Georgie Currie – A whole lot of sugar and just a hint of salt
By Leanne Ortiz, October 2019
Images by: SPP Simon Pickering Photography (2019)
The plump velvet couches and dimly lit tables of the Wesley Anne are filled with an air of anticipation. This cozy pub, once a church, with rustic stone walls and a medieval ambience is located on Northcote’s trendy craft beer and live music strip.
A small, sandy-haired lass takes the stage. She is dressed simply; side combs hold back her hair as she smooths her modest, black, button-through dress. Fiddling with the tuning pegs on her guitar, she grins sweetly at the young man accompanying her on bass.
“I wrote this song about a day ago. So, if Renn makes any mistakes, they’re entirely his fault,” she jokes and her audience giggles; already charmed it seems by her authenticity. Though not a couple, there is almost a June Carter/Johnny Cash vibe to this pair; she will tell me later Carter and Cash were one of her many musical influences.
As she begins her song about being 21 and in love, Georgie Currie’s powerful deep vocals, sprinkled with poignant licks, establish instantly that this archetypal girl next door is anything but ordinary.
Currie honed her craft in the border city of Albury as the co-lead singer of “The Northern Folk,” a 10 piece folk/jazz collective (now based in Melbourne) who have enjoyed considerable success on the Australian folk festival circuit.
Currie and other band members including Paul Dyason, James Eggleston, Renn Picard, Alex Cameron and Jayden Dunne are also pursuing solo projects. Tonight, we are treated to a songwriter session celebrating their creations.
Chatting to Georgie after the show, she explains the bond between these performers. “The Northern Folk was an extraordinary way for a fourteen-year-old girl to enter into the music industry,” she said. “I was exceptionally cushioned and supported and allowed to just focus on the performances and when I got older that focus eventuated into developing my craft.”
A few years ago, she realised that wasn’t enough. “I knew I needed another platform to properly express the more intimate, vulnerable side of my artistry.” She admits it hasn’t all been easy, particularly juggling her music and university workloads. “Stepping out onto the stage alone is considerably more terrifying. I don’t have nine other bodies to lean into if I’m feeling shy, or not 100%,” she says.
Currie’s singer/songwriter endeavours culminated earlier this year in the release of her first solo EP titled “flowers for your worst days”. As we talk about a few of her songs; I am curious to know more about Currie’s painful and raw lyrics in a track from her EP called “Can you hear me father?”
“I was in a really dark place when I wrote that song and was feeling a little abandoned by the support systems I had been sold as a child, one of which was the love of God,” she explains. The lyrics seemed even more haunting tonight, in this church that is now a pub:
“Can you hear me father, I’ve been banging on your bedroom door; not a church, what would I go there for? Can you hear me father? I’ve been crying since I learned to breathe, stop looking up and be here with me?”Georgie Currie
Currie’s mother was raised in religious Ireland and taught by Catholic nuns. She recalls how she and her brother were christened, took their communion and were confirmed; explaining it was more a moral obligation for her Mum, and never a big part of their lives. When her parents divorced, Currie was surprised by how she reached out (but was disappointed by) those religious structures. “I guess I drew parallels in my lyrics between that disappointment and the more tangible aspects of my life that were driving some of the emotional turmoil and tension I was experiencing,” she says.
Haunting angst is not initially evident in Currie’s “Norma Jean.” The lyrics and acoustic strings introduce us first to a familiar representation of Marilyn: “she is beauty, she is grace, she is queen.” Suddenly, we are smacked with Currie’s intent by soulful vocals and a powerful lyric – “she is so much easier to love, than me.”
“I wrote this song about a person I was deeply jealous of, that I’d actually never met,” Currie reveals, with refreshing honesty. “I’d spend hours trawling her social media pages. I leaned into the Norma Jean/Marilyn narrative because she just seemed this natural beauty; built for bigger things than me.”
Chatting with this extraordinarily talented woman, it is sobering to reflect that even she is not immune to the perils of social media. “So many women feel debilitated by the constant output of beauty conventions,” Currie laments. “Be it the curvaceous body of Marilyn; or the current be well, eat well Instagram influencers living their perfect lives; perpetually posing on a beach.”
Was “Norma Jean” cathartic then?
“I’m not sure this impulse to compare myself to others is cured since writing this song,” she reflects; “but it’s nice to say it out loud – to take ownership of the ways I’m not loving myself enough.”
