As we are well aware, particularly here at the UoN, the student sphere is a breeding ground for individuals of a creative and talented nature to nurture their budding artistic sensibilities into some of the most influential and popular music around. Consider London Grammar, Amber Run, Childhood – all were forged here at the Uni and have hence found fame and fortune in the big scary outer-world. George Holroyd seeks to inherit this proud tradition.
And evidently, he is a man of many talents and much creativity. Studying for a Masters degree in Maths, previously leading the NUSURF Society, and now releasing his first EP Peru to iTunes chart success and positive reviews – there isn’t much he won’t turn his hand to. Holroyd’s music draws on the well-established heritage of the one-man-and-his-guitar singer/songwriter, with rich tones and passionate vocals to boot. Undoubtedly, this is currently a saturated market – it’s difficult for newcomers to get a look-in with the likes of Ben Howard, Jake Bugg, Ed Sheeran or George Ezra, to name but a few, dominating the field. And yet the success of such individuals serves only to motivate Holroyd, whom, at the beginning of his career, sees their fulfilment as something that he too can achieve. On the back of such a positive EP launch, as well as recently headlining a sell-out show at The Bodega in Notts, his aspirations certainly seem achievable. Over a beer and a burger in Mooch bar, I caught up with George to talk about Peru, balancing his songs with his studies, and the best burger bars in Nottingham.
James Noble: George, how did the gig at The Bodega go down?
George: Well, after I’d recorded the EP, I went to talk to Danielle who runs promotions there, to try and organise a launch gig somewhere. In the end, we decided The Bodega itself was the best venue, and the gig went really well. We had three other acts supporting as well – Cheshire and the Cat, Connor Spray, and Molly & Jack. We managed to sell 160 tickets too, it was so packed.
J: It’s great to see that so many local acts collaborate and promote each other.
G: Yeah it is, Cheshire and the Cat I’ve done most with really, we played house parties together a lot last year. There’s other bands that have come through Uni of, like London Grammar of course, they left the year before me, same with Amber Run. They could afford to leave in their second year though, they got big and famous.
J: Is that something you hope to see happen with your music?
G: Yeah, absolutely. The EP has got a good response so far, which was nice, and it sort of validated my efforts to my parents a bit more too – not just my mate’s going “oh yeah, he’s pretty good” anymore you know? It came in at like 60 on the singer/songwriter chart, so I shared it around to get a bit of traction, and at its peak it got to number 10. Obviously the top of the chart features Ed Sheeran, Ben Howard, George Ezra, Rae Morris – and then the deluxe version of their albums – so I couldn’t believe it had peaked so high. Yeah I’m looking to keep the degree on the back-burner after I’ve graduated, and pursue music afterwards for as long as I can.
J: So would you say artists like Ed Sheeran, Ben Howard, or George Ezra have had an influence on you?
G: Well my songs are quite different to Ed Sheeran’s – in terms of style though, I really like that he plays to, and fills whole arenas just on his own. Ben Howard – well, I’m wearing his t-shirt right now (laughs), so you could say so! I think he’s great. Paul Simon though – I love his stuff, I think he writes great songs. Also The Tallest Man On Earth – I’ve seen him play live and I love the energy that he puts into his performances, it’s something I always try to replicate.
J: So being a student – studying Maths – that’s quite a heavy subject. How do you balance the studies with the song writing?
G: It can get tricky. I’ve picked up a part-time job this year as well – it’s not many hours…but yeah I haven’t had all that many gigs recently, what with launching the EP.
J: Have you any gigs lined up?
G: Yeah I’m doing a night at The Lacehouse for Unicef in mid-March. I’ve played at quite a few society events as well, so hopefully some more of those will crop up.
*We pause to tuck into our burgers. George concedes that he’s been waiting for a lull in conversation to get started on his. We agree that there is many a good burger on offer in Notts*
G: Have you been to Red’s True Barbecue? It’s so good, we went for a hangover meal there the day after the EP launch show. It was crazy nice. Annie’s Burger Shack, Spanky van Dyke’s – we’re spoilt for choice in Nottingham.
J: That we are. Does a good burger fuel your song writing process?
G: It can do! I find that if I sit down to write I’ll just end up banging my head on the desk. It’s generally that I just have to wait for an idea to come along – it’s not a very profitable way of making music…it’s more that I read or hear something that sparks an idea, I’ll mess around on the guitar to find something I like – it just comes together eventually. ‘Peru’, for example, I wanted to write a song like ‘Pistol Dreams’ by The Tallest Man On Earth – the guitar particularly. ‘Go’ took the longest to write. That’s about, just kind of an old city – a shadow of its former self – it’s quite a generic idea I guess, I just like it.
J: Some of your songs – like Ben Howard’s – don’t shy away from over-running the three-minute curfew of traditional pop music. Is that a conscious decision?
G: No it’s not like that at all – if I’m honest, a lot of the stuff I listen to, I really like bigger, longer songs that go through all different phases and moods. I liked that Ben Howard did that on his second album – he released ‘End of the Affair’ as a single, this seven-minute-long, big, building track. Because I like that kind of stuff, I tend to write like that too.
J: So where do you see your career going from here?
G: Well I’d like to be able to do this for a living – that’s the dream. I want to finish my degree, and then stick around in Nottingham, tour around for a while… (laughing) a record deal in the long term. Who knows.
George Holroyd’s debut EP – Peru – is available for download on iTunes and streaming on Spotify. You can keep up with news and releases on his Facebook page or his soundcloud account – http://www.souncloud.com/georgeholroyduk.
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