Exclusive: The mysterious woman behind George Maple
Hailing from the same city as electronic music heavy-hitters like Flight Facilities, Flume, and What so Not, Sydney’s very own George Maple is traveling along the very same track. But don’t be the fooled by the pseudonym, this George Maple is no man—-she’s actually a major sultry babe named Jessica Higgs, with deep-club vocals to match. Foremost referring to herself as a writer, George produces her own music, taking absolute credit for all of it. You immediately become comfortable in her presence– she’s beautiful, well spoken, and definitely seems like she has a lot to say, yet she expresses genuine interest and asks so many questions about you, you suddenly forget you’re conducting an interview. Her insight into the music industry seem well beyond her actual years of experience, but it may be because this is something that she knew she would be doing her entire life, and her patience is about to pay off if her new EP is any indication of what she is about to put out in the world. Take a quick peek into George Maple and learn about how she used Australia’s narrow music education to her advantage, her production programs of choice, and how her process of music composition is a lot like the work of Jackson Pollock.
So, why a man’s name?
I guess at the time I was listening to a lot of music and I’d hear these songs by a guy but they had a female singer… it’d be Mark Ronson but there’d be no featured artist or anything. With this era we’re in at the moment, the producers are becoming the frontman. I had no idea why but at the time I thought it was hilarious—there’s a woman singing, I don’t understand. And I guess that kind of came into the decision making the process a little bit. But to be honest, it literally just came to me. It’s not like I’m calling myself John— George I feel is somewhere in the middle. I actually didn’t realize until I had some conversations with other people… there have been a few women who have called themselves George and have been writers back in the time when it wasn’t acceptable for women to write novels. For me, it was more of a feeling than anything else— regardless of gender, it just felt like the right thing to do.
Tell us how you go about making music.
The way that I write is quite similar to the rest of my life, it’s very dynamic and it changes a lot. So I might write a song by myself on the keys and that will be my demo—Fixed was like that, it was just the drum loop and the vocal. Then I will sort of think about who I want to produce or co-produce with, because I feel like you want to use people’s skills and your own skills in the best possible way. So for ‘Vacant Space,’ immediately I thought Harley (Flume) is the best person to do that. So I sent it to him and he did his thing and sent it back and then I edited it with Chris (What So Not). It just depends track by track. I actually never considered myself a producer, but my manager was like, “Who’s producing your demos?” And I would tell him, “It’s not produced, it’s just my writing… it’s not production”. And he was like, “No no, that’s production—you should keep doing that.” And I think it’s been good, because I’ve been delving more into that with the stuff I’m working on now.
What do you use to produce music?
I use Ableton. I used to use Logic and then before that Garage Band. I think the original demo for Fixed was on Garage Band. I woke up in the middle of the night and recorded it and then went back to sleep.
Who taught you how to produce?
No one really taught me, for the last 3 or 4 years, I’ve been either on a stage, writing a song or in a studio like every single day. So much of it is intuitive, I’m not so much interested in the engineering side—the creativity is exciting. That’s why I love Ableton, it’s easy to make sounds sound weird. And to change things. For me, cutting up audio is a really big thing. Ableton makes it easy to resample. I’m really quite lazy with a lot of it, I just like to throw everything on a canvas. It’s like Jackson Pollock – okay, chuck everything on, and it feels right. And I guess it just works for me.
Have you produced anything for other musicians?
I’m a writer first. That’s what I love to do. Performing is part of it too, but what I really love is creating. I actually was writing top lines for friends of mine– I did quite a lot of that before I decided I wanted to have my own project.
What music are you listening to these days? Who’s inspiring you?
I do listen to a lot of Kanye to be completely honest. The new Caribou album, Jon Hopkins, Arca. I listen to a lot of sonic, production based stuff. En Vogue and all Prince songs. To be honest, I don’t try to listen to that much new music, I have kind of a sympathetic ear and I don’t want it to creep it into my music.
There seems to be quite a movement with really great electronic music coming out of Australia right now. I also just found out that you, Flume, What So Not, and Flight Facilities are all from the same town. What’s going on in the water over there?
I think it’s because we don’t have the same music education that Europe or America might have. We come from rock—that’s what Australian music used to be, and what it’s been for a while and that blindness and that lack of understanding kind of makes Australian music a little more unique. There’s less references. It’s coming from this really real place. And one person starts and then another person continues and then there’s a group of people that are all friends and then they start making more music and making more noise… Even hip hop knowledge, I don’t know anything about hip hop history. I always ask my friends when I’m here to sort of educate me. Because it’s so foreign to me—I didn’t grow up with that.
What was the first piece of music you created?
I’ve been writing songs since I was about 11 or 12 and I used to enter song contests. It’s so weird, it’s not something I ever questioned, I just accepted it as this is what I’m doing. This is what I’m here for.
What was a moment where you realized you were a musician?
When I was 18, I went and saw Kanye at Good Vibes, a festival in Australia, the 808s & Heartbreak tour. I remember watching him and thinking, “that’s where I want to be.” I mean I’ve been to that venue many other times in my life but there was just this moment where I thought to myself, “I wonder if this will happen.” And last year I sang with Flight Facilities at Splendour and it was 15000 people in the audience or something and I remember thinking, “Wow this is kind of happening.” That was a very small moment. But those moments are nice.
George Maple photographed by Koury Angelo for Milk Made