Saturday, April 17, 2010

INTERVIEW : Hannah Georgas talks swimming, family and "This Is Good"

Hannah Georgas has been described as a pop heroine; I'd like to take that description further by saying that she's like the gutsy friend whom you can't help but love and be captivated by her stories, whether they're ones of loss, betrayal, sadness or fresh-eyed excitement. The one who wears her heart on her sleeve and isn't afraid to crack a joke at herself while telling a story about a friend who's screwed her over.

Georgas has a real talent of writing catchy gems that get stuck in your head, such as the first single "Bang Bang You're Dead." The short jingle "Place Called Home" that she co-wrote for Wal-Mart became an online hit and demands were high enough that she was asked to write it into a full-length song. The free download of her Christmas ditty, which she sung into the microphone of her laptop, brought hundreds of visitors to this blog. Combine this pop sensibility with her immense likableness, I'd be willing to bet that 2010 will be a very big year for Hannah.

I recently had a chat with Hannah over the phone about what brought her to This Is Good, some tidbits you may not know about her and where she's going from here.

On her hidden talents - you can find her by the pool:
I grew up in the water. My dad was a swimming instructor and our house had a swimming pool attached in the back... that was his family business. If I had a pool I’d use it all the time because now I’m always paying for it, every other day!

I was a lifeguard at age 17… and then I expired (laughs). There’s something about lifeguarding that makes me really uneasy. You have to do these situations when you get your NLS (National Lifeguard Service)... The examiner will take you out of the room and when you come back in, all of the people in your class have to fake these injuries. So one will be drowning in the deep end, one’s like lost their leg on the slide, one’s having a spinal injury and there’s a bomb threat in the steam room! What do you do with it all?! It’s so stressful! I hated it! I remember shaking and thinking “I never want to do this again!”

But I still love to swim. I swim all the time… but just for fun!
On school, music and starting out:
The reason I moved out of Newmarket, Ontario in the first place is because it felt a little stale. I wanted to find my own way and make my home somewhere else. I went to the University of Victoria in 2003; going to school was more like an excuse for me to find my way out. So I was there for 2 and a half years and realized more and more that I didn’t want to go to school and that I wanted to be playing music. And that led me to Vancouver.

I was taking psychology and any musical electives I could take. When I was trying to figure out what to do with psychology, I thought it would be a good idea to get my prerequisites for this music therapy program that was offered at Capilano College. So I did that but realized I just really wanted to be playing music. I remembered, every time going to a live show, thinking I just want to be doing this so badly.

I had prepared this demo; Aidan Knight and I made it together. We met through Maurice. The two of us had worked together at this after school care program. I told him I was leaving and I wanted to get some of these songs recorded and he offered to help.

When I got to Vancouver, Winston contacted me and told me he liked my music and asked me if I’d like to work with him. After meeting for a coffee, we decided to make the demo together and that’s how we demoed “The Beat Stuff” and “The National.” I submitted “The Beat Stuff” to this MusicBC contest for songwriting. And I won it! And that obviously encouraged me to go back and say, well let’s go record more! And things really snowballed from there.

On her dad's death and inspiration:
My dad passed away while I was in the studio recording this latest album. I remember getting a call from my sister where she told me, “dad just died.” I felt awful. It was really hard. I was really glad that it happened then and I wasn’t by myself, I was with Ryan [Guldemond, who produced This Is Good] and Shawn the engineer, and was so thankful to have that support from them. It was challenging to say, forget it, we have to put this on the side, it’s not as important right now and I have to go be with my family.

For me, this situation with my dad had been going on for a long time and I had been building myself up to prepare for his death for years. He was really sick for a long time, and every time I went back to visit him I told myself, “you know what, this could be my last time with him. I need to be prepared for this.” So it wasn’t a shock when it came, but it’s never easy.

There’s no songs that are about my dad on the record. But since then, I’ve been writing a lot of music, and a lot of that has been about my dad. I recently played a new song called “Ode to Mom” which was inspired by my dad, and about how my mom dealt with his death.

I’m pretty open, songs for me are pretty personal so I have no choice but to share them. I think it’s important to redeem these things and be vocal about it. Somebody else may be going through the same thing as me so you might be helping somebody.