If she is not loving herself enough, her audience is filling that void.
Tonight, we are focused intently on this diminutive powerhouse. She draws us in, not only with her formidable vocal finesse, but also with graceful hand gestures that accompany emotional lyrics. When she closes her eyes and brings clenched hands to her chest; or waves them softly above her head in harmony with her intonations, we are reeled into her intensity. We’re believing every word.
She introduces a further song off her EP titled “Sugar and salt,” explaining that it was heavily inspired by a poem. “It speaks of relationships that everyone else knows are not right, except for you,” Currie explains.
Her mother speaks to her in the lyrics: “You are young, there will be so many others, this is but a blip in the length of your life. Don’t’ confuse sugar with salt. If he loved you enough, he would never have left at all.”
I ask her what’s the best piece of advice she’s ever been given? “Probably something my mum said to me recently,” she responds. “It was about love,” (there’s that young angst again).
“She told me that sometimes you have to let go because if it’s not working right now it will rot. Let some air into it, and who knows what might happen later on. It sounds pretty simple; but it really sunk in for me.”
Currie says the first musical experience she can remember was going to see the stage show “Annie”. Though she knew she wanted to be a singer from around the age of eleven, she didn’t start writing lyrics until she was thirteen.
Her musical inspirations are quite varied. As a youngster she was introduced to U2, Snow Patrol, David Gray, Crowded House and Hans Zimmer film scores by her parents. A little later she watched what she says remains her favourite film: “Walk the Line,” the love story about Johnny Cash and June Carter saw Currie’s focus shift to country music for a while. In teenage years she gravitated more towards female singer/songwriters like Joni Mitchell, Missy Higgins and Taylor Swift who Currie believes is one of the best lyricists in the world but whose talent is sorely under-appreciated.
“I now listen to a lot of work coming from artists like Maggie Rogers, Gretta Ray, Lana Del Rey and Angie McMahon,” Currie says. “The love for country/blues music has also reemerged, with my discovery of Cash’s contemporary peers like Jason Isbell and John Mayer.”
She says her greatest inspiration stems from her peers on the Australian folk music scene such as “The Maes” and “All Our Exes Live in Texas.”
“To see these groups and women totally command the same stage I’ve played on the night before is very special. It always spurs a thought along the lines of: I want to do that. I want to be as good as that the next time I play here,” Currie said.
As the evening draws to a close, the audience confers the admirable solo talents of “The Northern Folk” members; they demand them back on stage for an encore (they’re not getting out of this den of sinners just yet).
Joking about “what a miserable bunch” they must seem (having all just sung so many sad and poignant solo compositions), co-lead singer Paul Dyason promises they’ll go out on a happier note.
We are treated to a Northern Folk favourite that draws (not surprisingly) a true Carter/Cash vibe. “Whisky Jesus” is a rollicking country/folk tune.
Paul opens with: “I need whisky!” Georgie answers: “You need Jesus!” Paul admits: “I know it’s risky, but I’ll do whatever pleases me” and finally they both agree: “I know she’ll love me; I know she’ll love me either way!”
With their last drinks in hand, the sinners are sharing the love in this beautiful old venue. You can’t help but imagine Johnny and June jigging along somewhere with this joyful crew.
And as for God?
“I know she’ll love me; I know she’ll love me either way!”
Currie, G. (2019, April 12). Sugar and salt. On Punt sessions . Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Po7Dcc63_bQ
Currie, G. (2019, May 3). Can ou hear me father? On Georgie Currie flowers for your worst days . Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R3-mgIn0_uE&list=OLAK5uy_n29p44Mx0GtRKBn7d3bK9mJxd7aP_basA&index=6&t=0s
Currie, G. (2019, May 3). Norma Jean. On Georgie Currie flowers for your worst days . Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPayyyq-eas&list=OLAK5uy_n29p44Mx0GtRKBn7d3bK9mJxd7aP_basA&index=4
Mangold, J., Keach, J., Konrad, C., Dennis, G., Phoenix, J., Witherspoon, R., Goodwin, G., … Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Inc. (2006). Walk the line. Beverly Hills, CA: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.
The Northern Folk. (2016, October 27). Whiskey Jesus. On The Northern Folk Stumble on Home . Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X1bT3VukCEU