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It’s been four years since a confident 22 year old, wearing a leopard pattern button-up and wide brim hat, swaggered into a recording session I was helping to curate in Bali, Indonesia. It was the Invitational Group Songwriters Camp and she was writing for her debut EP through Parlophone Records, a London-based sub of Warner Music Group. She eyes and smiled at every top-ten hit-maker in the room, her aura oozed rock star.
Today, Georgi Kay walks into an understated Los Angeles café, nestled in the community-centric neighborhood of Los Feliz, wearing a subtle outfit consisting of black denim, a black turtle neck sweater, and a black knit cap. The only pop of color is the gold rims from the classic Ray-Bans she is sporting. It’s not just her look that’s evolved. Her entire presence is warmer and more subdued in a quiet intelligence. Basically, GK—as she is affectionately known by fans and friends—has grown up.▼ Article continues below ▼
After leaving her major label post 2016’s Origins EP, she moved from London, spent some time in her native Australia, and finally made her way to Los Angeles. Her separation from a major label isn’t a new story, so we won’t bore you with the details. It was the classic: creative difference, change in A&R, etc. While disappointing, not an original enough story to dwell on, and so Georgi Kay doesn’t either.
“It feels like a different person lived that life because it’s been such a big growth in between,” GK explains. The Grammy-nominated artist, and ARIA winner for Best Dance Record for the 2012 single “In My Mind,” recounts her journey from UK/Australian it-girl to the indie-pop and self-produced artist that calmly sits in front of me this afternoon, sipping a hot tea.
“It was exciting, I was young. Everyone wanted a piece of you—like a piece of cake,” she says with a classic dad-joke dry humor, “and then, no one remembers you.”
She continues, “It has been a bit of a battle for my ego but I’m glad that I experienced all that stuff, over all.”
As she settled in LA, keeping her longtime manager Stephen King—the other one—Kay rebuilt a small but loyal team to reset, as well has her writing process.
“Without even realizing it, I think I was doing a lot of backseat driving with production,” when remembering co-writing sessions, the standard writing process in the pop-lane. “[But I wondered], why am I never feeling fulfilled, why am I never truly happy with my releases? [I thought] because they sound like someone else.”
So, the self-discovering artist took to YouTube to learn how to produce her own records, first on GarageBand and then graduating to Ableton. Borrowing tricks from past producers she worked with, trial and error, and from “a lot of thirteen year old Swedish kids, to be honest,” she was able to capture exactly what she envisioned her sound to be, from top to bottom, topline to track.
The awards and attention were never the end goal for GK, early attention from competitions like the Independent Music Awards, WAM Song of the Year, and the Myspace/Sony National Songwriting competition may have given her her start but it was never her driving force. “That’s not what I sought out to make music for. So, it was nice to humble myself and just write from genuine feeling and emotion.” And that sentiment was the foundation of what would become her debut full-length, Where I Go To Disappear.
Released in the fall, the record is an intimate electronic-pop diary of Georgi Kay’s process of moving on. Not only from a label, but the conceptual ideals of moving on from all things that cause resistance, be it business, relationships, location or otherwise.
Opening the album with “Heavenly Gates,” a composition penned while still residing in London, this was the only track resurrected and revamped from her prior life. It acts as a bridge between the major label era and her new DIY world. The haunting imagery found in “Toxins” and “Scary People” partnered with a danceable synth-heavy soundscapes, both tell sad but relatable mini auto-biographies. To contrast, the anthemic brass-sampled “Lone Wolf” describes a universal feeling of isolation over an uplifting hook that gives listeners a chorus of empowered independence.
Everything about this album is genuinely and distinctly Georgi Kay, taking pieces from every aspect of her life and dropping it into her music. “I’m a big gamer, and a lot of games have a ton of puzzles and problem solving, [it’s] this cryptic piece of data that’s been presented to you and you have to figure it out.”
To Georgi, this is what her music is, “to have ambiguous and symbolic music and videos, it’s a way for anyone to relate to, in their own way; its open. But also, there are hidden messages [in the lyrics], and that’s me. That’s what I’ve been through. This is what I’ve done. This is what I still love about myself, even if it’s not a good thing to love, but I’m okay with it, I’ll accept it.”
This is Where I Go to Disappear, both the album and the psychology behind it.
Having shared a stage with Ed Sheeran, Tash Sultana, Peter Bjorn and John and her recently announced opening slot for recording artist LP in 2019, Georgi is no stranger to the live stage. “There’s an adrenaline that the crowd gives you. And that silence in between songs makes me nervous.” When talking about the live aspect, with no surprise, she says, “I like being uncomfortable because it keeps me on my toes.” Now a self-made LA-artist, she is a staple on the local venue circuit and is quickly doing the same in the NYC club scene.
Six years after its original release, “In My Mind” continues to be a flagship song for Georgi Kay. Its recent remix by Lithuanian DJ Dynoro has once again spiked her unique vocal and topline to nearly half a billion streams across platforms worldwide.
Rather than red carpet events and guest spots on popular televisions shows, GK has her priorities set: it is about the message. She knows exactly who she is, and is ready to introduce herself to the world. “I just want people to feel something at the end of the day. What I think is the best thing about releasing music, and this album in particular, is the discussion after.”
So please, in the name of Georgi Kay, listen, and discuss amongst yourselves.
Follow on Twitter @georgikay
Photos by Monika Sedziute