when I was younger.”

On Seeking Thrills, she also set out to transform her entire process and approach the record differently from her debut, which she notes was written in an “experimental way”. The first record was written partially in her bedroom and the rest in a studio in the early hours of the morning. Though she felt confident in her ability to produce well, the first record left her wanting to expand on her songwriting process.

“I think listening to the first record, it's kind of like throwing layer after layer of sound in a song. And what the second record really kind of is, I think I'm proud about, is that I don't throw everything at one song. I stripped it apart and made sure that the vocals and the song structures are really concise. So I think on the first record, I was less disciplined.”

Barnes invested her energy in analysing music, particularly looking at dancefloor culture and dance music around the world. She found herself drawn particularly to Detroit and Chicago dance music. On her research, she said, “I gathered a lot of information on Detroit and Chicago dance music that helped me and led to this discovery of the fact that it really affected pop music and particularly the sound you hear in pop music today. Much of mainstream pop music now is very dance-orientated.” She also notes that both Chicago house music and Detroit techno are often overlooked for their influence and it was important for her to go back and understand the history more.

Barnes also spent time researching African music, Indian music and Southeast Asian music. “For a time, I was almost like a musicologist, kind of tracing all the dots of house music and techno music.”

She’s more than a fan of music, she’s a scholar of the artform who is passionate about its origins and the ways it has evolved. “I'm really fascinated with how music affects cultures and how culture affects music. I guess that comes from the kind of academic side of studying music. I've always been drawn to the way music travels across the world.”

When creating Seeking Thrills, she also gained admiration for artists like Billie Eilish who work against the constraints of genre. “I think people are not wanting to define their music anymore. I especially think that with Billie Eilish, she's come along and made this kind of pop music that you can't really define and it’s really refreshing. I've always looked to artists who go through periods where you can’t define them and that really influences me.”

Just like observing nightclubs and the effect dance music has on people, Barnes was drawn to the experience of her own live shows. “The live show feels like a major part of the whole idea of this record,” she said, “Along with being inspired by dance floor culture, I was also drawn to the inclusivity of it. People are able to feel free and are able to express themselves because they're in a safe environment. I want people to come to a show and have this kind of experience, I want people to really feel something on the dance floor and feel like they're free to do that.”

When she’s performing, she wants to feel part of the crowd and wants her audience to feel like they’re part of the experience she’s having. She’s determined to breakdown the boundaries between being on-stage and being a member of the crowd and merge these experiences into one. “On-stage, I present myself as almost like an audience member, and I want to make sure that they feel free and safe and I'm not this sort of untouchable artist.” She also said that she wants to leave the stage dripping in sweat as if she was jumping along with the crowd.

When people embark on their journey of listening to Seeking Thrills, she hopes they feel as empowered as she felt when creating it. She hopes it inspires listeners to seek pleasure in whatever form they like. “I think people need an outlet to let loose because in this modern-day everyone's working so hard. We need to check in on ourselves every now and then, going after those thrills gives us balance and clarity and we all need that.”

Seeking Thrills will be released tomorrow, Friday, January 10th via Domino Recording Co. —  Click here to find out where you can listen to it. 

Written by Amy Smolcic (@amysmolcic)

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