Georgia Fields and Phia, two of Melbourne’s brightest independent singer-songwriters have announced they are joining forces for an expansive Australian tour, headed to NightQuarter on Saturday 22 July. The tour will see indie-pop chameleon Georgia Fields and live-looping wunderkind Phia share the stage and each other’s songs, accompanying one another on everything from kalimba to casio, electric guitar to tambourine. The set will see the reimagining of each artists latest albums: Georgia Fields’ Astral Debris and Phia’s The Ocean of Everything. We shot some questions to the talented duo ahead of the gig.
Can you tell us a bit about how the idea for this tour came about?
GEORGIA: Phia and I met about 6 years ago, at an open mic night in Paris of all places! She had just relocated to Berlin, and I was making my way around Europe on a working holiday. I remember walking through the stone doorway of this tiny Parisian bar, and hearing an Australian voice call out to me. As it turned out, Phia and I knew a bunch of the same musicians and artists from our Melbourne scene, but it took going all the way to the other side of the world for us to actually meet each other. Years later, when I was working on my latest album Astral Debris, my producer Tim Shiel suggested getting Phia to do a guest spot on the song Open Orange. Phia was still living in Berlin at this stage, so she recorded in her home studio and we swapped audio files over the interwebs. It was the most surreal creative collaboration I’ve ever done, but I think it worked because our friendship and rapport was already so strong. Tim and I loved Phia’s contribution so much we made Open Orange (feat. Phia) one of the album’s singles.
PHIA: When I moved back to Melbourne, Georgia and I decided to do a double header single launch together, releasing Open Orange and my single Heartstrings. Working together was so fun and easy and it made me think about how difficult and lonely the life of an independent singer-songwriter can be! So I thought, what if we scale up? Embarking on a national tour of this size – 15 dates! – would be incredibly daunting and pretty much impossible on my own, but teaming up with Georgia, anything’s possible!
I definitely feel connections between your sounds. How have you found the process of getting into each other’s heads and playing on each other’s already established tracks?
GEORGIA: It has been so much fun! As a solo artist and producer, it’s always up to me to drive the creative direction of a track. I’m a bit of a control freak so I like leading my own projects, but I’ve loved handing over my material to Phia in rehearsals for this tour – I just adore her musicality and her aesthetic, so the trust is there. On some of the songs we’re just playing supportive accompaniment for one another, but others have been completely reworked (Phia has created the most magical version of my song Moon with her kalimba and loop pedals!).
PHIA: It’s been a real treat to explore Georgia’s sound and songwriting approach. I’ve only played my own music for a long time (I used to play keys in other people’s bands) so it’s been really fun to get back into that. Likewise having Georgia approach my music has given me fresh ears for my own songs!
Is this your first time performing on the Gold Coast, and at NightQuarter?
GEORGIA: We are Gold Coast first timers! But we’ve heard wonderful things about NightQuarter, and are looking forward to having an explore between sound check and the show…
PHIA: Your profile calls you classically trained. Did you initially have aspirations towards a more classical performance style?
I studied classical piano all through high school and then towards the end became really interested in jazz. I ended up at the Victorian College of the Arts, and have an honours degree in improvisation! I really enjoyed the intellectual side of studying jazz, and what I learned about composition and analysis and the fluidity and adaptability that’s given me as a musician. Towards the end of my degree I started writing pop songs and I realised how much that kind of expression was really important to me, and just really fun. I think what I do now – write songs and perform them with my loop pedal – is a kind of hybrid where I can access the cerebral nature of jazz which I love, and also the purity and joy of a pop hook and singable chorus. It’s really fulfilling.
PHIA: Tell us about the “one way ticket” you bought to Berlin. What inspired the move and why Berlin particularly?
I was ready for a change – I’d finished university and felt like I was treading water a bit. I wanted to have a go at playing music in Europe and had heard from friends that Berlin was a good place to start. So I went, expecting that I’d stay 6 – 12 months. But things went really well once I got there. I fell in with a really wonderfully supportive and creative community and found myself playing in DIY folk festivals all over Europe. I met so many interesting people and started to develop a fan base in Berlin. It was such a thrill to be totally anonymous and build up from scratch there, it was very liberating.
GEORGIA: What was it like working with Tim Shiel on Astral Debris?
Tim is a visionary! He has such an intuitive and creative approach to music production. One of his aims early on in the process was to get me recording vocals at home, where the pressure was off, and I could also supply him with heaps of experimental vocal takes to play with. We took my band into Soundpark Studios in Northcote for 2 days, recorded a heap of live stuff together, and then combined the foundations of these tracks with synths, samples, electronic beats… There’s also a string quartet. It’s quite a diverse sounding album, but my vocal ties it together, and I’ve got Tim to thank for that.
GEORGIA: You’ve done a range of writing, from film composing to arranging Ziggy Stardust. Do you consider yourself foremost a songwriter or a performer?
I don’t think it’s possible to separate those two facets of my personality – I guess that’s the beauty of the term ‘singer-songwriter’, it encapsulates both pieces of that puzzle! In 2014 I composed my first film score for feature length documentary ‘Winter at Westbeth’, directed by my dear friend and longtime collaborator Rohan Spong. The film follows three eccentric, elderly artists based in New York City over the course of a year, revealing their fascinating creative pasts as well as their passion for making art in the now. It was wonderful to hear their wise voices coming out of the computer screen at me while I was in the writing process. And arranging Bowie’s seminal ‘Ziggy Stardust’ album for string quartet was such a blast! Bowie had such a knack for writing these sing-able, simple-sounding riffs that are actually in complex time signatures. Reimagining that album gave me the opportunity to investigate his work quite deeply. But the highlight of the project was definitely being invited to perform the album with my string quartet at the prestigious ‘David Bowie Is’ exhibition at Melbourne’s ACMI. Maybe I am more of a performer than a writer after all!
What is next for you both following the tour?
GEORGIA: I am heading back into the studio in late-August for a little collaborative project, which I’m very excited about. I’ll have some new music out in November and a couple of very special shows in Melbourne and regional Victoria. I can’t say much more than that, as some of the details are still embargoed, but if friends want to stay in the loop they can join my mailing list or keep an eye on my website at georgiafields.com.
PHIA: I think a few celebratory glasses of wine with Georgia will be in order once the tour is done! I’ve also been working on a new E.P with my guitarist and producer Josh Teicher which is super exciting. That will be released around September and we’ll head back to Europe to tour it in September. It’s a busy year!
Head to NightQuarter on 22 July to catch Georgia Fields and Phia doing their thing.