In the run-up to the September 4th release of her new record, All That Emotion, Canadian songstress Hannah Georgas talked with QRO. In the conversation, Georgas discussed Emotion, working with producer Aaron Dessner of The National at their Long Pond Studios (way before Taylor Swift did…), the pandemic & lockdown in Canada (hint: it’s better than in America…), touring, not touring, upcoming livestreams, videos, moving to the country, not changing clothes, and more…
QRO: How are you holding up, with everything that is going on?
Hannah Georgas: I’m okay. I think, for the most part, I’m good. I feel fortunate that I’m able to be home, and work from home, and still have means for doing my work. I feel pretty good, for the most part.
QRO: Are you in Canada?
HG: I’m in Canada, yeah. I recently moved outside of Toronto, into a little more remote place, but I’m in Canada, Ontario.
QRO: How are things in Canada? We Americans think that everybody is doing better at this than we are…
HG: [laughs] I think we’re doing better than you are… [laughs]
I feel like, for the most part, it seems like things are under control. As far as the numbers go, it doesn’t feel as daunting. I think in bigger cities, there’s larger numbers, but I feel like people are, at least in my area & circles, are trying to stay safe & do the right thing.
I feel fortunate to actually be in Canada, for sure.
QRO: You said you just moved – did you move before or after the virus started?
HG: I moved after… [laughs]
I feel fortunate that I’m able to be home, and work from home, and still have means for doing my work.
QRO: Wow. What’s like, moving in a pandemic?
HG: It was interesting moving.
I was lucky that, for my place, I lived in the city in a townhouse, and nobody came to look at my place. [laughs] So, that was nice – I didn’t have to have any interactions with people.
Moving to the place that I found, it was kind of the same thing. It was very safe, and surprisingly, a very, very smooth move.
Right now, I live two hours outside of the city, in a really, really cute town. I found a little house. It just feels nice, to get that space.
I’d been thinking about a move for a long time, but I think the pandemic definitely sparked the urgency, for me, to get on it, sooner.
QRO: And I suppose you can’t go to America, or can’t go back?…
HG: I know that I can’t go. There’s no heading out there, right now.
I’ve sorted out visas for three years, and had to reactivate things before the pandemic, and haven’t been able to do anything with it. I’ve been wondering if there’ll be any extension to artists that have that all set up.
I’m just so curious to see, when things start to kinda open up, how crazy things will be, and chaotic… [laughs]
I cancelled a bunch of European stuff that was supposed to happen in April, cause my record’s coming out in the fall, touring this fall. We have tentative plans for stuff next year, but I’m very curious to know if it’s going to happen. I have a feeling it won’t.
At this point, I think it’s important to just be safe.
The work that was done [on All That Emotion], was done in chunks of time, but there was lots of space in between, to kind of take a break, and then come back with fresh ears, and work again.
QRO: How was making All That Emotion?
HG: Great. I started the process of it kinda late 2017, I started writing for it. 2018, I was demoing a lot in Toronto, and then I got connected with Aaron later in the year, and worked, kind of finished everything up last year.
Everything was kind of spread out, but the work, like my demoing and all that, happened in a very concentrated period of time. And then, the recording process, with Aaron, we kind of did things in chunks. I had three different sessions with him at his studio, and then we had some long breaks in between.
It was an interesting process. The work that was done, was done in chunks of time, but there was lots of space in between, to kind of take a break, and then come back with fresh ears, and work again.
QRO: Did you just drive down to the studio? I know that it’s in upstate New York…
HG: It’s about an eight, nine-hour drive from Toronto.
I really enjoyed it, actually, driving down on my own, giving myself the time to shift gears, and get really excited to work. And the drive is really, really gorgeous.
Drive there, drive back, drive there, drive back.
QRO: So, each day?…
HG: Oh, sorry, no… [laughs] That would be insane!
I would drive there, and then we’d work together for about a week or so, and then I would leave, and come back again for our next round… [laughs]
I would have severe back problems if I did that… [laughs]
We finished it last year. I finished a record label deal a while back, so it took some time to figure out that. And then the pandemic happened, so timelines got pushed.
