Transition can be awfully intimidating, especially if you’ve gotten comfortable, but as an artist, it can sometimes bring fresh ideas out of the conflict of change. Consider, on top of this, the internal troubles of anxiety and depression, and this conflict can be overbearing but not if you channel it like Vancouver-Toronto artist Hannah Georgas has done to craft her powerful third album For Evelyn.
“I’ve always found that songwriting is a very cathartic process for me, I have to attach myself to it and get very personal,” says Georgas. “Even if it’s not about me I have to relate to it, it comes naturally to me and feels good.”
This is significant given the album’s dedication to Georgas’ grandmother who at 99 is an inspiration to the songstress. “The record’s very much about my struggles and fears, and overcoming them, she’s past all that,” says Georgas. “I started thinking a lot about her, what she means to me, the influence she’s been on me my whole life, what she’s been through and seen, and how much things have changed over the last 100 years.”
The biggest transition facing the Toronto native when writing this record was leaving Vancouver, her second home, which shaped her into the artist she is today. “I left home after high school, to get my own space, time, maybe get away from my family a little bit, and I was going through a lot,” says Georgas. “So I moved to B.C. and found my home, incredible friends, and an incredible, supportive music scene.”
But as much as she wanted space when she left, home was the strongest thing pulling her back. “I felt as the years passed that I wanted to be closer to my family, I also work with a lot of people in Toronto and I was always coming out for music and having a blast every time I came back,” admits Georgas. “I wanted to spend more time getting to know the city and start a new chapter for myself.”
Part of that chapter involved moving away from guitar, the instrument that Georgas built her music around until now, and write music on a synthesizer. “I just know my way around it way more than a guitar, and I wanted to explore that a lot more on a record,” says Georgas.
“I fell in love with this synth I had. I messed around with different patches, and tried producing a bit more,” says Georgas. This also led to the surprising amount of saxophone on the record: “I discovered a saxophone preset on the synth, and I’d been working on a completely different idea for ‘Rideback’ all day, getting nowhere, and I found that, after that it took an hour to write.”
But don’t be fooled, no synthesizer sounds as good as the saxophone on For Evelyn, and there’s a reason. “We ended up hiring an awesome sax player to replicate what I had played on the demos and then we said ‘why don’t you try playing on other songs on the record,'” explains Georgas on how the saxophone ended up on more of the record than originally intended.
Helping Georgas leave this comfort zone was producer, and F*cked Up member, Graham Walsh. “He can go way far beyond the world that I know, he finds synth sounds, and he helps me look at my music in a different way,” says Georgas, who sees Walsh’s explorative outlook as important to the process. “I have patterns and melodies where I’ll keep going back to, and he helps challenge me in that regard. He brings different ideas to the table, which is good for me.”
One habit Georgas plans on sticking to, however, is her work with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. “My dad suffered for years from Type 2 diabetes, I felt it a lot seeing what he had to go through with the disease and he passed away five years ago, so it’s pretty close to me.” Georgas donated her first licensing proceeds to the cause.
Georgas also acts as an ambassador for Music Heals, which supports music therapy for children and adults around Canada. Music therapy is something Georgas has employed first hand. “I was on the path to doing that in university, so I stand by it a lot. They do really amazing things.”
Of course with her record dedication, the most important thing to Georgas right now is family, so how does the titular Evelyn feel about it all? “My mom and I were visiting her, and I gave her my vinyl. My mother told her the record was named after her and she said ‘Why?'” laughs Georgas. “She started crying and said ‘thank you,’ and of course the water works started and we all started crying and that was a very special moment to me.”