George Ezra Barnett (born 7 June 1993) is an English singer-songwriter and musician. After releasing two EPs, Did You Hear the Rain? in October 2013 and Cassy O' in March 2014, Ezra rose to prominence with the release of his hit single "Budapest", which reached the top 10 in several countries around the world, reaching number one in Austria, Belgium, New Zealand and the Czech Republic. His previous work was with singer-songwriter Jordan Grey.
Ezra's debut studio album Wanted on Voyage, released in June 2014, reached number one in the UK and the top ten in seven other countries. It was also the third best-selling album of 2014 in the UK. Zane Lowe, a BBC Radio 1 DJ, called him "one of the most compelling and powerful new vocalists around."
Ezra grew up in Hertford in Hertfordshire, attending Bengeo Primary School and then Simon Balle School. He moved to Bristol in 2011 to study at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute there. Both of his parents are teachers.
Ezra cites Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie as his main musical influences. When the Gramophone Rings called him "a voice beyond his years", with "a soulful, wizened tone that somehow would feel more at home coming from an Alabama shrimp boat captain than a 21-year-old Bristolian."
A youthful obsession with Dylan prompted Ezra to seek out earlier American folk and blues artists. "Out of curiosity, I went to find out who he had been listening to," he says. "That's when I found Lead Belly, Woody Guthrie and Howlin' Wolf." Ezra had heard a Lead Belly compilation and had simply tried to sing like him. "On the back of the record, it said his voice was so big, you had to turn your record player down," Ezra says. "I liked the idea of singing with a big voice, so I tried it, and I could."
2013–present: Wanted on Voyage
In June 2013, Ezra played the BBC Introducing Stage at Glastonbury Festival. He released his debut EP Did You Hear the Rain? in October 2013. In late 2013, he received airplay on BBC Radio 1, with songs "Did You Hear the Rain?" and "Budapest" regularly featured. He was included in MTV's 'Brand New for 2014', Vevo's 'DSCVR Ones to Watch 2014' and iTunes' new artists 2014. Ezra was longlisted for the BBC Sound of... 2014, where he eventually finished in fifth place.
The song "Budapest" reached number six in Italy and was certified Platinum by the Federation of the Italian Music Industry. He has played support spots for Lianne La Havas, Bastille, Sam Smith and Tom Odell. In March 2014 he released his second EP Cassy O'. "Budapest" was released in the UK on 13 June, followed by Ezra's debut album Wanted on Voyage on 30 June. On 6 July, the album entered the UK Albums Chart at number three. The album has also charted in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands and New Zealand. On 5 October, 14 weeks after its initial release, Wanted on Voyage climbed to number one in the UK. In December 2014 the album had sold 678,156 copies in the UK, and in January 2015 it was named the third best-selling album of 2014 in the UK after x by Ed Sheeran and In the Lonely Hour by Sam Smith. On 4 January 2015, the album reclaimed the number one spot in the UK.
On 10 August 2014, Ezra was a support act for Robert Plant at the Glastonbury Abbey Extravaganza. In October 2014, Ezra released a video for "Listen to the Man", which featured Ian McKellen. At the 2015 Brit Awards, Ezra was nominated for four Brit Awards: Best British Album, Best British Male Solo Artist, Best British Single, and British Breakthrough Artist.
In early 2015, Ezra opened for Sam Smith for 16 dates on Smith's headline arena tour across North America. Later, he toured with Irish musician Hozier for select dates on his sold-out 2015 North American tour.
Before Ezra's rise to fame, he created a word, "Petan" (pronounce: "pay-tan"), to help bond him and his fans and encouraged fans to use it during everyday life. It is commonly used on Twitter and on tour; he has started selling merchandise with the word printed on it. In an interview in Boston in March 2015, he admitted that this "petan" word-creation is a blank nonsense: "It's a word I made up, me and my friends. It could be good or bad or anything, it was just a word that... we were 18, we were idiots – but it's kind of lived on."
On 28 March 2015, Ezra was the musical guest on Saturday Night Live. He appeared on U.S. television again a few weeks later, performing "Budapest" on The Late Late Show with James Corden on 13 April. On 24 May, Ezra appeared at Radio 1's Big Weekend at Norwich, Norfolk with a set that included his hit songs including "Blame It on Me", "Budapest" and "Cassy O'".
On 31 July 2015, Ezra performed at the Osheaga Festival in Montreal. On 11 November 2015, Ezra performed "Blame It on Me" at The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.