On opening track "Chit Chat":
"Chit Chat" is about the kind of people that you meet all the time-- you’re talking to them and they don’t even really care what you have to say. They just want to get all this verbal negative crap out and it’s really draining. That was the experience I had, and I just came home and unloaded it through song. I find that I do that a lot if I am affected by something. It’s my way of getting my shit out.

On "Bang Bang You're Dead," the current single:

It's about being in high school and the silly friendships in them. You’re growing up and finding out about yourself, who you are, where you sit with friends and what makes you comfortable or not. I remember having these girlfriends who were very superficial who reminded me of "Mean Girls" (laughs). I hung out with the cliquey group for a little while and realized... I couldn’t do this! It’s not who I am. It was in the beginning of high school and I was still trying to find my friends, my group. I remember going to this sleepover with them and they were playing truth or dare. They just want to get dirt out of you to make you feel silly! It’s all part of growing up, and that was the inspiration behind that song.

At the after school care program I work at with these 9-12 year olds, I made an out trip out of going to the studio. The kids came down to the studio and they sang gang vocals on the chorus! [ed. ah, child labour] It was awesome! I got consent forms from all the parents and had the lyrics printed out, and they did their thing. There's this one little girl that I teach songwriting to; she came in and did more work and she’s the voice in the beginning of the song. She was so stoked and excited to be a part of it.
This was last summer in June, and to get all of the kids into a hot studio for more than 20 minutes means I had to have the Oreos and fruit juice ready (laughs). Their patience is slim!

On filming in the buff for the music video for "Thick Skin":

It was my first video and I was really nervous on the days leading up to it. It wasn’t an issue once I got into it. Sean Wainsteim the director and the crew were totally professional and great.

The song is about family drama; I had a conflict with one of my siblings. Your family, they think they know you best, and in some aspects of you they do. They know how to push your buttons and make you feel exposed, feel like you’re naked. Sean’s idea was totally what I was trying to convey in my song, a representation of me having thick skin, being exposed through this terrain of dirt and mud and craziness, all these different stages, and coming through at the end.

For me, I don’t think this video is sexy in the least; I think it’s quite the opposite. It’s not about being naked. It made sense for what I feel about the song. My mom was like, “why did you have to be naked?!” I hope people will understand it beyond “whoa, she’s naked. That’s hot," or whatever!

This Is Good will be available April 27, 2010. It is now available for pre-order from iTunes if you can't wait!

In support of the album release, Hannah Georgas will be doing a cross-Canada tour starting with 3 dates supporting An Horse in central Canada. After a few solo dates, Hannah will be taking the whole band out for the dates through western Canada. Dave Vertesi (Hey Ocean!) and Colleen Brown will be opening.
If you're from her adoptive hometown Vancouver, make sure to come out to her show at Venue on May 22nd, because in her own words, "it'll be a big party"!

Video for "Thick Skin":

Below are some tour dates in support of This Is Good:

Apr 22 2010 The Blacksheep Inn Wakefield, Quebec
Apr 23 2010 La Sala Rossa Montreal, QC
Apr 25 2010 The Red Dog Peterbrough, Ontario
Apr 26 2010 The Garrison Toronto, Ontario
Apr 27 2010 Criminal Records Toronto, Ontario
May 7 2010 The Loft Kamloops, BC*
May 8 2010 Blue Church Nelson, BC*
May 10 2010 Lyric Theatre Swift Current, SK*
May 12 2010 West End Cultural Centre Winnipeg, Manitoba*
May 13 2010 O’Hanlon’s Regina, SK*
May 14 2010 Amigo’s Cafe Saskatoon, SK*
May 15 2010 Starlite Room Edmonton, Alberta*
May 16 2010 Communitea Canmore, Alberta*
May 19 2010 Henotic Lethbridge, Alberta*
May 20 2010 Marquee Room Calgary, Alberta*
May 21 2010 Habitat Kelowna, BC*
May 22 2010 The Venue Vancouver, BC*
May 29 2010 St. Ann’s Auditorium Victoria, BC

* May 7-22nd w/ Colleen Brown and David Vertesi.