He’s been on our radar for two whole years thanks to The Indie Curator’s incredible discovery, we recently praised his talents in our Best Features of November list and last week he was picked up for the Blog Sound of 2016. Well, what more can we really say about George Cosby. This is where interviews come in handy. We decided to catch up with the dulcet-toned performer to hear his take on this sudden rise to popularity which all began two months ago when he posted the first of three EP tracks “Ritual Blush”. What we found out is that this London-based talent is incredibly humble, passionate about music and has a keen eye on the future. Not to mention that his New Year’s resolution is one we should all be taking note of.
Let’s start off by talking about the new EP - Human Touch - when did the writing process behind that start?
So I started this whole thing a year ago, I just decided to start writing and then we recorded that in about May, so it was quite a long wait to do anything with it. I wanted to get into a good position where there was a lot of material to work with, and then I felt like it was the right time to put something online. “Ritual Blush” was the first song I wrote for the EP and all the tracks were quite early days, maybe “State Of Undress” came a bit later.
It only has three tracks, as opposed to the usual four for an EP, what’s the reason behind that decision?
I felt like a lot of EPs I had listened to were just singles with some other tracks, but I wanted to treat it more as a body of work. The three tracks are linked together subject-wise and sonically all a bit different. I wanted to make them all songs I could be proud of in some way. I’ve listened to a lot of EPs and it’s a question of how many tracks do you give away? Hozier recently, all his EP tracks were really strong. I didn’t think there would be any harm in putting songs I actually liked on it.
Do you think that’s a general belief for you, not to do what everyone else in the music industry is doing?
Erm, not really… I wouldn’t ever do something like that on purpose. I would do something differently if I thought it was the right thing to do. Literally, this is just the start, I only put a few tracks online a few months ago, so I don’t know what the future holds, but I definitely don’t want to change in terms of the way I approach my work. When I started, I was just trying to write something that I felt to me was real and honest in some way.
“I was just trying to write something that I felt to me was real and honest in some way.”
And do you have a favourite track on the EP?
Oh, it’s changed actually! It definitely was “Vacant Grace”. I didn’t actually like “State Of Undress” when I wrote it, but it’s grown on me quite a bit, so maybe that one now.
That’s unusual not to like one of your own songs, surely?
I don’t know... I remember when I wrote the chorus I thought “this is rubbish!” and suddenly one day I thought, “oh, I quite like it.” [Laughs]
Well, I like that one as well! So, did you expect the EP to be as welcomed as it has been?
I really didn’t know what to expect at all, especially as it was all self-released. I didn’t really have a clue how people would react to it, but I believe in the songs. The blog world has been pretty kind, so that’s cool.
That actually leads onto my next question - how big a role have online publications played in the success of the EP?
Well, I don’t know how successful it is, but they’ve definitely played a massive role so far. I kind of thought they would in the first place, I don’t think it’s something that’s necessarily commercial - I hope that there are some commercial elements that people can identify with - but I thought it would be quite bloggy to begin with. They’ve been really great, I woke up yesterday and I saw I’ve been put on the Blog Sound of 2016. There seems to be a number of publications that have really got behind the music. I’m sure with all of these things it’s like marmite, some people like it, some people don’t, but the ones who have seem to be really supportive all the time.
Two of the tracks (“State Of Undress” and “Ritual Blush”) were premiered by Clash Magazine, so do you think things like premieres are a ‘must’ in today’s music industry?
I don’t think so, but if you get really good luck on a premiere it can help, especially in this very stat-driven world, so maybe in that sense it’s important to have them. I don’t think it drives whether it makes something successful.
One thing I noticed from Clash and lots of the other blogs is that they were mentioning one of your inspirations as Jeff Buckley, where’s that connection come from?
I just love him! I would loved to have seen what he would have gone on to do. What’s really interesting is that I believe everything he said. His voice - we obviously have very different voices - but it was amazing! And some of the ways he structured songs were really interesting. There’s a structure to songs that is often thought of as the way things should be, but people like Hozier come in with “Take Me To Church”, which doesn’t follow a particular structure but has a hell of a chorus! It seems like if you can come back to a big chorus once in awhile, it doesn’t really matter what structure you have, like Jeff Buckley, you know? Every time I try to learn from people, try to analyse the songs and think “how are doing this? how are they doing that?” When I was listening to Jeff Buckley, I just couldn’t even tell what was going on! It was all so great. There’s definitely elements that I’ve learnt from him, which is probably evident in the music, but hopefully there’s a lot of other things too!
Do you usually look to the past for inspiration, or are there any newer acts that have caught your eye?
I just generally like music I think - as we all do!
Yep, that’s pretty much why we’re both here! [we laugh]
Yeah, I’m not sure anything is done consciously and there’s so many amazing new acts as well, but I don’t know in terms of inspiration. One thing I’ve found which is interesting vocally is that there are a lot of artists around who aren’t just singing, it’s really a passionate performance and they seem to really live what they’re saying. If you look at Future Islands…
That’s the perfect example!
Yeah, and Britney from Alabama Shakes. They’re really phenomenal performers and I think that’s pretty amazing.
