First things first with singer George Maple

Three years after the release of her first EP, Vacant Space, Australian singer-songwriter George Maple—born Jess Higgs—has unleashed her debut LP, Lover, a collection of 20 tracks designed to make you cry, dance and fall in love. With a background in singing jazz and soul from an early age, Maple’s captivating vocals have earned her features on tracks by DJ Snake and Flume over the past few years. With Lover, we get a sense of what she is truly capable of through her sultry lyrics and sensual R&B beats.

The album’s palette encompasses love, sex, heartbreak and everything in between. The futuristic R&B track “Hero” focuses on vulnerability and how it often takes strength to be exposed. “Where You End and I Begin,” which features Philly rapper GrandeMarshall, is a song about falling for someone accompanied by a snappy bassline. The title track, released in late 2016, confronts the fear of entering a new relationship.

Now, a new level of acclaim awaits—Maple has been tapped to open the Australian leg of Lorde’s Melodrama World Tour. We thought it would be the right time to ask her about some momentous first times from her life.

LOUIS FEVOLA: Congratulations on the release of your debut album! How does it feel to have Lover out in the world?

GEORGE MAPLE: Thank you! I feel like this is the first step and the first chapter. I’m back in the studio now writing the second chapter and it’s just really amazing to see the album have a new life beyond what I intended for it. Seeing how people react to it and build their own meaning, I have so many incredible messages and I can’t get over it. I get so many beautiful messages from fans, in-depth messages, almost like letters, and I read all of it. I read all of my DMs and I really like it, I like to respond and hear what people are experiencing from the record. It’s a huge part of what I’m doing, for me it’s what it’s about. It’s about creating a form of community or encouraging someone to be brave, I think there’s life beyond just the existence of the album. There’s something to be said about hopefully how the album makes someone feel like, certain songs make me feel.

FEVOLA: The record also has 20 tracks, while the average LP has about 12 or 13, how did that come about?

MAPLE: I spent a long time, I’m always writing, I write one or two songs a day or ideas or whatever and then it came to a point, ironically, it’s kind of weird—the album started and finished with my relationship, which I only just realized recently, so I the last song I wrote, I wrote when my relationship ended. I think there was an arch to the music that was parallel to the development and the rise and fall of my relationship. So when it felt finished, there was no sense of, “I need 20 tracks!” or whatever, the narrative just felt complete and that’s how I roll. I like narrative and storytelling, so it felt like it was a complete record. I didn’t even think about the fact that it was 20 tracks until everyone was like, “Whoa! 20 tracks!” [laughs] Sorry!

FEVOLA: Well it’s a great record, I’ve been listening to it since it dropped. What was the first album you purchased?

MAPLE: TLC FanMail. I was probably 12 or 13 and I remember being very into the fact that it was kind of set in the future and I spent a long time pretending that I was TLC, mostly T-Boz, and I think there’s an element of T-Boz that still exists in my attempt to do any form of rap in my music. [laughs] So it definitely resonated.

FEVOLA: What was the first concert you ever attended?

MAPLE: Alicia Keys! I love her, she played at the Enmore Theater in Australia and I went with my mom and best friend. I remember she wore a white hat, and I think I ended up wearing a white hat the next six months of my life. [laughs] I just love mimicking all the pop stars.

FEVOLA: What’s your favorite Alicia Keys song?

MAPLE: At the time it was “You Don’t Know My Name.” It’s just so beautiful, I love it.

FEVOLA: Speaking of love, tell me about your first love.

MAPLE: That’s cutting deep! [laughs] My first love, I’m going to have to be cliché here and say, my first love is music and creating music. That’s what stands the test of time, lovers come and go but the music is the thing I come back to at the end of every day.

FEVOLA: So what about your first heartbreak?

MAPLE: My first heartbreak, I think was my boyfriend from grade six when I was about 11 years old. It was the end of elementary school, which I spent six years in, and I finally decided that I wanted to have a boyfriend at the age of 11. At the time I thought it was a mature relationship, clearly at the age 11 [laughs], and at the end of school we were going to different high schools and my family was going to Europe for about two weeks or so. As an 11-year-old, two weeks is like a lifetime, so we had to end the relationship and there were a lot of tears.

