Georgia Crandon is a 22-year-old musician from Loughton, in the heart of Essex. She doesn’t go by her name – “if you search ‘Georgia’ on the internet, the state comes up” – and having gigged as a solo singer-songwriter from the beginning of her career almost three years ago, she’s since been playing up and down the country with The Vintage Youth. They’re a band that hasn’t grown up together, though, so it’s helpful that Crandon has been writing her own poetry since childhood, and as such has had no need to collaborate with songwriters.
Perched delicately behind a keyboard, the artist begins her set with ‘Glory’, a track yet to be released. She then performs ‘The Girl’ – the first song she wrote, it’s an appropriate debut originally featuring trumpet, double bass and percussion, and there’s something that ties it closely to Winehouse’s ‘Monkey Man’. This is followed by a cover of 4 Non Blondes’ 1993 chart-topper ‘What’s Up’, for which Crandon’s vocals provide an ideal accompaniment, while ‘Sing to You’ is an upbeat love song made for any spectator. The artist maintains a similar and yet versatile intonation in the songs that follow, with an enthusiasm inherently required in any rendition of the hit that is Beyonce’s ‘Single Ladies’ filtering out to the audience. Ray Charles’ ‘Hit the Road Jack’ and Eurythmics’ ‘Sweet Dreams’ are lyrically altered – though not beyond recognition of course – and then performed atop a shared chord progression, this time in minor. Her interpretation of Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I Will Survive’ is impressive, and prepares the audience for a hint at her musical theatre background in a pleasant, downbeat rendering of ‘My Favourite Things’ from the Sound of Music.
‘Vintage’ and ‘Youth’, meanwhile, contrast each other in the same way that Crandon herself does; a young woman looking to the past for inspiration in musicians like Elvis Presley and Louis Prima
Crandon’s musical background has meant that instrumental experimentation dates back much further than playing shows. Her father, having spent his youth dabbling in bands, introduced her to the guitar before she entered adolescence, while a single song taught to her by a friend on piano blossomed into a proficiency on keys. She admits that there’s “a lot more to learn”, but also asserts the importance of writing. “The best songs come from mental conflict – when you can’t find a solution but you can’t talk about it either.” On the subject of songwriting as socio-political commentary, she laughs and says it’s “fair enough for those who do, but I don’t take myself too seriously.”
Editing and film production in her younger years formed an essential part of her now deep-seated affiliation with the arts. Family was an additional factor: “Sunday…it would be no telly, music’s on. I was surrounded by it, and different styles of it.” But musical theatre is what she intended to pursue, even during the first phases of gigging. Upon discovering just how intense amateur dramatics could be (“the music industry is cut-throat, but musical theatre – that is really cut-throat”) paired with its infamous reputation for stemming creativity, playing for crowds became her sole focus. Now she not only has a band, but a brand, in The Vintage Youth. “I’ve always been into old-fashioned stuff,” she asserts, when I ask about her aesthetic. Sporting a blonde beehive similar to that of the late Amy Winehouse, it is no coincidence then that Crandon has taken influence from her both musically and otherwise. That they grew up listening to the same sort of music – soul, Motown and the 50s – inevitably lumps them together, but it is after a humble declaration of their differences that the artist says she wants to “make her own mark. Even if I’m wearing a horrendous outfit…the more bizarre I look, the more comfortable I feel.” ‘Vintage’ and ‘Youth’, meanwhile, contrast each other in the same way that Crandon herself does; a young woman looking to the past for inspiration in musicians like Elvis Presley (“I’ve been listening to him since the womb”) and Louis Prima, whose voice in The Jungle Book she fell in love with.
‘Here, people follow each other whereas different styles of music are worshipped in different parts of America. It would be interesting to go out to America and see where I make a bit of a wave.’
Talking of El Reco, Crandon is reticent, but leaves us with a few things to go on. Earth, Wind and Fire’s Mo Pleasure has produced her “punchy” new EP, the basis of which lies in jazz as well as blues and soul. Alongside this, a YouTube channel called Band in a Basement has been set up to accommodate the creativity seen in her set rather than to compensate for the lack of online material. She acknowledges that the world is “going digital”, but says this creates the bigger problem of people “not wanting to take a chance on new artists – they simply look at your number of followers and discard you on that basis.”
If she had an opportunity to travel beyond the UK, then, where would it be? “New Orleans!” she answers instantly, and then explains the limitations of the English music scene. “Here, people follow each other [whereas] different styles of music are worshipped in different parts of America. It would be interesting to go out there and see where I make a bit of a wave.” However, it’s really only her hometown that cannot accommodate her; trendy areas like Clerkenwell and Shoreditch where “you can be yourself” have hosted her band, while everywhere besides London allows loyal followings to emerge among communities. After the release of the EP, Georgia and the Vintage Youth are headed only nearby for the summer, to Brentwood Festival’s main stage. It’s clear that Crandon is a hard worker – balancing a tour with part-time bar work is by no means easy – and one only hopes that what she has to offer in terms of work ethic and creativity will be recognised sooner rather than later.
Look out for El Reco, out on 26 April.