Georgia English Releases First-Ever Illustrated Album, Pain and Power
For her third full-length album, Nashville songwriter and Girls Write Nashville co-founder, George English has delivered a poignant look at healing from her own personal trauma in the form of an illustrated album. There are two components to the project, the 14-track album and a color pencil illustrated book. Pain and Power is out today. I caught up with Georgia about the inspiration behind the project and releasing music and illustrations together.
AnaLee: Congratulations on this release, or these releases, I should say! Which came first, or was it always the plan to release the music and an illustrated companion piece?
Georgia: Thank you for having me, Ana Lee! That’s a really good question. The two were so intertwined through the process that it’s almost hard to separate them! In the Fall of 2020, I was really struggling with my mental health, and was spending a lot of time learning how to take care of myself. I started to understand how important “play” was to my wellbeing and healing -- my main outlet being drawing, one of my childhood passions that I abandoned gradually throughout adulthood. I would not consider myself a skilled artist, but through this time of “play” I discovered that I could express myself as fully as I can through
music, and with much less ego and stress. It really connected me to my inner child, which connected me to my creativity, which then refueled my creative voice as a songwriter. I was in an awkward place with music where I was having a hard time speaking authentically as a songwriter. I was feeling like a stranger to myself and to the page, and the drawing really brought me back to myself and my musical voice. Before long, a years’ worth of mind-block and frozen words and chords just felt like they were melting. I’ve always associated music with colors, and so I think having a visual accompaniment to my writing brought me to new territory where I could be my fullest self as a human and artist, with the two outlets kind of becoming a creative ecosystem for each other.
AnaLee: As a community music teacher, you are no stranger to expression through song, in fact it’s one of the main things that your work is teaching young creatives in our community. Tell us a little about the inspiration for this music and the experience of singing your own truth on this record.
Georgia: Sure! I was reading a lot of self-help books during this time to cope with crippling anxiety I was dealing with. I started to notice that to really apply what I was learning to my own life, I needed to kind of cast myself in the role of an imperfect hero, and build some fantasy around it. I was also spending a lot of time getting in touch with my personal spirituality, meditating, and studying different world traditions, where I started to notice the same story told over and over again across cultures, centuries, and geographies. This naturally led me to Joseph Campbell’s work (who I had learned about in 9th grade), where I found some structure and vocabulary to support my real-time healing story. I took a 3 week leave from teaching and just wrote, wrote, wrote. I bought a big poster board, wrote out the Hero’s Journey template Campbell had identified, and started sticking my song drawings onto its shape to see how they all flowed together.
It got to be both exciting and empowering to look at my story from a birds-eye view, and helped me greatly to feel connected to ancient stories and traditions -- all of which certainly stem from the same seed of human existential hell. Hahaha. I’ve found with my students that sometimes a little bit of structure -- be it a writing prompt, or an activity, can give them enough of a foundation to stand on to feel confident in their voice. So maybe the teacher in me did this for myself!
AnaLee: Tell us a little about the song, “Where Are You Now?” There’s a link to this song below.
Georgia: “Where Are You Now?” is the single off the record. It captures that time-warpy feeling many of us can have when navigating mental health. I was having a lot of dreams that were just like images of random places I had known growing up -- corners of my high school, foggy beaches where my friends and I would smoke pot and drink as teenagers (if my students are reading - don’t do drugs!), bus stops… really strange stuff that would hang in my consciousness in the waking hours following sleeping.
AnaLee: What do you hope people that listen and pick up the book will gain from this project?
Georgia: I hope folks who read and listen to Pain and Power find the strength to reconnect to their inner child, or sense of truth, and that we can’t fully inhabit our personal power until we find the strength to work through our pain. I hope it empowers folks who need to find the courage to walk away from toxic and unhealthy situations where they have to repress themselves in order to survive. This book album has a 3-song subplot (of course… haha), exploring the larger social and historical context of current-day America, our collective trauma, and our responsibility to heal ourselves. It specifically speaks to fellow white Americans about the ways our own unresolved traumas perpetuate and continue the cycle of racism and trauma against BIPOC Americans.
AnaLee: Thanks for chatting about Pain and Power today, Georgia. What does the rest of 2021 look like for your artistry and teaching work?
Georgia: Thank you for having me, and amplifying the voices of local artists. This year will (knock on wood) get me playing in front of folks again. I’m already brainstorming my next Illustrated Book Album, too! As for teaching, I look forward to continuing to serve students from Nashville to Uganda both in-person and virtually, as well as returning to Valor Collegiate Academies in South Nashville to teach some group music classes to amazing kids.
Georgia English, “Where Are You Now?”