Hannah Georgas has today released a new version of one of her standout album tracks, ‘Pray It Away’. With her album ‘All That Emotion’ produced by The National’s Aaron Dessner, today’s new cut sees her team up with his bandmate Matt Berninger, who adds some lush vocals and a new depth to the song.
We caught up with Georgas on the phone from her native Canada to hear more about the collaboration, heartbreak, same sex marriage, Dessner’s Taylor Swift secret, and her plans for the future.
Hi Hannah, how are you coping with the new normal?
Hannah Georgas: “I was living in Toronto but I moved out to the country. It alleviated a lot of anxiety for me. When I was living in the city during the pandemic, there was this edge that I constantly felt. I feel lucky that I’ve been able to just get some space and I don’t feel as stressed so much. For or the most part, I’ve just been staying close to home and not doing too much as far as going out is concerned.”
Your new album ‘All That Emotion’ received a great response on its release back in September…
“It’s been four years or so since I’ve put out any original music, so it really felt like it was time. I started making the record with Aaron [Dessner] in 2018 so I was really anxious to put it out.”
Did you have any inkling that Aaron was also producing Taylor Swift’s ‘Folklore’ at the same time as your album?
“I didn’t: absolutely nobody knew. He told me he was working on a big project, but he wasn’t allowed to talk about it. He wasn’t even allowed to tell the daughter, who is a huge Taylor Swift fan. He had to keep it on the down low. His project with Taylor came out so quickly and it was amazing for him. It was such a cool thing and especially to do something like that during a pandemic.”
You’re releasing an EP next year where you’re re-working songs from your last album. Tell us about that…
“It’s a bunch of collaborations with friends of mine who have either remixed a song from the record or covered a song from the record. I’ve done a version of ‘Pray It Away’ with The National’s Matt Berninger, which is the first single from the EP.”
How did the collaboration with Matt come about?
“When Aaron and I were recording the album, we were working on ‘Pray It Away’ and he mentioned that it would be really great to have a male counterpart in the song. He said it would sound really nice and Matt’s name came up. I was like, ‘Wow, that’s really cool!’ We didn’t really act on it but when we were working on the record, Aaron asked if I’d be interested in opening some shows for The National and I ended up singing in their band.
“From that, I got to know Matt a little more. Some time after that, we reached out to Matt and asked if he’d be interested in trying to sing on it. He was up for it but then the pandemic hit, so everything was put on pause. He ended up going into the studio when things felt safe to do so and we finally made it happen.”
What do you think Matt brings to the song?
“The song is about feeling dismissed for who you are and feeling like you are not accepted, but I feel like Matt brings this huge comfort to the song. It’s like two people thinking about praying it away but can’t: ‘I can’t pray it away’. He adds this comforting element to something quite difficult; it’s two people singing about the same thing and [uniting] in that. I really loved The National’s music and have such a lot of respect for them. They were a big band in my youth too and I would run to a lot so having Matt on this means a huge amount.”
What is the song about?
“This was inspired by meeting up with a friend of mine and her being in the midst of planning a wedding and getting a response back from a family member saying that they wouldn’t attend because she’s marrying another woman. My friend and I had a cry over it and I could just really relate to her situation. I come from a very conservative background and I’ve just felt dismissed. I’m sure a lot of people have dealt with that same thing where you’ve felt dismissed for what you believe in or who you love, what your gender is, your race. The song is about that feeling but also believing in who you are and not needing acceptance from people who just don’t believe in you.”
Was it harder opening these new songs up to collaboration because of how personal they are?
“I don’t necessarily think so. I know that while I was writing this record, I was going through a lot of change and transition and that was tough. I moved from Vancouver – which is the West Coast of Canada where I spent 15 years of my life – and then I moved to Toronto and just settled in after touring my last album and it all sank in that I missed my home. I was going through a breakup and I was just reflecting a lot on just who I am and my habits and my family and why I act the way I do. I just was reflecting a lot and I think for me, I get inspired by things that personally affect me, whether it’s about me or something that I just can really relate to: it’s easier to write and share for me.”
Are you making any plans for touring again next year?
“Well, I have plans to tour, but I just don’t know if it can happen. We’ve started mapping out stuff for next fall, but nothing sooner than that. I actually did a real show just outside of Ottawa recently – a safe socially distanced show in a church, and there were 50 people that attended the show and I was singing behind plexiglass. Iy was very, very odd, but nice to do it in a real venue and not in front of a camera on a livestream. It’s weird to imagine what it will look like when we do go back.”
How did that show feel?
“I think music is needed more than ever right now. Even though for artists and musicians it is a tough time and it’s felt extremely weird that I can’t go play shows, travel, promote the record and see fans, I do feel like it’s an important time for people to have music and to be still releasing music. I think it’s been helpful and just listening to some of the new records that have really caught my ear has helped me a lot.”
What’s next for you?
“I’m starting to switch gears and my writing brain is turning back on. I’ve had little bursts of creativity throughout this time, but my mind has been so focused on putting out an album that I haven’t been writing too much. Now I feel like ideas are starting to come and I think I’ll definitely have some new stuff by the end of this winter.”
‘All That Emotion’ by Hannah Georgas is out now.