HLN Meets the Musician: Georgia May
From soul-searching to celebrating the sisterhood, designing her own merch and organising gigs to showcase the talent and diversity within the North East’s soul scene, Georgia May is an artist on a mission.
It’s difficult enough to carve out your own niche within the local music scene these days.
But purely solo success isn’t just what drives neo-soul singer Georgia May. She’s determined to carve out room for a whole genre, too.
A fierce defender of the musical sisterhood, Georgia is one of the rare few who are fully committed to raising others up on her own journey to the top of the music business. And trust us, she’ll make it to the top.
A year since the release of her debut album, Mood Daze – which brought together a unique amalgamation of R&B, trip-hop and afrobeat tracks elevated by her deeply personal and poetic lyrical style – Georgia May’s current focus is on bringing together her fellow soul sisters within the NEWISM movement, (that’s North East Women In Soul, FYI).
Tonight (Thursday 28th October), the NEWISM quintet, as it is right now – Georgia May, Kate Bond, Phibi, FALLU and Frankie Jobling – will take to the stage at Hoochie Coochie for a special, independently-organised gig designed specifically to showcase soul artists in their own right and not just as a complementary aspect of another genre.
It’s not the first time Georgia has pulled some event management strings to help promote her fellow musicians, either. Back in 2019, she was behind the successful Newfro Music gig, which provided an opportunity for other artists of African heritage to perform to a diverse audience.
We caught up with Georgia – along with keyboard player and podcast host, Daps – in Newcastle’s newest and swankiest cocktail bar, WC, to chat everything from early influences and busking on Northumberland Street to writing about her love life, diversity in the North East’s music scene and why a world tour’s on the horizon.
How would you describe your musical style?
Genre-wise, I’d say my music is neo-soul. I worked on my album with quite a variety of producers, who gave me hip-hop, trap and lo-fi beats, that I sang over with a very chill, R&B vocal style.
Who are some of your biggest musical influences?
Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu and India Arie are all artists I used to listen to from being a young age. I also listen to a lot of ‘90s hip-hop, which has influenced the type of beats I like to work with.
When did you first realise you could sing?
I think I first realised I could sing when I was in Year 6. I’d always sang from a young age, just for fun. But in Year 6 I’d started guitar lessons and the teacher would encourage us to sing along with the songs we were learning. I was pretty confident, whereas my friends were way more nervous, and it was then that I realised I was quite good at singing!
And when did you decide to turn that into a career?
Up until the age of about 15, I’d be really focused on visual arts and drawing. But when I was 15, I wrote my first song and realised music might be the career for me. I started busking with a local band called Soznak and that made me think: yeah, I could make money from this.
When did you and Daps meet?
I met Daps around February this year. He contacted me and asked if I could do an interview for his podcast on Threshold.FM, Chilling with Daps. Shortly after, I realised I needed accompaniment for a gig, so we decided to play together. He already played keys and is so great, so it worked out well!
Who or what inspires you both?
I’m inspired by my own, personal experiences, in terms of my song writing. Often a break-up or something in relation to my love life will really influence my lyrics.
You’ve helped organise the NEWISM gig at Hoochie Coochie tonight. Why did you want to do that?
I got together with the other girls who are performing on the bill – we’d already met through various gigs and events – and, together, we decided that we wanted a social event where all the soul artists in the North East could get together and showcase our collective talent. Often, we’ll get involved in different music scenes, like rap or hip-hop, but we rarely play gigs just about soul, and figured there was a niche market there. So, we thought organising our own soul gig would be really cool.
You’re a ‘Nigeordian’ – born and raised in Newcastle, with Nigerian roots. How do you think that Nigerian heritage manifests itself in your music?
Over the years, I’ve found that my Nigerian heritage has influenced my music and influenced my general standpoint in life. I’ve found that connecting more with different people who also have an African heritage has helped me develop personally and better understand my own background, which has gone on to influence my music. From a young age, I’ve been influenced by artists who look like me; but being raised in Newcastle, I found that there weren’t a lot of local artists who looked like me. So, I felt like I held quite a unique identity and that helped me express how I felt. My experiences within that unique identity fed into my lyrics.