FEVOLA: At least you got to go to Europe!

MAPLE: I know, exactly! So I was fine, he was a bit more upset. [both laugh] But I think it’s a really funny when you look back at something like that. I think that was my first heartbreak though, for two weeks it hurt! [laughs]

FEVOLA: What was the first song you remember writing?

MAPLE: It was a song called “Nothing Pleases You” and it was a direct rip off of “Fallen” by Alicia Keys. [laughs]

FEVOLA: So when was the first time you shared your music with anybody?

MAPLE: My original music, was actually that song, “Nothing Pleases You,” I remember sitting on the stairs in my high school with a group of my girlfriends and they kind of forced me to share it. I’m not very good at breaking into song on call or command. I feel like a jukebox and I don’t really like it. But they managed to convince me to sing the song, so I sang it there in my high school on the stairs with about four girls around me. That was the first time I ever shared my music with anyone.

FEVOLA: When was the first time you remember being drunk? 

MAPLE: [laughs] It was a bonfire in a country town called Wagga Wagga and there was a group of kids and our parents were probably also drunk, and I think we stole some vodka cruisers at the time from someone’s stash. Or maybe someone illegally bought it, I’m not sure. I think I was 15, which the legal age in Australia is 18.

FEVOLA: What was your first job?

MAPLE: My first job was at Pizza Hut actually, and it lasted for about two months because I realized I could make 100 times more money singing jazz covers in a local restaurant. That was the start of me realizing that I could monetize my music.

FEVOLA: What was the first song you ever really related to or that made you really feel something while listening to it?

MAPLE: Going back to that same era when I was about 15, do you remember that Christina Aguilera album Stripped?

FEVOLA: Of course! It just recently had its 15-year anniversary.

MAPLE: Oh did it? That’s so cool, I wonder if it was the same day my album was released, October 27th.

FEVOLA: It was October 26th, 2002!

MAPLE: Oh wow, that’s crazy! That’s technically the 27th in Australia! Wow, that’s amazing! That album I feel really resonated with me, not from an artist perspective, but from a songwriting perspective. I remember looking up in the liner notes and finding out who had written the songs and Linda Perry was one of the people who had written a lot of those songs, particularly “Beautiful” and “Fighter.” It was just so empowering, it’s 15 years ago and I feel as a young girl it helped me feel strong. There are multiple songs on there that I feel really resonated with me.

FEVOLA: What was the first rule you remember breaking?

MAPLE: I break rules all the time! It depends but from a musical point of view, I remember sitting in the room with one of the first producers that I ever worked with and having an argument with him about something really nerdy like the frequencies or the makeup of a mix because I could understand why we were playing the instruments in a certain composition. And he kept saying that was the way “it should be!” This sense of “should” and how things were done before. I remember just not understanding that and being like, “Well, it doesn’t sound right, it doesn’t feel right, can we change it?” And he was like, “You’re breaking so many sonic rules here!” and I was like, “Well, that’s okay, I’m fine with that.” I’m confident! I think you have to understand it and then break the rule.

FEVOLA: What’s the first important break-up song that you’ve listened to? Maybe one that you still go back to to this day.

MAPLE: I think “Skinny Love” by Bon Iver, it’s so incredible and simple and there’s just so much emotion there.

FEVOLA: That is such a great song!

MAPLE: I think simultaneously, he did that cover “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Bonnie Raitt, and I remember those two interchangeably I would be listening to in a bowl of tears thinking about my life. I actually played “Skinny Love” on my way back from L.A. to Sydney right after the album had launched and I had a huge run of back to back press and just a lot of really intense situations. I was in the Uber on the way to the airport coming back to Australia and I played that really loud and something about it that just calms you and makes you feel. You feel what he’s feeling, which is what I want people to experience with my music.