On 'Seeking Thrills,' Georgia Channels A Lifetime On The Dance Floor

Jan 22, 2020
Originally published on January 22, 2020 6:51 pm

Music is a kind of family inheritance for Georgia Barnes. The stories she tells of her relatives usually come back to music or dancing some way or another. Her dad used to play in an electronic group called Leftfield.

"My bedroom was actually Leftfield's studio," she says. "It was keyboards, drum machines, wires, bits of percussion, microphones."

It's no surprise that Georgia Barnes would grow up to have her own career in music. Performing simply as Georgia, her latest album, Seeking Thrills, came out this month and is a record to dance to, with driving beats and catchy hooks. Georgia told NPR that her first instrument was the drums — when she was about 5, her dad's bandmate, Paul Daley, sat her down at his drum set.

"He showed me a rhythm and he said 'You play it back to me.' And apparently, I could just play it back to him," Georgia says. "Then he sort of said to my dad, 'She's good, you should get her a drum kit.' That was that, really."

NPR's Ari Shapiro spoke with Georgia about her familial legacy of dance music, returning to clubs after getting sober and about finding joy in a "work hard" world. Listen in the player above and read on for a transcript of their conversation.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


ARI SHAPIRO: The first song that really grabbed me from this album is called "About Work the Dancefloor." What does the dance floor mean to you, in your life?

GEORGIA BARNES: It means everything, really. It's my childhood — obviously, with my dad being in a dance band. I was always fascinated with "Why are these people all together dancing and sharing this moment?" And then it was the first thing I did when I hit 18 — I went to the club for the first time and it just really exceeded all my expectations. I felt like it was me, it was my identity. I understood it, and I felt so free, and I was able to do whatever I wanted for like hours on end and see these amazing DJs. I feel like my whole identity, really, is caught up in the dance floor world.

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And this is your inheritance not only from your father, but I understand, even your grandmother loved the dance floor.

Yes, my grandma used to — I think it was during the war, she would dress up as another identity. She was Lily by day, but Lola by night. She would dress up and go dance. I just love it.

Did you ever get to meet her as Lola?

I never got to meet her as Lola, she was just 'Nan,' unfortunately. I would have loved to have asked her what it meant to her, the dance floor.

This song that kicks off the album, "Started Out," has a hook that has really connected to people, that phrase "wicked and bold." Can you tell us about a live performance where it really hit you that your fans were connecting to this in a different way?

I think we were in Norway and we were at this huge music festival and I felt a little bit overwhelmed by it, because it was the biggest stage I'd been on. Suddenly, I just sort of noticed the crowd singing back. We stopped the track and I was putting my hand to my ear going "Come on, come on." And they were all singing "Be wicked and bold, be wicked and bold." And then I played the drums over the top; I felt for a time I was like U2 in a stadium. I think that was the moment where I felt like I could be part of the audience and really give them something that was like giving myself to them, you know?

And giving them something they need, that they can take with them.

Totally.

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We've been talking about the power and transcendence of the dance floor, and some of my friends who stay out all night dancing do it with the help of chemical substances. And I understand you've given that up since your last album. Was there one turning point for you, one moment that you thought, "Okay, this needs to change?"

There were a lot of moments, I'm not going to lie. There [were] a lot of really terrible positions I used to find myself in, and it wasn't that I was drinking every day, I would just go on these binges that would last, you know, three days. And my friends all got together and sat me down and I had an intervention, and they said to me "You need to knock this on the head. This is going to really get you into trouble." I think I caught it at a good time. I now choose to drink when it's appropriate. I feel like I have a more censored and controlled view to drinking, which is really good.

What is it like when you are on a dance floor at two in the morning and it's unmediated, and it's just the music and the dance floor and you, and not the layers of alcohol, or whatever else?

Well, I found it very liberating, actually, because I was able to really listen to the music, and enjoy the dance floor and not see it as just a tool for me getting "out of it." I saw it as almost a spiritual place. I love people-observing. I remember being in this one club and I just saw these two people, like they found each other on the dance floor and just started hugging and kissing and dancing. I just thought, it's amazing, for the first time I found myself noticing things like that instead of drinking and getting out of it.

The title of the album is Seeking Thrills. Does that phrase mean something different to you now?

No, I think even though I kind of live a little bit less of a hedonistic lifestyle, I didn't give that side away. For me, Seeking Thrills is about checking in on yourself. We work so hard every day for other people, whatever job you're in: if you're a mom, if you're a stay-at-home dad, whatever your situation is. I think it's healthy from time-to-time to check in on yourself and think about what you need. And perhaps what it is, is you need a good old thrill in your life.

NPR's Dave Blanchard and Jolie Myers produced and edited the audio of this interview. Web editor Cyrena Touros and web intern Jon Lewis contributed to this story.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Amtrak has announced that it will change a policy that brought it a lot of criticism. It's dumping a new rule that led to two people who use wheelchairs being told they would have to pay $25,000 for a train ticket that usually costs just 16. NPR broke this story last week. Here's Joseph Shapiro from the NPR Investigations Unit with an update.

JOSEPH SHAPIRO, BYLINE: A spokesman, Marc Magliari, said Amtrak will end the policy that led to that big bill.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MARC MAGLIARI: After further review, Amtrak has determined to suspend the policy in question. It was never meant to be applied to this situation, and we apologize for the mistake.

J SHAPIRO: He spoke shortly after a group of people with disabilities demonstrated outside an Amtrak station in Illinois, chanting, we will ride.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) We will ride. We will ride.

J SHAPIRO: Adam Ballard was one of them. He was also one of the two wheelchair users who faced that big bill. Ballard is the transportation policy analyst for a disability service and advocacy group, Access Living, in Chicago. Five people in wheelchairs from the group, including Ballard, took the train today from Chicago to the Bloomington-Normal station to attend a statewide conference. And this morning, Ballard said everything went fine when they boarded the train in the dark in Chicago.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ADAM BALLARD: Yeah, everyone got on the train really great. We were treated like kings and queens.

J SHAPIRO: There was extra staff to help with bags and work the wheelchair lifts.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BALLARD: And they had extra staff on the train to attend to our every need, so it was not the typical Amtrak ride.

J SHAPIRO: All for that regular $16 ticket - but when the group first booked their tickets, Amtrak said it had room for only three wheelchair users on that train, not five; that it would need to take a car out of service and pull up seats to make more room. That was expensive. And under a new policy, the two riders would have to pay the bill - $25,000. After criticism, including from U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth, Amtrak, on Monday, waived that fee. Then this afternoon, Amtrak took the added step the demonstrators wanted and said it would end the rule that led to the big bill in the first place.

Joseph Shapiro, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF KRAFTWERK'S "FRANZ SCHUBERT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.