Inner dialogues expressed in song. Melancholy never sounded so good. For more than a decade, from her first full-length album (This is Good) in 2010 to her most recent release (All That Emotion), Hannah Georgas has used her ethereal voice—and way with words—to enchant and connect with listeners. Like most artists, for Georgas, writing songs is a form of therapy. Music has always been an integral part of what makes her tick. Pain and broken hearts. False starts. New beginnings. Love lost and spirits broken. Take For Evelyn (2016), a 41-minute, 11-song rumination on the artist’s anxieties and where these uncomfortable—and often unwanted feelings—come from. Cathartic indeed. Though upon first read the lyrics appear simple, after further reflection one realizes how profound these expressions in song always are. Each song she writes is a piece of her and comes from the heart.
“That is my way of going about things,” Georgas explains, chatting recently from her new home in Belleville, Ontario. “Music and writing have always been a therapeutic process for me … it needs to be something I’ve experienced. It doesn’t have to be immediate, but something that will trigger the writing of lyrics and melodies. Things are always popping into my head that I want to write down and I’m constantly scribbling words and phrases in notebooks and capturing ideas on my phone.”
Georgas was born in Ontario and played in her first bands there in high school. It wasn’t until she moved to Vancouver for university that she really considered music as an option and her career took off. After recording a bunch of demos, she released her debut EP The Beat Stuff in 2009. CBC Radio 3 played the songs and picked her as its 2009 Bucky Award winner for Best New Artist. This led to landing some synchs in a couple of commercials. That’s when the buzz began; 11 years on it has not stopped.
Ch-ch-ch-changes … we are all afraid of them. And yet, they happen whether we like them or not. Sometimes they are good, sometimes bad. Regardless of the feeling these changes elicit, with them usually comes growth or life lessons. For Georgas, a piling up of changes in her life (a move from Vancouver to Toronto, a break-up, and a change in record companies from Dine Alone Records to Arts & Crafts/Brassland) inspired the songs that ended up on her latest record All That Emotion—her fourth full-length, written in the confines of her small Toronto apartment. The result is one of Georgas’s most personal records yet. The 11-songs mine familiar themes for the singer-songwriter, but her vulnerability, which she does not shy away from, is at its heart.
For All That Emotion, Georgas enlisted The National’s Aaron Dessner, who unbeknown to the Canadian songwriter was also producing Taylor Swift’s 2021 Grammy Album of the Year winner Folklore at the same time. Just like Swift, Georgas had been a long-time fan of Dessner’s indie-rock band; she admired their production and craft. She reached out to the artist via management for the first time in 2016 with the hopes that they could connect, share some ideas, and maybe—fingers crossed—at some point collaborate. “Their music has always inspired me as a songwriter,” Georgas says. “Collaborating with people is also one of the most exciting parts of being a musician … it’s such an invigorating feeling.”
Email conversations followed; eventually, they found time in each other’s schedules to meet—and get to work—in 2018. Dessner added new layers and unfamiliar sonic sounds to Georgas’s minimalistic approach to songwriting. One of the many standout tracks from this collaboration is the piano ballad “Pray it Away,” which Georgas later re-released as a duet with Dessner’s bandmate Matt Berninger.
“That Emotion” is another cut from All That Emotion that lingers long. It started as an instrumental Dessner emailed Georgas. “I listened to it a bit then tucked it away,” the singer-songwriter recalls. “Then an experience I had inspired a strong feeling. I opened that demo up and just started to play some stuff on the piano, taking the chord progressions Aaron had put on the demo and the song just kind of arrived.”
With the pandemic carrying on, the 38-year-old Georgas has had more time to reflect, to write, and to pause and wait for songs to arrive. Over the last 20 months, with the live music industry on hold, and very few tour dates and in-person concerts, she had ample time off the road to immerse herself in her art. After playing a bunch of stripped-down virtual shows, following the release of All That Emotion, Georgas decided to rework some of these songs in a more acoustically inclined way.
“I thought it would be really nice to record these versions and mark a time, place, and the feeling of how the songs took on a new shape live throughout the pandemic,” she explains. Georgas worked with JUNO-nominated composer Graham Walsh to produce this reworking; she then enlisted friends and frequent collaborators like multi-instrumentalist Christine Bougie and violin virtuoso Drew Jurecka to add to the sound. The result, released this past September, was All That Emotion (Acoustic). Georgas followed the release with a string of seven Ontario concerts––her first time playing live since early 2020––before COVID-19 and the Omicron variant shut things down once again.
Six months into the pandemic, the singer-songwriter moved from Toronto to Picton, Ontario—a popular arts enclave in Prince Edward County about 160 kilometres from the Big City. The move was needed. Georgas decided she wanted more space to allow her creativity to flourish and lessen her anxieties. She realized that dream in Toronto was impossible. After searching all along the 401 to find something that fit their budget, Hannah and her partner recently found a place to settle down when they bought a house in Belleville.
“I had been living in the heart of Toronto for a few years and definitely was feeling more anxious there and the pandemic did not help,” Georgas reflects. “We were looking at other places in the city, hoping for more space … I really wanted to buy something, but knew I couldn’t afford it.”
The songwriter is now happy in Belleville in a house she and her partner are excited to make a home. Looking ahead, Georgas plans to do some renovations and eventually build a studio/workspace separate from the house. Until then, the added space and quiet have allowed her time to create so expect a new Georgas release soon. “I’ve been writing a lot!” she concludes. “Right now, I think I have about 10 new songs. My goal is to start recording an album early in 2022. I just needed time to separate from the last record and all the things I wanted to do with it and come up with some new stuff.
“My focus now is getting back into the studio,” Georgas adds. “I’m really excited about the new songs. It’s hard to describe what they are exactly, but they feel like the best things I’ve done.”
The Beat Stuff (EP, 2009)
This Is Good (2010)
Hannah Georgas (2012)
For Evelyn (2016)
Imprints (2019 – Digital Only)
All That Emotion (2020)
All That Emotion (Acoustic) EP (2021)