I ended up tapping Bryce [Dessner] on the shoulder and saying, “It’s so nice to meet you!” And he’s like, “Eh… You got the wrong guy.”
QRO: How did you come to work with Aaron at Long Pond Studios?
HG: So, even further back, I think it was back in 2015, my team & I reached out to him about the idea of working on stuff together. So yeah, it was just an e-mail that went out to him, and then Aaron & I started a dialogue over e-mail. I started sharing him demos, even from my previous record that came out.
So, it was a long time ago that we started talking, but we didn’t work together until after that album came out, he kind of just popped up back into my universe, and we started talking again. He asked about new songs that I’d been working on, and that’s when we scheduled time to work together, to make a record together.
QRO: I always feel like it’s hard to tell him and his brother Bryce apart on stage, when they’re both playing guitars. In person, can you tell the difference?
HG: I can now, for sure. Once you get to know them, there’s definitely differences.
The National were playing a show in Toronto, and I went to go meet Aaron for the first time, and I ended up tapping Bryce on the shoulder and saying, “It’s so nice to meet you!” And he’s like, “Eh… You got the wrong guy.” And so, then I actually didn’t meet Aaron that first time… [laughs]
So, it wasn’t until a couple of years later that I actually met him in person, but we had been talking for so long over e-mail. So, that was really funny…
QRO: And do you feel Taylor Swift has totally stolen your thunder about working with Aaron Dessner at Long Pond Studios…
HG: [laughs] No – I do think it’s incredible, that process, for them, started not too long ago, in April, and everything’s out now.
It just goes to show you, Aaron is such a hard worker, and constantly working on things. That was one thing I found extremely inspiring about working with him. He always had a lot on the go; he’s got such a drive to work on things, and projects that inspire him. It’s quite something to be around someone like that.
QRO: When did you also tour in The National?
HG: The National were playing a couple of shows last year in Montreal, and Hamilton [Ontario], and they invited me to open those shows, and asked if I wanted to join and sing some songs with them. And that turned into a couple of tours.
QRO: How alike, or how different, is touring as part of an act like The National compare with your own touring?
HG: Hmm… Well, the scale of things are quite different. [laughs] They play really, really big shows…
I’ve toured with my project, and another project before, and they all have their similarities, in the sense that life on the road all have similarities. We all wake up, and we drive to play shows, or we travel from one place to another, and then we soundcheck, and we play our show, and we have a tight connection with our group.
I loved, actually, being not the frontperson in a band. I loved just following the pack, and having a task, and just showing up, and doing my job. I loved that. I just loved singing back-ups.
I was singing with a woman named Kate Stables, who plays in a band called This Is the Kit, and she’s just the loveliest person around. The same, again, with their entire crew, and the band. They’re all just very inspiring people. It was just a treat to go on the road, and experience their world, and just be around nice people.
I think that’s the most important thing. I’ve gone through, in my project, different people to play with me, and I’ve put so much effort into finding people that are just good people, people that you can sit in a van with for a long period of time. Not only play well together, but like each other, and spend every hour together, off the stage.
I think The National have obviously worked really hard on finding the right team, as well, and that’s a very inspiring thing to see.
It’s weird to think about putting out a record without having shows in the mix.
QRO: Are you bummed that you can’t tour behind the record?
HG: It was supposed to be North America in the fall, and then next year, back in Europe. So yeah, I am kinda bummed.
It’s weird to think about putting out a record without having shows in the mix. There’s kind of some nice parts to it, too – I am a homebody, and I like being home. [laughs] So, I have been enjoying that aspect of it.
And, when I’m not on the road, life, for me, at home, is kind of what life has been like during the pandemic anyway, because I work from home.
It’s very weird. I miss that part of it. Cause I’ve been getting to place with my project, and my band, of really enjoying being on stage, and I’m really excited about the new songs, too, and we’ve been working, and practicing these songs for a little while. So, it feels odd.
I’m doing a couple of livestream things, so we’ll see how that goes.
There’s nothing like playing a real show, and having an audience. But now, it just feels so weird to think about doing that. I have a hard time going to the grocery store… [laughs]
QRO: You mentioned doing some livestreams in the future. Have you done livestreams during all of this?
