Georgia Fields has released her third solo album, Hiraeth. Featuring the singles ‘Tigress’, ‘Persuasion’, ‘Holding My Hands Out’, ‘Find Your Way Back’ and ‘In My Blood’, Hiraeth comes six years after Fields’ second LP, Astral Debris.
The Melbourne-based Fields worked on Hiraeth with producer, drummer and multi-instrumentalist Josh Barber, together accounting for the bulk of the album’s instrumentation. Jazz Party and Husky member Jules Pascoe added bass. Fields is launching Hiraeth with a number of shows throughout November and December 2022. Here, the candid singer-songwriter takes us through each of the album’s ten tracks.
Georgia Fields: Hiraeth
1. Find Your Way Back
Georgia Fields: Out of all the album songs, ‘Find Your Way Back’ embodies the essence of “hiraeth” the most, so it felt right to have this one as the opening track. The “shk shk shk” vocal loop was a placeholder I had recorded on my iPhone headset, imagining it would be replaced by a tambourine. When I played Josh Barber the demo after our first meeting, he was adamant that the weird vocal loop stay. That was the moment I knew he was the right collaborator.
Georgia: This is an anti-hero pop song. The protagonist is a real jerk – they’ve broken up with their on-again, off-again boyfriend; now they’re on a date with some new guy, but they’re thinking of leaving the bar and showing up on their ex’s doorstep in the middle of the night (because that’s always a good idea, right?) To write this song I had to embark on an epic, years-long research quest as I have no personal experience of being a jerk or behaving badly in love.
3. Holding My Hands Out
Georgia: Josh and I had a lot of fun sculpting the snare sample on this track – layering broken percussion and wind-up children’s toys. We’re both maximalists by nature – “more is more!” – but from the outset we wanted this track to have a lot of space, with every sound carefully considered.
This was the first album track we recorded in Josh’s new studio: a converted 1930s church on the back of his property in Mollongghip, a tiny rural village in the Victorian goldfields. The song’s narrative was inspired by two characters in Peggy Frew’s novel Islands: June, and her mother Helen.
4. When to Leave the Party
Georgia: This song was one of the later additions to the album cohort. It’s a letter to an estranged friend who passed away during the lockdowns, and the vast chasm of regret I felt for not reconciling before they left us. The rippling woodwind line was initially recorded on a Mellotron and then we had the beautiful saxophonist Sam Boon come into the studio and double it. Josh used a Space Echo tape machine to create the static/ambient radio noise in the bridge.
5. Water to Water
Georgia: I wrote this song to document my experience of pregnancy loss. I had taken my elder daughter to visit my dad in the remote NSW bush when the miscarriage started. My husband drove up the next day, which was lucky because I had a catastrophic haemorrhage and passed out from blood loss. Dad’s house is a one hour drive to the nearest regional hospital. I remember being afraid that I would die.
My husband and I hadn’t told anyone the name we had chosen for the baby we lost. Shortly after the miscarriage, my then 3-year-old daughter was dancing in her room with some invisible friends and she told me, “[Name] is here – come and dance with us”. Maybe it was a coincidence? But it’s not a very common name. Regardless, that moment was a great source of comfort and healing to me. I refer to it in the lyric, “Your sister dances with girls unseen.”
We recorded ‘Water to Water’ live in Josh’s church hall, just me and my guitar. I can hear some little imperfections in my voice and guitar playing, but I love that it’s a very raw, real moment in time.
Georgia Fields – ‘Holding My Hands Out’
6. In My Blood
Georgia: During Melbourne’s lockdowns, trapped in my home like a lost sparrow in a shopping mall, I returned to some less than healthy coping strategies. Drinking too much, eating too little; wanting to numb some sensations and make others painfully loud. I started to question these habits. Is it nature? Is it nurture? Maybe it’s in my blood. Josh and I built the sonic world for ‘In My Blood’ around the corroded, glitchy opening synth line, later incorporating live drums played with soft mallets, as well as programmed beats, a rusty old nylon string guitar and a Juno HS60.
Georgia: This track was another exercise in pop economy and restraint. Initially, I’d written ‘Tigress’ on guitar with a very busy strumming pattern. When I played it to Josh, he suggested that we strip it right back to single strums to really lean into that sense of expansiveness. Then, to fill out the harmonic structure of the song, we turned to my trusty old Casiotone MT-500. We also used the built-in drum pads, which are arguably the most fun feature of this 90s keyboard relic.
8. Write it on the Sky
Georgia: I wrote this song during an artist residency at Jacky Winter Gardens. I was still recovering from the pregnancy loss, and my self-worth was in the toilet. The house I was staying in had a colouring book on the shelf in the study. Looking for inspiration, I flicked it open to a random page. There was an outline of a plane flying through puffy clouds, and the words, “If you would write a message to yourself using skywriting, what would you say?”
9. How a Girl Becomes a Puddle
Georgia: I composed the string quartet and the woodwind to be duelling characters in this track – they argue and answer back in the verses, eventually reaching a sense of conflict/climax in the outro. This is one of the older album songs. I’d been performing it live with my loop pedal, stacking up the vocal harmonies, and we decided to weave that element into the recorded version, too.
10. I Saw It Coming
I wrote this song during lockdown at the piano because it was the only instrument I could have out at the time; my son was a toddler then, and would wreak havoc if I set up my guitar/vocal pedals. You know that sensation when you drop a glass and it tumbles through the air in slow-motion, and you actually see it break before it hits the floor? This song is about the mesmerising nature of grief. When you can see it coming and you can’t help but stare it blunt-force in the face.
It can be simultaneously beautiful and brutal to bear witness to loss. That’s what I love about the word “hiraeth” and why it inspired this collection of songs. As I interpret it, the essence of “hiraeth” is tinged with love and a sense of belonging within a collective grief.
Georgia Fields – ‘Tigress’
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