Georgia Ruth Williams tells Jess Shankleman about harps, homework and Huw Stephens
Georgia Ruth Williams, 21, was nervously eating lunch before an English Literature exam at Cambridge last summer, when her phone rang.
She said: “I hadn’t answered my phone all day because I was in a weird exam mood and a friend said: ‘If you don’t answer it, I’m going to answer it for you.’
“I picked up and it was Radio 1. I thought it was a joke as they told me I was going to play at Glastonbury. Then it dawned on me and I just spun out.”
Welsh-speaking Williams, who was born in Cardiff and grew up in Aberystwyth, played her melancholic harp based folk songs in the BBC Introducing tent at Glastonbury 2008.
She said: “I had already done some sessions for BBC Wales Introducing at Maida Vale. BBC radio DJs Adam Walton and Huw Stephens were really supportive. It just simmered a little, but only when I got that phone call I had an inkling they thought I should do it. It was surreal.
“There seems to be quite a strange demographic who like my music. It’s weirdly varied. I’ve had a lot of comments like: ‘Oh, I didn’t think you were going to be like what you were!’
“I’ve never thought who my music is for because the second I think that, I seem to start overthinking and then start trying to write to a formula. When I’ve done that, the results have been horrendous and really boring.”
She was introduced to the harp at school, when everyone in her class was made to choose an instrument to learn, but she stopped playing for a while when she was doing her A-levels. She said: “In a way I’m glad I stopped playing because it allowed me to see I missed it and I really did like it. But if I kept it up, it would have kept me a lot calmer. So I’d be working my guts out on school stuff, but I didn’t have the creative outlet I used to have which I could completely relax into.
“I would say to people who are thinking of giving up their instruments to remember it shouldn’t be a duty, they should get something out of it.”
But she picked her harp back up and last November played Huw Stephens’s Swn Welsh music festival in Cardiff.
“It was so great because I saw evidence of how rich the Welsh music scene is at the moment, particularly with younger artists. People are doing different things and it was really exciting to be part of it.”
She is looking forward to being free from academia this summer and plans to move to London to pursue her music with folk band Nine Bach, with who she recorded the Maida Vale session. She said: “Sometimes when you’re playing on your own, there’s this horrible feeling you have to fill all the silences because it’s just you and you get a little bit paranoid.
“You don’t want to be accused of not doing enough, whereas if you calm down it can be a lot more effective.
“It’s really nice to feel like you can weave in and out of other musicians and think about what other people are doing.”