The performing arts industries have suffered greatly over the last 20 months, with lockdowns and social distancing requirements preventing musicians around the world from touring and promoting their work.
But what about the artists whose careers came alive in the midst of the pandemic? They mightn’t have been able to conduct wide-scale tours or visit radio and TV stations either, but there’s a whole class of musicians who’ll forever look back on 2020 as an epochal year.
Aotearoa indie-pop and R&B singer Georgia Lines belongs to this category. Lines released her debut EP in March 2020. The self-titled EP was the culmination of many years of creative deliberation and stylistic exploration, and each of its five tracks could plausibly have been a single.
The public response backs up this claim, with Georgia Lines attracting in excess of 2 million Spotify streams and reaching #5 in the Hot 20 NZ Singles chart. Not bad for an independent release backed by zero on-the-ground promotion.
“It has been a really wild year, in the best way possible,” says Lines, speaking to Rolling Stone Australia via Zoom. “I love journaling and just reflecting on all the things that you forget when you’re in the thick of it. And I’m looking and I’m like, ‘Man, I’ve done a lot this year.’”
Georgia Lines grew up in Mount Maunganui, aka the Mount, a beachside suburb in the Tauranga area of New Zealand’s north island. She describes her hometown as a place where everybody knows everybody’s business and life moves at a rambling pace.
Despite her prevailing success, the 25-year-old songwriter is content with staying put in the Mount, even if it’s not exactly a creative arts hotbed.
“Of course there’s people that are really creative and I’ve got really creative parents, which is amazing, but the Mount is pretty small,” Lines says. “If you even just move slightly outside of your hometown, you realise, ‘Oh there’s actually a museum here.’”
Tauranga is no rival to bigger cities like Auckland and Wellington when it comes to providing opportunities for artistic growth. But thanks to Mount Maunganui’s close proximity to Auckland—roughly two and a half hours by car—Lines has been able to expand her music career while staying close to her loved ones.
“I’m such a big family person and love having my family round,” she says. “I talk to my parents every day and both my husband and I have family here. So I’ve just been travelling to Auckland every week.”
Lines and her husband tied the knot when the singer was just 23 years old. Her partner is six years her senior and they were together for four-and-a-half years before getting hitched. Although it feels a little uncouth to dig into Lines’ private life, it’s somewhat anomalous for a Gen Z individual of European heritage to get married at such a young age, especially given the unconventional career path Lines has chosen to pursue.
“You go anywhere else [outside of the Mount] and you go, ‘Oh yeah I got married,’ and they’re like, ‘Woah, crazy!’” Lines says.
Irrespective of age, what’s significant is that the couple are confident in their union and supportive of their respective life and career choices. Georgia Lines’ new single “I Got You” confirms this to be the case.
Lines devotes the majority of “I Got You” to an examination of life’s essential unpredictability, something, she attests, that doesn’t go away no matter how secure things are in your romantic life. But these perceptions are balanced by the subtle exaltation of the chorus.
“I don’t have any answers,” Lines sings, employing a melody that wouldn’t sound out of place in a ’90s girl group ballad. “Too many hard questions / But I know I got you, I know I got you.”
Lines directed and produced the music video for “I Got You”, the first time she has done so. She describes the experience as “scary, stressful, stretching in all the best ways, but so fun and deeply empowering.”
Lines collaborated on the video with choreographer Chelsea Jade. They connected via Zoom as Jade was housesitting in Minnesota at the time. “Trying to learn the movements through the computer was such a highlight,” Lines says. “I am so excited to release this one into the world.”
“I Got You” is Georgia Lines’ third single of 2021, suggesting the EP’s warm reception galvanised her creative spirit. “I Got You” is also Lines’ third consecutive single to depart from the more upbeat, disco- and funk-pop sound that characterised earlier releases such as “Same Things” and “Made For Loving”.
“No One Knows” was Lines’ first post-EP release, arriving in April 2021. Created alongside producer Djesian Suskov, “No One Knows” is endowed with a light house music groove, but Lines’ delivery is so understated that it feels like a bolder experiment than the dance-oriented songs on the EP. By contrast, her next single, July’s “Call Me By My Name”, is a downtempo and emotionally naked pop slow-burner.
As for the slightly-jazzy “I Got You”, it might just be the most conventional singer-songwriter moment in the Georgia Lines catalogue to date—the sort of song you can imagine being adopted by TV talent show performers for years to come.
“I love a good pop song,” Lines says. “There’s incredible things to pop and that classic verse-pre-chorus-chorus repetition, there’s something beautiful about that.”
Lines’ pop classicism comes to the fore in the solo live performance clip of “I Got You” released in conjunction with the track’s official music video. “When you strip away everything else, if the song can stand on its legs by itself then I think it’s a great song,” Lines says.
After releasing her debut EP against a backdrop of global uncertainty and finding an enthusiastic and attentive audience, Lines is moving forward with greater conviction than ever before. We can expect to hear plenty more from Georgia Lines as we approach 2022.
“I feel like I’ve had a big perspective shift since this EP,” she says. “I’ve got into this place where I’m like, if I don’t enjoy what I do then I don’t know what the point is. Like, all this pressure that I’ve put on myself for years to get it right and make sure every single is the best song, it’s so much pressure.
“If I don’t enjoy what I’m doing, what is the point?”