A new release from Melbourne act Georgia State Line is always an occasion for excitement, because the music is guaranteed to be interesting and intricate, beautifully sung by Georgia Delves and played by her and her band. Georgia State Line released an EP, Heaven Knows, in 2017, and now there is the debut album In Colour, and excitement is not misplaced on this occasion either – Delves and her cohort have created something that is musically and lyrically rich and satisfying. It is a progression from Heaven Knows, so the first question to ask Delves is what she has learnt in between the two.
‘I’ve learnt so much!’ she says with a laughs. ‘I think for the first EP, I had a collection of songs that I wanted to record and wanted to record in a particular way. Well, I had an idea about what I wanted to record and capture, but it was kind of just throwing things in [and] seeing will that work? It was a bit of a trial and error because I’d never really gone into a proper studio setting. I’d done recording before that but nothing really with a proper engineer, you know, expensive, paying for it! And I think it was really formative in deciding what my creative vision was and what I wanted to achieve … It was partly a learning process in recording the EP, but it’s been such a big learning process for me – and the band as well, but especially for my songwriting and leading up to this next album.’
Initially Delves thought Georgia State Line might ‘drip feed singles out and focus more on single releases rather than an album. We did “Dry My Tears” [in 2018] and we also recorded another song, at a different studio, which was “Bluebird”, but what you hear on the album was re-recorded. So we had those two songs at another studio and I thought, actually, I really do want to do an album and I want to take this album elsewhere, to the studio that we were originally working at. Which was nothing against the person that we were working with.
‘What I wanted to feel when I looked back on recording my first album was that I tried lots of different things, that I was in an environment that I knew it was going to be conducive to capturing a live performance that I really enjoyed. So we looked at going bush, ‘ she says, laughing. ‘We went to Mount Macedon [in Victoria] and recorded it with James Cecil at his studio there, which is in all the forest area of Macedon. So I think it was finding my feet and deciding what I wanted to do with the album. That was a big turning point deciding, okay, we actually are recording an album and we’re going to do it this studio.
‘We spent a majority of 2019 on weekends – because everyone works another job – we would come down on a Friday, stay till Sunday and camp at the studio and record it there. There was also a little hall right near James’s studio. It’s a big old kind of Scouts hall and we would shift all the recording gear from the main studio down into there. It was a really nice time and I felt really creative in the sense that I could try lots of things see how they sounded and if we didn’t like it we could pare it back.
‘So the first single, “From Down Here”, was released in 2019 – the first with the aim of “this is a single from the album”. And then the aim was to have another single and the album to follow in early 2020, but obviously the pandemic happened, so I decided to put a hold on it. So it turned out being a lot of time in between singles.’
Now that In Colour is out, Delves says, ‘I feel really happy in the fact that I decided to do an album. As a songwriter too, for me having sat on this album for so long, I’ve got pretty much another album ready to go – in the sense that I’ve got songs … I think I captured the songs [on In Colour] in a good window for myself as a songwriter. I was prepared to let all these songs have a life of their own, and I feel like if I was to hold onto something, a song that maybe didn’t make the record or save it for another time, I just probably wouldn’t be as inspired to go back to that story. I feel like I’ve got to capture it there and then, whether that might be just because of the sound of the song that I move on from being interested in it. Or maybe more the story, thinking, okay, I’ve let that have its time and I’m going to close that chapter and then move on to the next thing.’
Delves writes solo, then takes it to the band and they arrange it together for a live performance and then arrange it for recording.
‘Sometimes I’ll be stuck on something,’ says Delves, ‘and I’ll say to Pat [Wilson], “Hey, what do you think about this vibe for the song?” Because he comes from a percussion standpoint he might say, “I can hear it with this kind of beat”, and that might shape how I finished the song off. But it’s majority just myself and then it gets collaborative when I take it to the band and we work out everyone’s parts.’
When asked if she ever feels frustrated trying to translate what she wants in a song to the band, Delves laughs and says, ‘Definitely. I’m really bad at quoting things – I always muck up people’s quotes – but there’s definitely a quote out there that, something about true artistry and true musicianship is how quickly you can translate what an idea is in your head to everyone else. So what language and how you go about making that idea known and understood by everyone. And I think that’s something that also just comes with time, working with a lot of people, and knowing what you want.
‘I think in those early days, for me recording that first EP, I was trying lots of things and then the band would say, “Is it this?” And I’d say, “Er, no,” but then they’d try again. And obviously it’s so hard for them because I’m saying, “Oh, I don’t know how to say what I’m thinking.” But I think now I’ve definitely gotten better. I can definitely be better than I am now. I’m always wanting to grow and learn and develop, I hope to always do that. I think it’s just a skill that can you just keep working at.’
