19 Years and Older (2 Pieces of Gov't Issued ID Required)
Doors 7:30pm / Show 8:30pm
That George Ezra. Here, there and everywhere, and all the time, it seemed. An out-of-the-box, rafter-rattling success story, where the vehicle for that success was the only one that mattered: the songs. Songs that took him on a world tour that lasted a full two years. And even when it looked like the border-busting breakout star of 2014 (and ’15) wasn’t, finally, all over the place (nor all over the radio), it turns out he was still at it: travelling, searching, writing, playing, whistling.
Wanted On Voyage, the Hertfordshire singer-songwriter’s debut album released in June 2014, sold more than three million copies. It was thethird-best selling album of the year in the UK, beaten only by Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith. But, like its creator, for Wanted On Voyage it was all about the journey, not the destination: it took 14 weeks to reach the Number One slot, a proper, word-of-mouth, word-of-ear hit. Then, led by flag-bearing tracks Budapest, Barcelona, Cassy O and Blame It On Me, that debut propelled the guitarist, barely into his twenties, on a two-year world tour.
The four-time-Brit nominee had gone far, fast, further and faster than he’d ever imagined when he signed a record deal while still in his teens. But at the same time, he’d gone nowhere at all. He was back home, in that childhood bed, kicking his heels and puzzling over what had become of his life.
So George Ezra did what he does best: he picked up his guitar and buggered off. His first port of call was a city he knew well but that, paradoxically, didn’t know him so well: Barcelona. (Despite titling one of his standout songs after the Spanish city, Ezra cheerfully acknowledges that he’s, at best, a club-level act there.)
In a further attempt to shake himself out of his comfort zone, George avoided the posh hotels he could now afford. He went the Airbnb route – but staying with his host. In a shared apartment. With zero creature comforts.
“It’s literally a bed in a room of this apartment owned by a girl called Tamara,” he relates. “Up sevenstories, smashed windows in the stairways. In one room, a girl from Argentina who’s about my age. In another, an old couple from Germany. The shower is wonky. Front door barely locks. People are coming and going.”
Ezra spent a month in Barcelona, writing every day, enjoying the freedom, enjoying the anonymity – until, eventually, a none-the-wiser Tamara, intrigued by the guitar that makes up half his scant luggage, forces him to open his Spotify page and play his most popular song (Budapest, 365 million streams). At which point the Argentine girl bursts into the room with a triumphant cry of: “I knew Irecognised you!”
His cover was blown, in the chaotic Airbnb at least, but it only made the trip even more special.
“It just turned out to be the best experience I could have asked for. All of Tamara’s friends were artists, designers, fashion students, and they’re just cooler than we are. They’re like, ‘do you want to go for dinner? Let’s meet at11pm!’ It took me two weeks to reset and slow down.”
Finally, a reset, not to mention reinvigorated, musician emerged from what sounds like his own personal Almodovar movie and returned to the UK with the beginnings of several songs. Key amongst these was Pretty Shining People, the song that would end up opening George Ezra’s second album – an album he’s calling Staying At Tamara’s because “all these songs came from this little flat, and I need to doff my cap to that”.
Staying at Tamara’s, then, George Ezra managed to lose himself, find himself, and embark on the creative road that would lead him toStaying At Tamara’s. It’s an album of positivity and encouragement written in the aftermath of mind-melting success – indeed, he admits that he suffered anxiety dreams about getting back on stage ahead of last summer’s so-called Top Secret tour. He knows better than most what it’s like to wonder what to do with your days, especially when it feels like the world is burdening you with expectations.
In fact, partly in light of that awareness, and also in light of some personal experience, Ezra recently hosted a pre-Christmas charity show in London in aid of mental health charity Mind, something he hopes to do regularly. “More likely than not mental health is a spectrum and we’re all on there somewhere,” he reasons. “An unfortunate few really suffer and the rest of us just bounce along. There’s such a lack of education about that.”
In the meantime, Ezra is further doing his bit to increase the stock of human happiness with a comeback album that is cheerful and cheering, mindful and soulful, heartfelt, energetic andenergising. Staying At Tamara’s is about getting away, getting on and getting high – on music, and life, and love.