Hannah Georgas discusses her deeply intimate album inspired by her 98-year-old grandmother.
Touring is notoriously chaotic even in the best of circumstances. So it is no surprise that when speaking to singer-songwriter Hannah Georgas on Canada day that she’s a bit confused about waking up in Wisconsin.
“I forgot that I’ve been here before, which makes me feel weird” she says with an embarrassed chuckle. “On tour you play so many shows and it kind of gets a little fuzzy.”
Nonetheless, she admits that the connection that being on the road offers far outweighs being temporarily discombobulated. “When you have a fantastic show. Everything went your way. And you played well and the band feels good and you feel good. And the audience gave you what you wanted. That’s the best part of touring.”
Georgas is on the first leg of her tour, which resumes this fall, in support of her third album, For Evelyn. Produced by Graham Walsh (Holy Fuck), mixed by Nicolas Vernhes (The War on Drugs, Animal Collective) and featuring collaborations with Ryan Guldemond (Mother Mother) and Andy Shauf, the album is grounded by raw, honest lyrics and stunning production, making it an engrossing body of work from beginning to end. And the highly acclaimed release is already being called a defining album for the singer-songwriter.
“I put a lot of work into it, a lot of thought,” says Georgas, sharing that the widespread praise feels great considering that the making of For Evelyn was an especially challenging one. “It wasn’t an easy thing to make. And you never know how people are going to respond to it [but] I feel proud of it and I feel excited about it so I hope that that people feel the same.”
Personal crossroads were the catalyst behind the compelling album. Beginning the writing process in 2014, Georgas found herself in flux, a situation that can sometimes halt creativity.
But rather than suppress, deny or avoid the inevitable changes she faced, she allowed the shifts to inspire. “I felt like there was going to be a lot of change happening in my life and I really dug into that.” The result was a plethora of songs all vying for what would be her third release.
“I came to him [Graham Walsh] with about 20 songs and I don’t normally do that. I’m usually like, ‘Here’s the 10 songs. Let’s work on it.’ I think that was a lot for us to try to unravel, and whittle down, so that took a lot of time.” Attempted collaborations and a few hiatuses later, For Evelyn was finally completed in the winter of 2015.
Songs like “City”, “Rideback”, “Lost Cause” and “Walls”, which is about preparing emotionally for her father’s passing, are all deeply intimate. However, when writing, Georgas made sure to strike a fine balance between the private and the communal.
“It’s about me but I don’t want it to be so personal that it feels like it’s just for me. I’ve been inspired by things that have happened years ago, very specific things, but it doesn’t feel like I’m necessarily tapping into that moment, it becomes a little bit more generalized. It’s not just for me. I want it to feel like this is about you.”
Inspired by her 98-year-old grandmother, For Evelyn is a musical meditation on breaking through emotional barriers. “I had been spending a lot of time in Newmarket visiting my family and seeing her,” Georgas explains. “I just started reflecting on what she’s represented to me in my life and also thinking about how she’s lived through so much. She’s always been this person in my life that’s been so patient and welcoming and always letting people in just to help them. She’s just such a selfless person.”
“Based on life and what the record was about — it is about self-reflection and conquering anxieties and fears that I have in my life — I just feel like she’s a person that’s experienced it and now she’s been there done that,” Georgas continues. “There’s a song on the album called ‘Evelyn’, and it’s basically about getting to that place where you feel like you are making decisions and acting out of love and nothing fear based. And that’s precisely what I think of when I think about her.”
And what does the album’s namesake feel about being the inspiration behind her granddaughter’s stellar album?
“She knows that I’ve named it after her but I haven’t sat down and listened to the record with her or anything like that,” she confesses apologetically, before laughing and surmising that a listening party for grams is probably well overdue. “I need to [find out how she feels] because I’ve been getting asked that question a lot!”
For Evelyn is available now from Dine Alone Records.