There is a line in the album’s opening track, ‘Every Time’, about how it’s never easy loving and letting go – which could, of course, apply to an album as much as anything. When asked if it’s been easy to let the album go out into the world, Delves says family and friends and the team she works with have been asking her, ‘How are you feeling now it’s out?’
‘And I don’t really know,’ she says. ‘You prepare everything for the release, but you don’t prepare yourself for it to be out. Especially throughout the pandemic and for two plus years, this has been a constant thought. We’re booking shows, or, The album’s going to be out soon. Oh, it’s going to be out soon. And it’s going to get delayed, delayed, delayed. Then there’s so much extra work that goes into getting it ready for release. I was driven to get it out. So I just put my head down and did lots of work for it.
‘But then I never thought about it being out,’ she says, laughing. ‘It’s been such a rollercoaster, I think. I was so happy and it felt like my birthday when it was released the other week, we had like a little celebration at home, me and my housemates, obviously we can’t leave and go too far [the album was released during Melbourne’s recent lockdown], but it feels really freeing and satisfying, but at the same time being a songwriter who wants to capture the next song that really emotes and hits people in the heart and has that next really catchy melody or hook, it’s another thing where I’m thinking, Okay, great. I’m happy with that. Let’s get back and do the next thing.
‘But I think I’ve learned a lot about patience. Patience is a virtue and good things take time, and maybe just to breathe for a bit, just relax. I think because I’ve been working at it for so long, there’s just always something to do, and then when I’m not doing something, I thinking, I’ve got to be doing something – this isn’t right. So I think I’m learning how to take a break and breathe and celebrate the little moments.’
The album ends with a bang, of sorts, on the title track. It’s a big song with a big sound, almost like an announcement – the sort of song that could well have worked as the opening track. When asked about this, Delves says, ‘I think that was always a song that I was going to end with. For me the whole album is about going through really shit times and then picking yourself up and having the strength to carry on, the ebbs and flows of experiences that I had during the time I was writing the album. But “In Colour” … I think I book-ended the album, in a sense. Even though “Every Time” in a way can be seen as a heartbreak song, loss. For me, the lens that I look at that song with is something of triumph and, and beauty and feeling okay with losing things. Because I don’t like change. Change really affects me. And I think “In Colour” captures the whole album’s arc and is the opposite end of the spectrum. Feeling happy and feeling overjoyed and moving on from things that maybe once previously held you back.’
Although Delves says she is affected by change, she has said elsewhere that the album is about inevitable change.
‘I do embrace change, but I don’t enjoy it,’ she explains with a laugh. ‘I can feel when change is coming and know that I’m going to have to do something and I’ll be happy once it’s done. But during that process, I’m not walking into it with open arms, but I know that it’s going to be better off if I do whatever it is that I need to do. I’m just very aware with change and I think, especially because the album was written and produced and recorded over a long period of time, I myself went through many changes, so when I look back on the songs now I look at them with a bit of a different lens. I still get the same sentiment from those songs that I intended to achieve when I wrote them. But maybe I look at them with kinder eyes … I don’t want to say the word “wise”, but I look at it and I don’t feel so hurt about some things that I wrote the songs about. I’ve learnt what I needed to from those songs and moved on in a certain sense. But I can appreciate them for what they are now rather than feeling kind of weighed down by some of the stories that the songs are about.’
Delves is a classically trained musician who could have had – still could have – her pick of musical genres to work in. Asked why she has chosen country music, she mentions the storytelling that is such a big part of the genre.
‘I really am drawn to big voices, big, powerful voices,’ she goes on. ‘One of my favorite singers at the moment is Sarah Klang. She’s a Swedish Americana artist, I think you’d say. And I just love pairing a voice with a really heavy-hitting line or something really hooky or catchy. There’s something about that that really hits me in the heart, I guess, even though in saying that it’s not necessarily akin to country music, but that’s when the instrumentation, the whole field of the music and the storytelling element element, all pair together to make what I believe is country music. I think it’s a mixture of all those things in country. But I think for me, when I sit down to write, I really am drawn to melodies and creating spaces in my music where I want my voice to sound a certain way or because of other things I’m inspired by, like Sarah Klang or other female singer-songwriters who do that really well in their own music.’
Of course, Delves herself has a powerful voice, and powerful stories to match – and In Colour is evidence of that. It may have taken longer to appear than originally planned, but there’s no time limit on music of such high quality – and besides, with that brace of new songs already written, we’re unlikely to have to wait too long for the next album.
In Colour is out now through Cheatin’ Hearts Records.