IN THE LEAD-UP to what the posters are declaring “a very special show” for her, not to mention a second album soon enough, Georgia Delves is sneaking in this interview during a lunch break from her day job at an arts university.
“It’s this [interview] and then the two minute noodles,” she says.
Call that a lunch?
“I am aware there is hardly any nutritional value in a packet of two minute noodles. Sometimes I like to get a handful of spinach in there but …” Delves’ voice trails off as even she doesn’t believe that makes it healthy. “It’s a token piece of vegetable,” she concedes.
Nutritionally and practically this isn’t a wise move for Delves, the singer/songwriter/founder of the alt.country project-and-band she called Georgia State Line before she realised there existed American big hat country band Florida Georgia Line (though probably after she’d heard of George Strait). Not when this Saturday she makes a serious upgrade of venues and expectations.
Delves’ ARIA-nominated band (Tom Brooks, Laura Baxter and Patrick Wilson) and a string section will perform at the Melbourne Recital Centre in a show which will also be presented in Auslan, the Australian sign language. A show made possible thanks to a government grant. Well, a grant, a big idea, and hope – which is always a tricky combination.
As they say, if you want to make God laugh tell Her your plans. A few years ago, talking about touring, Delves said “It’s all about logistics – a good plan in place and trying the best. Life throws it out … it doesn’t always go to plan.“ True that. A “special show” doesn’t give you much leeway for when troublesome life throws something invariably bad out, so how tightly has she locked down the logistics for this night?
“The short answer to that is I should say that everything is going to plan and nothing has changed. I pitch this project to Creative Victoria midway last year and then I found out I found out I was successful with the grant at the end of last year, so it’s been a long process of thinking ahead about what kind of shows I want to be putting out,” Delves says.
“I’m a very existential person and I feel like I hit a point where I was like, what kind of musician do I want to be? What kind of contribution do I want to make to my music community? So I want to put on a show that I feel like is thoughtful, in terms of accessibility, and adds a different colour to the new direction I want to go in with the sound of the songs. I wanted to put a show that felt special, make it a ‘show’ rather than playing another gig.”
Most people – and I mean pretty much all of us on either side of the stage – might think about putting on a special show but wouldn’t necessarily be considering how to improve the state of their musical community while doing so. That’s a bit of weight to carry. But Delves is ok with that; in fact, sought it out.
“I studied Auslan back in 2021. I studied it full-time, and that was one of those times when you become aware of something that can be improved, can be worked towards. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just try,” she says. “I feel like during my time studying I was brought into a community of people, the deaf community, that was so loving and caring, and was so inclusive towards me, but then I think of the lens of which all live music is seen through and it’s largely exclusionary.
“I want to do a show that (a) captures the specialness of the new music – I’m really happy with the new music, I think it’s really special – and (b) has accessibility considered within that. I really want to do more Auslan shows. We have so many factors of the music industry the need to be improved upon – musicians having a liveable wage is a high priority – but accessibility is another factor.”
Everything from venue to accessibility in this plan is ambitious, but we may have skipped over the new songs and the string arrangements (by Lucy G Rash). I wonder if, finally, this is the violin and classical singing student she was, the one who when she began playing country music chose not to become a fiddle player but pulled on a guitar, coming out of hiding. It is, of course, a bit more complicated than that.
“I won’t be playing [violin] but this whole process has made me miss the fiddle,” says Delves. “Having my violin knowledge has always informed my songwriting. For me I’m always drawn to melodies when listening to songs or writing them and I think that’s because when I played violin you’re playing the majority of time melody. I’m always listening for catchy melodies and I think I was informed by my fiddle playing.”
So does she think of herself as a “violinist” or a “fiddle player”? The terms may be arbitrary or at least not official but from the outside we assume one is classically trained and performs that repertoire in traditional form, while the other leans into maybe less formal approaches and genres.
“I always consider myself a violin player. When I moved to Melbourne I tried the more country fiddle styling but I think what really deterred me was I was having a surge of creativity, songwriting-wise, and I was putting a lot of energy into that and I didn’t have the same passion for figuring out how to break away from a lot of the more classical violin styling that I grew up with,” explains Delves. “I felt like I had to really detach from how you hold the bow to different bowing patterns, and the kind of fast-pace playing, I just couldn’t really get my head around without really really practising when I was focusing my attention on songwriting.”
It’s unlikely you will hear classical training in her singing, though Delves remains grateful for that training which has given her a more solid foundation and a more sustainable future for the use of her voice. And speaking of the future, inevitably these new songs and new sounds raise the question, is the next direction for Georgia State Line going full-on countrypolitan, lush country music with strings and layers of vocals. Or, heavens, might we see a move away from country music altogether?
“I don’t know. I don’t know, and I think that’s an okay answer because I will find out. I think there will be a lot of the string arrangements that feature in the show on the [next] album, but also want to change it up a little bit. I want to have a little bit more of the pop, I want to have synths in there – I can hear some synths.”
Not surprisingly, she’d prefer not to be thinking about genre and the limitations that come with those definitions. “I guess I’m still considering the question of how it’s going to be marketed, whether it’s going to fit within the country world still. I’m confident I will always be country: we have such strong roots there as a band, but,” she laughs. “This might make the life of the publicist difficult.”
Given that, presumably her real long-term goal is in a decade or so having a show built as Georgia State Line With The MSO.
“Yeah,” she laughs. “Baby steps. I can definitely hear some timpani on some later albums. Hopefully I won’t be eating two minute noodles by then.
“Actually I love two minute noodles. Have you ever had them with white bread, butter, noodles?”
What? What fresh horror is this?
“You call it a noodle butty,” she insists.
Dear God. No, no no. Strings, suits, synths even, is one thing, but this? This is a step too far.
Georgia State Line play at the Melbourne Recital Centre, November 11.