Do you think that’s still true of the North East’s music scene?
I’d say diversity is still lacking here in the North East, especially when you compare it to places like London and Manchester. But I am seeing more and more black people and people of colour emerging in our music scene, which is really exciting. I hosted an event back in 2019, which was called Newfro Music, and that was a bill full of artists of African heritage, showing their talents. I wanted to encourage a more diverse audience with that as well. So, I hope interviews like this are helping people who have the talent here understand that there are others they can relate to, and having events where you can connect is really important, too.
Can you tell us a little about special mash-up you’ve performed for High Life North?
We’ve come down to WC and performed a mash-up of two songs from my debut album, Mood Daze. It’s been a year now since that album came out. The two songs I’ve chosen – ‘Fire’ and ‘Guessin’ – are both influenced by the break-up elements of my life. I introduced these to Daps a few months ago and he’s totally adapted them and made them so beautiful on the keys.
You mentioned there that it’s been a year since your first album was released. Can we expect any new music from you soon?
I’m hoping to release my next EP around springtime. I’m working on a few things at the moment, so keep an eye out!
What advice would you give other women in the North East who may want to pursue a career in music?
I think the best thing to do is get networking. Often, as solo artists, we have issues around navigating a band or needing someone to accompany us, or simply just finding gigs to play at. But once you take the opportunity to play at one gig, even if it’s not the best paid or at your favourite venue, still go for it and take those opportunities as much as you can to begin with, because they’ll help you make important connections.
What’s your ultimate career goal?
Just to make it! When you feel like you’re being seen on TV and played on the radio, when you’re being booked for all these festivals and you’re touring the world – that’s what I want to do. That’s the goal for me.
QUICK FIRE QUESTIONS
Where’s your dream gig?
[Daps] O2 Arena, London.
[Georgia May] Mine would be NPR’s Tiny Desk.
Who or where was your first gig?
[Georgia May] Justin Timberlake, when I was in primary school. And I didn’t even like him!
What was the first album you bought?
[Georgia May] Avril Lavigne, Let Go.
[Daps] Cory Henry, Bring Us The Bright.
What songs or artists got you through the pandemic?
[Georgia May] Burna Boy. His song ‘23’ was my most-played track during lockdown.
[Daps] Everybody! The pandemic ensured everyone could get their heads down and get creative. There was a lot of pain out there, so everybody was just sat writing. I was just listening to as many artists as possible. So big-up everyone in the music industry who’s been writing their heart out!
What’s your musical pet hate?
[Georgia May] I can’t really say that, because I’m not always on time!
If you could go back in time to one musical decade, which would it be and why?
[Georgia May] Probably ‘80s and early ‘90s, to witness the birth of hip-hop. I was obviously alive in the early ‘90s, but it would’ve been exciting to see people like Tupac live.
[Daps] I like it now. It’s lit right now!
[Georgia May] There are things happening now, for sure.
Who would you most like to duet with?
[Georgia May] So many people! I say a different person every time. Let’s go with Lauryn Hill, she was a huge influence for me.
[Daps] Georgia May!
Which album could you listen to on repeat forever?
[Daps] I’d go gospel. There’s an American artist called William McDowell and his songs are unbelievable. Just the way he writes, lyrically, he’s so impressive. So, if any of his albums played forever, I’d be cool.
[Georgia May] Wizkid’s Made in Lagos is full of absolute bangers.
Which song would you love to record a cover of?
[Georgia May] ‘Crazy’ by Gnarls Barkley, but Cory Henry’s version with Chantae Cann.
[Daps] That cover is the best thing you’ll ever hear. We try and play it at most of our gigs.
And one song you really wish you’d written yourself?
[Georgia May] A song I love and that is timeless for me is ‘Video’ by India Arie.
Which other local artist(s) should we look out for?
[Daps] Kate Bond, Frankie Jobling, Phibi, FALLU, and that’s just the NEWISM crew. And if you’re going gospel, there’s only really one gospel band in the North East right now and that’s Voices of Virtue. They’re really talented.
NEWISM – North East Women In Soul will be playing at Hoochie Coochie tonight, Thursday 28th October, from 7pm. Get your tickets for £5 here