Obviously, you’re living in London at the moment, so you must be coming across new acts all the time! What do you think it is about the city that breeds this culture?
Everything really! You would think that because it’s so expensive here struggling artists would be somewhere else, but there does seem to be so many amazing bands here. What’s really nice is that even though the city is absolutely massive, the music industry isn’t that big, so all of these people who are rising up the ranks, you do bump into them every once in awhile. In that sense, it’s really cool. There are a few promoters in London who really do take care of developing, younger acts, like Communion who did that for me and are still doing it. It’s a good place to be.
Is the city also a source of creativity for your music?
There’s definitely a lot of inspiration out there. I try to spend at least one day a week just wandering around the city and going to galleries or any event that’s on, because there’s so many amazing things you can see. I went to this exhibition at Brewer Street Car Park in Soho, it was called The Visitors by this Scandinavian musician/artist and I just sat there mesmerized, went home and wrote a song. There’s a lot of things to see, but you have to go out and find it.
To go back to the EP, and it’s something that you’ve already mentioned, it leans towards feelings of darkness, melancholy, and even pain at points. How central are these emotions to your music?
I definitely do focus on emotions qutie a lot, but it’s quite an interesting shift in the order that the songs were written. “Ritual Blush” was written first, “Vacant Grace” was written second, and “State Of Undress” was written third and it was an interesting journey. They were break-up songs and so the mood gets slightly easier as you go through them. It was really cathartic. Song-writing is a great way to get rid of emotion. You can get it out into a song and you don’t necessarily have to think about it again. It’s a place where you can express things you might not be able to express in real life. I wouldn’t go moan like that to my friends, but I can put it in a song. Those emotions are definitely a part of the music, but hopefully as it all develops, there will be other things as well.
“Song-writing is a great way to get rid of emotion.”
I actually didn’t hear those as break-up songs, so that’s really interesting to hear.
Well, yeah, “Vacant Grace” is definitely.
Okay, I’ll have to re-listen! Obviously, those are quite raw emotions, but do you think there’s a lack of “real emotion” in modern music? Especially in comparison to role models like Jeff Buckley.
Yeah, I would say there is. I think there’s more of a lack of focus on the lyrical subject, which for a lot of people comes last, whereas for me it kind of comes first. I’m not sure, maybe that’s more in the commercial side of music, I wouldn’t expect it to be all over Radio 1. There are still a lots of lyrical bands. I listen to The National a lot.
What’s your favourite album?
It changes all the time, but at the moment it actually goes back to Alligator. Probably High Violet too.
That’s mine! Especially recently as it’s got darker and colder, I’ve been listening to it so much more.
I do like the new one as well, but perhaps not quite as much as High Violet.
Obviously, lyrics are very important to you and one lyric I picked up on in “State Of Undress” was “we’re here to be loved, we’re here to be judged”, which I read as a comment on life in general, but I was wondering what’s your interpretation?
Similar. “State Of Undress” is about the concept of relationships. When you’re not in one you’re quite closed off and once you do get to know someone and trust someone the barriers do come down. At that point, you’re both physically naked and mentally naked, that’s what “State Of Undress” meant for me. We’re all here to be loved, and once you’re open, we’re here to be judged as well. That’s why we’re all so nervous about letting our guards down and for people to see you as you are - which is another lyric from the song.
You were first discovered on HumanHuman by The Indie Curator two years ago, so what has changed since then? Like, how did that even happen?
I had this demo I did when I was younger that I put up on SoundCloud and I wasn’t really doing music at that point, I didn’t have much of an aim or anything. He must have found it randomly, which was nice, so I had to do some catch up and actually write! [laughs] It’s really nice how he’s messaged me and got back in touch since I’ve actually put some real stuff up, and it’s pretty amazing to be featured!
Is your music now very different from two years ago?
Yeah. That song was just a piano and vocal I think, in a similar vein to “Vacant Grace” but less good.
Well, he must have heard something he liked!
It was just a lot less mature and developed. Then I started doing the bigger songs as well with lots of instruments, but it was similar I guess.
We’re pretty much at the end of the year now, so what are you looking forward to in 2016?
So much! I can’t wait to play lots of shows, that’s the main aim. I want to keep releasing stuff and work towards an album, that would be amazing. In the build up of this last year, I did a lot of solo shows, which I still do and I love, but I played my first band show a week ago and that was a lot of fun. It will be good to get on the road with those guys and play live. Game of Thrones is coming out, so that will be great! [we laugh]
You’ve got your priorities in order!
[laughing] Yeah! And festival season. Hopefully we’ll be busy and that will be a lot of fun. I was lucky enough to do a few this year. What are you looking forward to?
Oh, I don’t know! [laughing] Not doing my year of end lists!
I haven’t really thought of any resolutions, so I need to do that.
I don’t need to do anything!
[laughs] It’s all perfect right now!
I just haven’t thought of anything, have you got any ideas?
To enjoy things a bit more I think. Everyone is so focussed on getting to the goal and working for what they want that they don’t necessarily enjoy it. Especially in music, I’m lucky enough to be doing it now. It’s pretty special and it can be over in a complete flash, so make sure you enjoy it.