Travelling proves inspiration for troubadour George Ezra ahead of Sheffield show

George Ezra.
George Ezra.
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It has taken four years from his eponymous chart-topping debut album, but George Ezra has finally shared his second record.

The third best-selling artist of 2014 has returned, after a frustrating delay, with his second album, Staying At Tamara’s – again topping the UK charts.

“I find it really hard for this to feel like reality,” says the 24-year-old.

“And I find it really hard to not just be 14-year-old me in my head. Genuinely, it’s like an outer-body syndrome where I’m unable to go ‘this is me’.”

Schooled on the likes of Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie, George came of age when the British music scene was stifled with indie bands.

The son of teachers, he was born George Ezra Barnett in Hertford in 1993.

His first gig, other than S Club 7 when he was seven, fitted the indie billing – The Fratellis at Brixton Academy. He remembers getting caught up in a mosh pit before holding a girl’s hand at the side. He was aged 14.

Fourteen is also when he learned guitar and started writing songs.

“It definitely was that age where I found music,” he says. “There was a part of me discovering all this old American music alongside indie bands. We’d get ready to go to parties, go to parties, and end parties listening to indie bands and we loved it.”

Another pivotal moment was when he began dreaming of travelling – a theme dominant on his number-one debut, with songs such as breakthrough-hit Budapest.

Aside from family camping trips to Wales, he was yet to really explore anywhere with his friends.

That changed the summer before he turned 15. They started spending every sunny school break fishing or in a tent or simply walking.

The plan was to go further afield, but life, college and music got in the way.

He signed with Columbia at 19 and put the idea of travel on the back-burner until some wise words from his A&R prompted him to jump on a train across Europe.

“He told me I needed to not think I was anything other than what I was: a 19-year-old lad,” says George. “What would I be doing if there wasn’t a company I owed a record to?

That inter-railing trip inspired Wanted On Voyage and Ezra took the idea a step further for the follow-up.

He failed to write anything when touring for the first time, saying: “I was just trying to get my head around everything else.”

So when he needed fresh inspiration he headed to Barcelona, staying with Airbnb host Tamara, earning her naming rights on the album title.

He blames himself for the album delay, describing it as a light at the end of a “frustrating tunnel”.

He says: “I took it for granted that there were songs on the first record that I wrote when I was 14. Also you have to be selfish when you’re writing music. You have to just please yourself, instead of thinking ‘well what would this group of people think’ or ‘what would that person think’. That’s not going to help you out.”

But despite his success, George isn’t a natural pop star, baulking at the idea of becoming as huge as Ed Sheeran or Sam Smith.

“I definitely don’t want to be that big,” he says. “I don’t think I would fare well with that level of fame.”

“I used to say on the first album, ‘if this never happens again, I’m still happy’. This has happened and things that have happened can’t be taken away from you. So I do have that mentality.

“And I’m also aware what happened on the first record was insane. I don’t think that’s normal. It’s not like I look at what it did and go, ‘well yeah, duh’. I look at it and still think ‘how did that happen.’.

“The fact I get to work in music, every day, is a triumph. That’s mad. And I think the reason music appealed to me is it wasn’t competitive and I’m not competitive. I don’t fare well in competitive situations. So if I can tour, if I can maintain that for a long period of time, that’d be great.”

George Ezra plays Sheffield’s Don Valley Bowl on Saturday, August 18. For tickets, see leadmill.co.uk