INTERVIEW: George Wilson on his newly released trio of singles
There's something very special about George Wilson. The way the brilliant pianist, singer and songwriter constructs not just beautiful songs, but the specific emotions within them, has rendered me speechless. George has just released "The Man", a bouncy, happy tune and the last of his three incredibly diverse debut singles. I recently sat down with George to discuss his inspirations and growth as an artist at this very exciting time for him.
TSM: Hi George! Congratulations on your releases so far, I really am enjoying your music.
George: Thank you so much! Thanks for having me.
TSM: Let’s just jump into it because I’m so excited to hear more about your methods and creative flow. How old were you when you first got into performing music?
George: I started playing piano when I was about 11 or 12. I began on guitar before that but I found it a lot harder to play than piano. I know so many people that can play guitar so fluently and I just think “how do they do that?!”. It’s really weird. But yeah I was singing from like 8 or 9 I think. I did a lot of musical theatre stuff when I was younger, and that’s where my passion kind of originated I suppose.
Through high school that just got stronger and stronger. I listened to Einaudi who is a brilliant pianist and he really motivated me to want to play properly. And yes!
TSM: Are you still picking up your guitar from time to time now?
George: Yeah I do, I feel like with every instrument if you just put it away in a case it’s really hard to motivate yourself to get it out and play it and stuff, but I’ve got mine on a stand so last night I just got it and played it for like an hour. I prefer the sound of a classical acoustic to a steel string, and it hurts my fingers a bit less as well! I love the sound of the nylon strings on the classical acoustic, I just think it’s really nice.
TSM: My college teacher was a brilliant classical guitarist and I used to love the sound of it!
George: Yeah it reminds me of the School of Rock where he picks it up and starts shredding!
TSM: Have you seen the musical version of that live? School of Rock?
George: I haven’t seen it actually but it’s one of the ones I want to go and see! I’m a bit of a prude with modern musicals sometimes. I like my classical stuff. But I think School of Rock is one of the ones that could definitely go well.
TSM: So which musical would you say is your all time favourite?
George: Les Mis. Full stop. That’s it, there’s no competition with that I’m afraid. Although, Matilda was really good. I’m a huge Tim Minchin fan, and I think when I went to watch it, it was so nice knowing that he had composed it.
TSM: I think my favourite musical is either Wicked or Cats. Can I include Hairspray?
George: Yeah I think you definitely can - I think that’s the thing about musical theatre, it’s so broad and it’s no longer just like a narrow scope industry with people with dramatic voices singing on a stage. It’s such a wide industry, especially with modern stuff. If you look at Wicked you can see how much the industry has branched out from the old Roger & Hammerstein days.
TSM: You do a lot of stuff that reminds me of musical theatre and it’s so good! When you’re composing your own original material, how do you carry an idea from start to finish and decide if it should be for theatre or yourself?
George: I think personally for me, there’s never really been a set equation. It just starts with one idea - if you like, a seed for a plant. It could be a lyric, a little motif that comes into your head in the day, a chord progression that you think could work; it could really be an array of situations. As soon as that idea starts off it grows and develops and you start to find a rhythm. More recently I’ve been starting to think a bit more commercially and have been building songs around a drum beat or a different single element.
But in terms of musical theatre and stuff like that, I think I’ve always written songs that sound like they should be sung on a stage. I guess it’s a bit of a hindrance within the popular music world. I feel like I’ve managed to branch away from it more recently. But I think that when I’m writing in a musical theatre style and for people with specific storylines, it’s a much more natural process for me than writing a Tom Odell or Elton John or Billy Joel type song. It’s kind of like writing for screen a little bit, writing about other people. I think I’m quite an emotional person too, so writing about all of my own emotions can be quite overwhelming sometimes!
TSM: Whatever you’re doing is working because this new trilogy is amazing! What inspired you to write all these different songs?
George: So they are all reasonably different - “The Man” is a really happy, uplifting one. I’ve always known that I’ve wanted to release a happy, bubbly song that can hopefully be a bopper. But alongside that, “Ask Me” was written out of inspiration from one of those lyric moments. It was “ask me at a different time”. That just sort of felt like a very big, dramatic soliloquy kind of moment. With “Little Birdy” I thought I’d try a nice, delicate and romantic Disney kind of thing. I kind of wanted to cover each of the bases that I had in my own mind.
Cover art for Little Birdy, The Man and Ask Me
TSM: Yeah I definitely heard the Disney influence on Little Birdy! It’s such a beautiful song. Who would you say your other musical influences are at the moment?
George: Hmm. At the moment, I mean, it’s sort of constantly Elton [John], Billy Joel, Tom Odell, Guy Garvey as well - lyrically I’m really inspired by him. I have been listening to a lot of soundtrack music recently in terms of instrumental kind of stuff, so Hans Zimmer, Jacob Shea, and a lot of my coursemate’s music too. I’ve been going through Einaudi a lot, and have also been listening to the Craig Charles Funk & Soul playlist in the evenings a lot! Now we’re going into the summer I like listening to a lot of jazz stuff - I love big band jazz and people like Jamie Cullum too.
TSM: If you could collaborate with one of these artists right now, who would you choose? George: Alfie Boe. His voice is one of my absolute favourites. I’d love to have him sing on one of my tracks - it would really elevate it and take it to another level and just make it so much more.
TSM: Your voices definitely carry some similarities too. I want to make sure people know that before lockdown, they could hear you sing and play live, and hopefully they’ll be able to see you play more after this! Can you tell me a bit about your live work?
George: Yeah so before lockdown I was playing at a beautiful place in Bath called Barton Street Wine Bar - I was playing there every Thursday and Friday as a mini residency. Hopefully I should be able to carry on gigging regularly after lockdown. I also do lots of weddings and had a lot lined up over the next few months, but of course they’ve all been cancelled right now!
George Wilson performing live
TSM: What would you say is next for George Wilson? Any more releases that you could tell us about? George: I think I’ll definitely look to do another release towards the end of the year. I feel like I’ve got a bit of momentum with this one and I want to exploit it more. I am working on some other projects but I do not want to disclose much more information! There’s something big coming, hopefully.
TSM: And finally, how would you encourage people to stay creative during lockdown? George: Do something slightly outside of what you’d normally do. We’ve all got other stuff going on - so its important to take time to just completely strip away everything that’s going on around you and go back to what you fundamentally enjoy and love. Sometimes I’ll just sit at my piano with nothing else and just play some Einaudi.
If you have that penny-dropping moment that made you want to begin to pursue your passion, then just explore it now. Everyone is different - some people will be creative or productive at this time, and some people won’t, and that’s fine! I think the most important thing at this time is just to be there for each other.
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