The best Canadian singer-songwriter you may not know you’ve heard

Indie pop artist Hannah Georgas performs at Peterborough Musicfest at Del Crary Park on July 18

Juno-nominated singer-songwriter Hannah Georgas performs at Peterborough Musicfest on Saturday night (photo: Justice McLellan)
Juno-nominated singer-songwriter Hannah Georgas performs at Peterborough Musicfest on Saturday night (photo: Justice McLellan)

Even if you don’t recognize Hannas Georgas’s name, chances are you’ve already heard her music. Taylor Swift, the most powerful woman in pop music, certainly has.

Following a 2009 show in New York City, Georgas was invited to write a jingle for a back-to-school commercial for Wal-Mart. She wrote the song, called “You’ve Got A Place Called Home”, in seven hours.

The Wal-Mart commercial, which is about a mother getting her daughter’s dorm room ready for college, ran for eight weeks in North America in 2009. It prompted Taylor Swift to tweet that the commercial brought her to tears.

You’ve probably also heard Georgas’ music when watching television. Her songs have appeared in Flashpoint, Heroes, Defying Gravity, Peak Season, and Degrassi: The Next Generation. She achieved the most exposure with her tune “Millions” when it was featured in the closing credits of the third season of the cult HBO show Girls in 2014.

Born and raised in Newmarket, Georgas came from a musically inclined family. Not only were her three sisters heavily into pop music, her father supplemented his day job by playing blues and rock and roll piano, and her mother encouraged her to learn piano at a young age.

“My mom put me into piano lessons at the age of five,” Georgas recalls. “As soon as I learned basic chords and my way around the piano, I began writing songs. I was one of those little kids that sang all the time.”

Inspired by how much her father enjoyed playing piano and encouraged by her mother, Georgas continued taking classical piano lessons through her youth. In high school, she also started taking singing lessons and joined a vocal jazz class.

At 17, she was introduced to Tim Oxford (now drummer for the Arkells) and they formed the pop-punk band Sister Satellite, which became the house band for the Toronto Rock lacrosse team and performed regularly at the Air Canada Centre.

Even though her parents encouraged her love of music, they ironically discouraged her from pursuing it as a career.

“My parents said ‘Music isn’t going to put food on the table for you,’ she says. “‘You need to go to school.”

So, at the age of 20, she moved to British Columbia to study psychology at the University of Victoria. It was there that she started to take her singing seriously, and by her third year at university, she decided to quit school, move to Vancouver, and pursue her music career.

“Enemies” – Hannah Georgas

“I really wanted to focus all of my energy and attention on my music,” she says. “Do it on my own, do it 100 per cent, and not work five jobs or attend university.”

She recorded a number of song demos in a friend’s recording studio and released her first EP, The Beat Stuff, in 2009. CBC Radio 3 gave it a lot of airplay and later named Georgas the winner of their 2009 Bucky Award for Best New Artist.

In 2010, she released her debut album This Is Good, which was longlisted for the Polaris Music Prize. She was also nominated as Best New Artist of the Year and Songwriter of the Year at the 2011 Juno Awards.

By then, Georgas had already made a name for herself in Vancouver’s indie scene as a folk-pop singer-songwriter, drawing the inevitable comparisons to Feist and Sarah McLachlan. But, for her second, self-titled album, she worked with Graham Walsh (of the electronica band Holy Fuck) to reshape her sound with a synth edge.

“It’s important to find someone with the same musical vision and who has the same musical taste,” she says. “One thing I found out with Graham is that he’d put on a record and I’d say ‘What is this? This is so awesome. You’ve got great taste in music. I like exactly what you like.'”

Originally from Newmarket, Hannah Georgas now lives in Vancouver (photo: Jack Alexander)
Originally from Newmarket, Hannah Georgas now lives in Vancouver (photo: Jack Alexander)
Ater recording Hannah Georgas in the fall of 2011, she went on a four-month international tour with Kathleen Edwards. As well as being Edwards’ opening act, she played as a member of Edwards’ backing ensemble. This experience gave Georgas her touring legs.

“Being in her band as well as doing my own set every night was an incredible experience for me,” she says. “I feel like I’m better on the mic, better on my instruments — I just own it more.”

After the self-titled record came out in 2012, it was longlisted for the 2013 Polaris Music Prize and won Pop Recording of the Year at the Western Canadian Music Awards in 2013. Georgas was also nominated for Songwriter of the Year and Alternative Album of the Year at the 2013 Juno Awards, and played her single “Robotic” at the awards ceremony.

Since then, Georgas has toured the United Kingdom and Europe as the opening act for City and Colour (Dallas Green), and was also the opening act last summer for Sara Bareilles — as well as touring to support her own record.

While she hasn’t released a record since 2012, she’s back in the studio — working again with Graham Walsh — and expects to release her next album in early 2016.

Don’t miss your chance to see and hear this critically acclaimed musician when Hannah Georgas performs on Saturday at 8 p.m. at Peterborough Musicfest at Del Crary Park in downtown Peterborough.

“Shortie” – Hannah Georgas

“Robotic” – Live at The Juno Awards 2013