George Ezra : ‘Anxiety drove me to live on a pig farm in Norfolk’

Alistair Foster 
Struggle: George Ezra went to live on a pig farm

George Ezra says the enormous highs of his breakthrough year left him suffering anxiety — and prompted a voyage which involved living in a hut on a pig farm and an Airbnb in Barcelona.

The 24-year-old’s debut Wanted On Voyage was the third biggest-selling album of 2014 behind records from Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith.

But when Ezra returned to his childhood home in Hertfordshire after an intensive touring schedule, he found he struggled.

He told the Standard: “At first I kept myself extremely busy seeing the people I’ve known all my life. It didn’t take long to fall back into childhood relationships.

Anxiety: George Ezra needed a break after releasing his first album (PA)

“On tour you become fairly unaware of what’s going on in the world. When you’re only in a town for 24 hours, things go over your head.

“Suddenly, it was Brexit, Trump — about three or four things that made me think, ‘What’s this all about?’ In my whole social group there wasn’t a single person who wasn’t unsure about the future.

“I started to feel anxious for the first time in my life, not having stability in what I was doing. It was the whole thing of trying to acclimatise.

"Touring is a world of extreme highs and extreme lows. You’re sat around in a dingy back room doing nothing for long periods of time, but then you have this huge privilege of performing. Then you’re back into reality.”

To find inspiration for his new album, which he today announced will be released on March 23, he went travelling.

“I kind of got it into my head that I needed to find myself a cabin with no electricity,” he said. “My friends kept asking me why, which only made me want to do it even more. Sure enough I found one on a pig farm in Norfolk, although admittedly it was pretty much middle-class glamping.

"It had a roll-top bath inside, although you did have to fill it by heating water on the wood-burning stove. The shower was outside so I was out there every day in my birthday suit.”

His travels also included trips to the Isle of Skye, a former cornflour shed in Kent and a converted cowshed in north Wales.

But he spent most of his time at an Airbnb in Barcelona — “up seven storeys, smashed windows in the stairways” — which inspired the title of his record Staying At Tamara’s, named after his host.

He insists he does not feel any pressure to match the success of his first album, adding: “As long as I am able to play my music live — no matter what the size of the room — I will be happy.”

Ezra, who performed at Glastonbury last summer, announced that the first single will be Paradise and that he will tour later this year, coming to the O2 Academy in Brixton on April 3.

He will continue his tradition of asking audience members to donate change to Mind, the mental health charity.