HG: I haven’t yet. I’ve done some live on Instagram performances. They’re just… weird. [laughs] It’s good to do it, but I do find, no matter how much I prepare myself, the second I get one, it’s like, ‘Ooh – are there people out there?’ [laughs]
I haven’t done a livestream yet, so we’ll see how it goes. I’m actually looking forward to it, cause my band is gonna play with me. It won’t just be me on an iPhone. There will be some effort put into it.
Hannah Georgas’ video for “Just a Phase”:
QRO: When you were getting the footage during the making of All That Emotion, did you know that it would end up being put together as a video for a song (“Just a Phase”)?
HG: No. [laughs] That’s a good question – I had no idea…
I wish, thinking back now, I wish that I made more of an effort to film stuff. I always do that. Especially when it comes to recording & the creative process, I don’t want to think about having video around, or filming. I get really wiggy with that. The question was asked, and I was kind of debating whether I should bring somebody up to do some filming, and I ended up not, and now I really regretting it…
But it was nice, that I kind of went through my phone, was looking at just all the things I did record, and turned into a little video that I had. So, that was nice.
QRO: Do you have to like e-mail or tell all the people, ‘We’re putting out this video, and you’re going to be in it’?
HG: I did. I sent it to Aaron, I sent it to [The National’s] Matt [Berninger], and Scott [Devendorf], and Kyle [Devendorf], just to check and make sure that’s okay. I don’t want to post anything, if someone doesn’t know about it.
QRO: You don’t want one of them to get confused with an Antifa agitator…
HG: [laughs] It’s so crazy how things can blow up on the internet. It’s mental.
Hannah Georgas’ video for “Dreams”:
QRO: How was making the video for “Dreams”?
HG: Cool. I worked with this amazing videographer/photographer named Zachary Hertzman. He has a studio/workspace in Toronto, and in the basement, there’s this kind of warehouse/open space, and we just played around, got some footage.
That happened before the pandemic, too. We just had the idea of filming me alone. [laughs] Which was nice – it worked out well.
QRO: I was wondering if it was during the pandemic, cause you’re all alone in the video…
HG: It was last year that we filmed that.
Hannah Georgas’ video for “That Emotion”:
QRO: And was the footage for the “That Emotion” video shot on tour?
HG: Yeah. Exact same fellow followed my band & I around when we were doing those shows with The National last year, in June. It was great. He just got a bunch of footage of those shows, the experience of the day. That’s how that one came about.
QRO: You’ve put out a bunch of videos. Is there gonna be one for the upcoming single?
HG: Yeah. It’s funny. It’s also an interesting thing to deal with during the pandemic, working with people on video stuff, and making a lot of stuff on your own, and coming up with your own resources to get content together, because of not being able to work in the same space as people.
I feel like I’m very, very busy at home, making live at home recordings, videos, all different kinds of things. There’s a lot to do.
There’s nothing like playing a real show, and having an audience. But now, it just feels so weird to think about doing that. I have a hard time going to the grocery store…
QRO: Have you been writing/making music during all of this?
HG: A little bit, not a lot. I’ve done some creative things. I’ve been working on recordings having to do with this record.
I write a lot. I write a lot, just for song purposes, and have been creative here or there, but I find my attention has been drawn a lot to the focus of this album. Still finding ways to be creative.
QRO: Do you have any sort of home studio, or access to a studio?
HG: Now I do. I did have a small little space in the city, just at home, that I worked in, but now – this is another reason I wanted to move – I have a little studio, music room, which is nice. It’s a more inspiring place to be.
I had neighbors before, and I was always worried about people hearing me. This just feels so much different. I can actually play my piano, and not feel like I have to be quiet… [laughs]
QRO: Did going out to the Long Pond Studios in upstate New York make you want to move to the country?
HG: Totally. [laughs] The experience there definitely rubbed off on me, and was an extremely inspiring place to be. Yeah, I think that had something to do with it too, subconsciously…
QRO: During this time, have you picked up and/or accelerated any bad habits? Like I went a long time without shaving…
HG: I wear the same thing a lot. [laughs] I don’t change my outfits a lot.
I find that I’m not changing my clothes anymore… [laughs]