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George Ezra on why he loves live gigs — and collecting quirky stories

THIS week heralded Blue Monday, the sound of people everywhere trawling the internet for sunshine getaways while looking back at their festival photos of yesteryear. A cheaper, more instantly gratifying alternative could be listening to George Ezra, the singer-songwriter who specialises in huge, singalong tunes that transport you back to a golden day at Glastonbury — even while you’re sat in a grey office. His second album, Staying At Tamara’s, is out on March 23 and is packed full of catchy hooks just crying out to be sung en masse.

‘I’m glad you’ve picked up on that as that’s what I was going for,’ laughs George. ‘When I was writing and recording the first record I didn’t have an audience, you can’t write for festival stages without having played on them. I’m unashamedly a big fan of a chorus, and you can just tell when a song is ready for a big field somewhere.’

Ahead of festival season he’s got a nationwide tour lined up to promote the album, taking in some of the biggest venues he’s played so far. Does he ever pinch himself when he looks at how far he’s come in the four years since his breakthrough song, Budapest, was released? ‘I never really thought about playing these big shows or being successful because I prefer to have realistic dreams,’ he says. ‘I don’t want to be disappointed.’

Guitar hero: George at Glastonbury last year PICTURE: REX

For George, it’s all about the live shows. ‘I get a real kick out of performing. I try and walk on stage with that moody rockstar serious face, but within two songs I’m grinning away ear to ear,’ he laughs. ‘Live music should be seen as an antidote to everything else going on, we try to offer an escape from reality for an hour and a half.’

It’s a well-known trope in the music industry that the second album is the ‘difficult’ one, but George didn’t feel the pressure. ‘With the first record someone puts a contract in front of you and says, “Do you want to record music?” and that’s it, you’ve got nothing to lose. I have the least idea about sales numbers — it’s not that I don’t appreciate it, but it’s not the be-all and end-all.’

On Staying At Tamara’s he adds: ‘We were halfway through recording and I just thought “f***, other people are going to hear this!” You hide away and work on it for so long, you’ve got to love it. I think people can hear when something is true and honest.’

When he’s not creating aural sunshine, George is keen to spread the positivity on social media, through George Ezra’s Happy Days, where he and his band collate quirky stories. He says, ‘It’s really easy to forget how much good there is in the world as the stories don’t make the news. You rarely see a story about someone leaving their bag on the bus and not a sausage was stolen, but it happens every day.

‘We thought we’d do the alternative to the grown-up news… we do the fun news about squirrels and things.’

He also keeps a journal for fans, and it’s a labour of love for George. ‘I love doing the journal, but it’s one of those things that I don’t love until I’m doing it. If I have a to-do list in the week it often gets pushed down, but when I actually concentrate on it, it’s great,’ he says. ‘It’s really nice to sit down and write creatively once a week in that way, and people love it. I’m not ashamed to say that.’

One performance worthy of a few diary entries was his set at Glastonbury last summer. ‘I’ve had loads of highlights in my career so far, but not many that I should share,’ he laughs. ‘Performing on the Pyramid Stage is definitely one, that was insane.

‘It’s funny what parts of those days you remember — it’s the smell of the backstage or the grumpy security man, little things like that.’

With his new album and tour it’s likely he’ll soon have many more such memories for that journal of his.

George plays an intimate one-off show at Shoreditch Town Hall on Jan 31. Staying At Tamara’s is released March 23. UK tour kicks off March 29 at 02 Academy Leeds.