By Andrew Vincent
Close your eyes and imagine a tour bus parked outside a downtown music venue. It’s early in the morning.
The concert the night before wrapped up late. now, behind the dark paint and tinted windows of the bus, a couple of the musicians have woken up and are chatting sleepily. One turns to the other and asks, “Want to go for a burn?” Following that old rock ‘n’ roll stereotype, one might expect the musicians who emerge from that bus to be holding something to smoke, with maybe a beer for a chaser.
But then you wouldn’t be on Hannah Georgas’s tour bus, where “going for a burn”—a term coined by Georgas’s drummer Flavio, a runner—means hitting the road for a few kilometres of good old-fashioned cardio.
Indeed, for the 31-year old singer, songwriter, band leader, pop-song lover, multiple Juno Award nominee, and runner, the best remedy for a late night on tour is a strong cup of coffee and putting 10 kilometres on her trusty running shoes. And those running shoes have been seeing some serious international mileage, as Georgas’s compelling voice, love of a well-crafted pop song (you’ve likely had her songs stuck in your head without knowing it), and determination to get out there and perform to new audiences, has been winning her a growing legion of fans across Canada, the U.S. and Europe.
Georgas grew up in Newmarket, Ontario in a large family that was as passionate about sports as it was about music.“My dad was an amazing piano player and played professionally. I could tell that was the thing that made him the most inspired and happy. That definitely rubbed off on me,” says Georgas. “My mom put me in piano lessons. And I started writing songs at a young age.”But Georgas’s father also taught swimming lessons as a job, and her parents enrolled their four competitive daughters in a wide range of athletic pursuits including swimming, figure skating and basketball. “I’m a fish,” says Georgas, who has a triathlon on her to-do list.
Self-described as “more of
a sprinter” in her school days, Georgas’s distance running habit formed a few years ago while the now Vancouver-based artist was on a four-month tour supporting the well-known Canadian singer-songwriter Kathleen Edwards. “When I was out on tour with Kathleen, Jim Bryson [another songwriter who was playing in Edward’s band] and I made a pact to run 10K every other day. We’d wake up and grab coffee and then go for a run. It was a great way to refresh. Going for a burn.” She laughs, “I was in better shape on the road than at home.” Home in Vancouver isn’t something Georgas has been seeing a lot of lately. In 2014 alone, Georgas has opened for City
and Colour across the U.S. and Europe, played the Great Escape in Brighton, Europe’s leading festival for new music, and has just returned from a five-week U.S. amphitheater tour supporting
the million-album selling Sara Bareilles.
It’s all part of a plan to push hard and take opportunities as they come, even if that means putting off writing a new record for a few months. Says Georgas, “gaining traction in the U.S. is a hard shell to crack” but it’s an important step to forward her career.
Her most recent album, the self-titled “Hannah Georgas”, was released in 2012 and was nominated for the 2013 Juno for Alternative Album of the Year (Georgas was also nominated for Songwriter of the Year). With the recent placement of the song “Millions” in the hit television show Girls, it’s an album that continues to be heard by new audiences, especially in the U.S. The tour with Bareilles, who hand-picked Georgas as an opener, felt like a particular milestone for the artist. It “opened my eyes a bit,” said Georgas of what an accomplishment it is to be able play for up to 10,000 people a night at “gorgeous venues” like the Greek Theatre in Berkeley.
When asked about long-term goals, Georgas says that playing rooms like the Greek as a headliner would be a big one. “To have that accomplishment in the States is a goal. The dream is to continue what I’m doing, to keep putting out records, to keep having opportunities.” Asked whether she listens to music when she runs, Georgas admits to not being firmly in one camp or the other. “It’s a mixture of both. I find that it’s really fun to listen to music while running. And then sometimes it’s nice to run without it and clean out the brain.” Most importantly, Georgas says that running has evolved into more than just a great way to stay happy and healthy while on the road; it has also become a key part of her songwriting toolkit.
“Running for me is also a writing tool. It’s another form of inspiration. I get a lot of ideas when I run. It’s a meditative process. Sometimes I have to stop and pull out my phone and jot down lyrics and ideas.” The other time Georgas stops mid-run is when a slow song comes on when climbing a hill—something many runners will identify with. It’s at those times the artist searches for some hip-hop on her iPod, with Kanye West’s “Power” being a particular favourite.
Now, as Georgas sits down (and laces up) to write her next album over the coming months, we can look forward to what new sounds this potent combination of international touring experience, wide range of artistic influences (check out Hannah’s running playlist for some favourites), and yes, love of running, will produce. Ready to go for a burn down by the Seawall?