'We had to break George all over again': Columbia's No.1 ambitions for George Ezra's big comeback

'We had to break George all over again': Columbia's No.1 ambitions for George Ezra's big comeback

George Ezra is on a roll as he releases sophomore album Staying At Tamara’s today (March 23). The single Paradise is battling for a Top 3 finish on this week’s chart, so the singer-songwriter could be in with a chance of doing the double and topping both albums and singles next Friday (March 30).

Staying At Tamara’s is the follow-up to Ezra’s 2014 debut Wanted On Voyage, which has OCC sales to date of 1,235,356. While topping that tally is going to be tough, Columbia UK’s head of marketing Alex Eden-Smith is bullish about its prospects in the latest issue of Music Week. Here, he gives us the inside story on Ezra’s big comeback…

What are your hopes for this record?

Obviously, our ambitions are very high. We see this as the standout priority release for us this year, domestically. We’ve obviously had a lot of success with that first album. We want to replicate that and take it beyond that. We want to solidify George as an artist that’s going to be hanging around for many albums - and hopefully decades - to come. We think that his creativity and his artistic output merits that - he has a knack for writing songs that have integrity but a wide appeal to different demographics. If we can get things to line up around that, then there’s no reason why this album shouldn’t hang around all of this year. Our ambition is for the album to still be in play into Christmas and beyond.

It was quite tough for him to follow up such a huge debut…

Absolutely. It’s that difficult second album thing, but it’s a really great record. It’s quite varied as well, it’s not all one pace. It’s bringing something quite different than what we’ve heard in the past from George. For Me, Hold My Girl is a real standout - it’s kind of a gut-wrencher. There’s another track called Saviour, which features First Aid Kit and, again, it is something completely different.

So does the album show another side to him as a songwriter?

Yeah, I think so. It’s got the hallmarks of the George Ezra that we love lyrically, and with his voice, but I think it’s a step on to slightly different influences. It does feel a bit bigger, and there are some more heartfelt moments. I think Hold My Girl is the most directly emotional song we’ve had from him. Some of them are a bit more bombastic and bigger-sounding. But there are some lovely moments in between. There is kind of a thread of a Paul Simon influence you can hear throughout the album.

Was the campaign affected by last summer’s comeback single Don’t Matter Now failing to make the Top 40?

I think that track was really about having a new piece to go out and start playing live. At the time, he had some songs written for the album but he was still working on it. He toured over the summer and than spent the autumn finishing the album, really finessing and making sure that he was absolutely happy with it. Having music out in the marketplace was a nice little kind of test to see where the audience was. I think we’ve always felt like we had to go out and break George all over again. We know there are lots of people out there who are aware of George and love him, but we need to remind them all over again why he is so great. I think that’s happening. He went through a kind of transformation, and it’s clear that people seem to feel like he’s stepped up a bit - he’s a more rounded artist now.

How does his podcast George Ezra & Friends - featuring Ed Sheeran, Craig David and Rag’N’Bone Man - fit into this campaign?

That was completely his own initiative. Going out and talking to other musicians and creative people, I think he found it really inspiring and it really invigorated him. It’s been a nice part of the campaign. George is just a really warm, funny, nice guy to be around, but you don’t always get the opportunity to show that to people. Actually, having a bit of his personality out there in the world has helped, rather than it just being solely about the music.

How are pre-orders - are you confident of another No.1 album?

Certainly the ambition is for a No.1 album. Pre-orders are pretty healthy at the moment. We need to get George and his personality and music out there, so people realise there’s a well-rounded artist, songwriter and musician there. We’re lucky that he happens to be really likeable - he just has a really engaging personality.

To read the Music Week print article on George Ezra, subscribers can click here.

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