Bright Spark

Tauranga musician Georgia Lines started off busking as a tween at the Mount. Fast forward about 12 years, and she has a huge fan base for her music and regularly plays with our industry legends.

Tauranga musician Georgia Lines started off busking as a tween at the Mount. Fast forward about 12 years, and she has amassed a huge fan base for her music and regularly plays with our industry legends.

“What am I doing?! I should be busking!” says Georgia Lines with a laugh. Before the singer/songwriter — whose most recent live gig was also her biggest (belting out an effortlessly beautiful anthem pre-All Blacks versus Wallabies at Eden Park) — was famous, her and little brother Mackenzie could be found busking at the Mount. And doing very well too.

“We were living at the Mount at that point, so we would take our guitars, walk down from the house and there was one spot that we had, right outside the ATM at the bank,” says the 24-year-old with
a chuckle. “I would’ve been maybe 11 or 12, and my brother is four years younger, so he was the cute one. He would just, you know, draw in the customers.

“Over summer we earned so much money! My mum actually has this photo of us in our garage, where I had used a whiteboard to document how much money we earned every day — which is
so lame but so great — and I think we’d earned like a thousand dollars over the space of a week. Which is so much money for a kid! I mean, it’s a lot of money for an adult too!”

Georgia, a born-and-bred local who still lives in the Bay (“family’s all here, grew up here, went to school here...”), was halfway through a national tour with Deva Mahal when the country went back into lockdown in August this year. “We’d done three of the seven shows, then we were supposed
to do Tauranga, Auckland, Hawkes Bay and Queenstown. Lockdown hit and that hasn’t happened.
I think the plan is for it to be rescheduled, but when, I’m not sure.”

But Georgia is no stranger to pursuing a musical career in lockdown — her eponymous debut EP dropped just two days after New Zealand went into its first level 4 lockdown in March 2020, and instead of in-person touring to promote it, she made do with a virtual performance on Instagram. Since then, she’s garnered a growing following for her soulful, dream-like vocals and feel-good,
R&B-sprinkled pop. She’s clocked up nearly two million streams across platforms like Spotify and YouTube of her burgeoning body of work that includes newly released tracks written and produced with the award-winning Djeisan Suskov (who has also worked with the likes of fellow Kiwi pop sensation, Benee), and most recently Tōrere, a hauntingly lovely te reo translation of her original
tune My Love, for the Waiata Anthems project.

In what feels like a few short months of lockdown freedom, she has played gigs all over the country, opened for Reb Fountain at the Auckland Museum, toured with Laiika and performed alongside industry greats such as Annie Crummer, Anika Moa, Tami Neilson and Julia Deans at Auckland’s celebrated Civic Theatre.

Georgia is well versed in facing Covid-related challenges, with her debut EP dropping during the first nationwide lockdown, and a 2021 tour cancelled.

Georgia says that in part due to the situation created by Covid, she’s never felt any pressure to leave the Bay to further her career. It’s also been both a nurturing environment to become a musician and one that shapes her music. “I’ve kind of just stuck around, to be honest, I really love it. I think because there is such a big sense of family here for us, both me and my husband, and with the world the way it is, there’s definitely no rush to have to move. And obviously, you know, the Bay’s amazing!

“I feel like you’re a product of the environment you grow up in, and I’m very grateful to have grown up in such a beautiful place. And in terms of music, I’ve been surrounded by amazing musicians — so many incredible artists that are either based in Tauranga… or have been here at some point. Even as a kid, I was around really creative people and amazing songwriters. I’ve definitely felt that shape who I am as an individual, and then obviously that flows into what I’m writing. I guess the result of that is me approaching this as a career, feeling confident enough to say, all right, I’m going to do this, I’m going to try to make this what I’m going to do with my life.”

Georgia says her family too is musical. “My brother actually plays in my band, he’s my drummer.
I love him so much and we get along pretty well, but he’s so good and he doesn’t have to practice and it annoys me so much,” she says with a grin. “He’s just naturally really talented at everything.
And my parents, it’s not like they’re in bands or playing shows or anything, but they’re both musical. My dad can sing and play guitar and mum used to play piano.

“So there was definitely music in our house growing up. I was always making and creating things, and I was definitely that kid when your parents’ friends come over that’s like, ‘Watch me do my
circus that I’ve put together for you’. That was definitely us as kids, always making and creating.”

That environment is also one Georgia’s keen to pass on to a new generation of creative locals,
via her work as an itinerant primary school music teacher. “You always hope that some of them
might see that, oh, this is actually an achievable thing,” she says.

“I think that’s a really hard thing about pursuing a career in anything creative… there’s no set pathway. We’re taught that if you follow these steps and you do this and you go and get this
degree... but there’s none of that for creatives. There’s no guarantee. So I think knowing someone that’s worked hard and pursued something they loved, it’s always comforting, and hopefully inspiring to them as well. Knowing, oh, my teacher does that. Less scary, or less like an overwhelming path
to choose, you know?”

For now, Georgia has swapped gigs like Eden Park in front of tens of thousands for the more intimate but no less captivating confines of Instagram lives in her home. But a return to something like normality is on the horizon — all going well she’ll be opening for Dave Dobbyn at Havelock North’s Black Barn Vineyards at the end of October. And in the meantime, perhaps, if we’re lucky, she might really reconsider that busking gig at the Mount...

Story by Josie Steenhart