We spoke to Georgia Barnes, who releases music under her first name, for a Mercury Prize feature in the new issue of Music Week, as she offered up her thoughts on what the event means in 2020 alongside a cast including Warner Records president Phil Chrisite, Moses Boyd, Partisan MD Zena White and the management teams behind Charli XCX, Kano, Michael Kiwanuka and more.
Barnes, who released her second record Seeking Thrills in January, charting at No.24, said her place on the shortlist came as a welcome boost at a time when she’s not been able to tour the record as planned. Here, in an extract from our Q&A, she reflects on all things Mercury…
What did it mean to be nominated?
“It’s a massive, incredible surprise. It’s really helped. Because of not having the live shows and not playing to new audiences, it’s really helped with the campaign, keeping the album going and introducing me to some more audiences. Also, the accolade of just being nominated is a real achievement and I feel very proud. It’s great for the team, my manager [Jeannette Lee], who’s been with me for so long and you sort of go, ‘It will come, it will come’ and when stuff works it’s a sense of achievement. It’s a massive pat on the back, I’m so glad this album has connected with people and done the thing I wanted it to. For my first record, I had these quite unrealistic expectations, I just thought everyone always makes it on their first record and that’s not the case. It gave me the momentum and drive to do this second one. I didn’t know what it was going to do, I expected a few people to listen to it or a couple of magazines to review it. In the back of your mind you hope it connects and does something, so I feel proud and relieved that that’s happened.”
So you’ve had tangible effects because of the shortlist?
“We’ve had a real increase in Spotify followers and in areas of social media. This is quite a challenging year, obviously you’re battling against people’s lives being affected by coronavirus. But I think the beauty we’ve seen in this whole time is that music has made people’s lives a bit better. While it feels a bit of a strange year, I think it’s going to prove quite entertaining for people. Hopefully it goes down OK.”
Music has made people’s lives a bit better this year
How different does the Mercury Prize feel against the backdrop of 2020?
“It’s interesting; I suppose the Mercury was always a party. The artists that were up for the Mercury in the 90s, there was a lot of excess, it was about being a bit rock‘n’roll, my mum and dad were there at a couple of them and you’d always hear about the shindigs and what happened. Over the years, awards ceremonies have changed in general, from the excess of the ’90s to being a bit more well behaved and trying to be a bit more credible in terms of behavior. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not why I make music, I do it for other reasons. But, at the same time, you are thinking, ‘Oh yeah, it’d be nice to get dressed up and go to an awards ceremony!’ Obviously this year that’s not going to be the case and it is a shame. If you weigh it up, this year has been very strange, so maybe it’s fitting that there isn’t the typical awards ceremony structure and it is done with a bit more thought about what everyone’s been through. It’s going to be interesting to see the reactions. It’s more about the audience than going to a ceremony for the artist, which is quite cool actually. It’s about a programme people will watch and we’re the same, we’re in with the public. It’s a cool way of looking at it because we’ve all been through the same thing this year. Awards ceremonies, in some metaphorical way, provide escapism for people. I’m glad it’s happening.”