Georgia Fields released their third solo album, Hiraeth. With singles ‘Tigress’‘Persuasion’, “Hold My Hands”“Find Your Way” and “In My Blood”, Hiraeth comes six years after Fields’ second album, Astral Debris.
The Melbourne-based Fields worked on Hiraeth with producer, drummer and multi-instrumentalist Josh Barber, together representing the bulk of the album’s instrumentation. Jazz Party and Husky member Jules Pascoe added bass. Fields is launched Hiraeth with several shows in 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
Georgia Fields: Of all the songs on the album, “Find Your Way Back” embodies the essence of “hiraeth” the most, so it seemed only fitting to have this one as the opening track. The “shk shk shk” vocal loop was a placeholder I recorded on my iPhone headset, imagining it would be replaced by a tambourine. When I played Josh Barber the demo after we first met, he was adamant that the weird vocal loop would stay. That’s when I knew he was the right collaborator.
Georgia: It’s an anti-hero pop song. The protagonist is a real moron – they broke up with their recurring boyfriend; now they have a date with a new guy, but they plan to leave the bar and show up on their ex’s doorstep in the middle of the night (because that’s always a good idea, isn’t right?) To write this song, I had to embark on an epic, years-long research quest because I have no personal experience of being a jerk or misbehaving in love.
3. Reach out my hands
Georgia: Josh and I had a lot of fun sculpting the snare sample on this track – layering broken percussion and wind-up kid’s toys. We are both maximalists by nature – “more is more!” – but from the start, we wanted this track to have plenty of space, with every sound carefully considered.
It was the first album track we recorded in Josh’s new studio: a converted 1930s church at the back of his property in Mollongghip, a small rural village in the Victorian goldfields. The song’s narrative was inspired by two characters from Peggy Frew’s novel he is: June, and her mother Helen.
4. When to leave the party
Georgia: This song was one of the later additions to the album’s cohort. It’s a letter to an estranged friend who died during the lockdowns, and the vast chasm of regret I felt for not being reconciled before he left us. The swaying woodwind line was first recorded on a Mellotron, then we brought the magnificent saxophonist Sam Boon into the studio and dubbed it. Josh used a Space Echo tape recorder 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 eldest daughter to visit my dad in the remote NSW bush when the miscarriage started. My husband drove up the next day which was lucky as I had a catastrophic hemorrhage and passed out from blood loss. Dad’s house is an hour’s drive from the nearest regional hospital. I remember being afraid to die.
My husband and I had not told anyone the name we had chosen for the baby we had lost. Shortly after the miscarriage, my then 3-year-old daughter was dancing in her room with some invisible friends and she said to me, “[Name] is here – come dance with us”. Maybe it was a coincidence? But it’s not a very common name. Anyway, this moment was a great source of comfort and healing for me. I reference it in the lyrics, “Your sister dances with invisible girls.”
We recorded “Water to Water” live in Josh’s church hall, just me and my guitar. I can hear some small imperfections in my voice and guitar playing, but I like that it’s a very raw and real moment in time.
Georgia Fields – “Hold My Hands”
6. In My Blood
Georgia: During Melbourne’s lockdowns, trapped in my home like a sparrow lost in a mall, I reverted to less than healthy coping strategies. Drink too much, eat too little; wanting to numb some sensations and make others painfully noisy. I started to question those habits. Is it natural? Is it nutritious? Maybe it’s in my blood. Josh and I built the sonic world of ‘In My Blood’ around the corroded and glitchy opening synth line, later incorporating live drums played with soft mallets, as well as programmed beats, old string guitar rusty nylon and a Juno HS60.
Georgia: This track was another exercise in pop economy and restraint. I originally wrote ‘Tigress’ on guitar with a heavy strumming pattern. When I played it to Josh, he suggested we cut it down to simple strums to really lean into that sense of expansion. Then, to complete the harmonic structure of the track, 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-esteem was in the toilet. The house I lived in had a coloring book on the office shelf. Looking for inspiration, I opened it on a random page. There was the outline of an airplane flying through puffy clouds, and the words: “If you wrote yourself a message using sky writing, what would you say?”
9. How a girl becomes a puddle
Georgia: I composed the string quartet and woodwinds to be dueling characters in this piece – they argue and respond in the verses, eventually reaching a sense of conflict/climax in the outro. It’s one of the oldest songs on the album. I had played it live with my loop pedal, piling up the vocal harmonies, and we decided to incorporate that element into the recorded version as well.
10. I saw it coming
I wrote this song during confinement on the piano because it was the only instrument I could have at the time; my son was then very small and would wreak havoc if I installed my guitar/vocal pedals. You know that feeling when you drop a glass and it falls through the air in slow motion, and you actually see it shatter before it hits the ground? This song is about the fascinating nature of grief. When you can see it coming and can’t help but stare at it.
Bearing witness to loss can be both beautiful and brutal. 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 to collective grief.