Playlists at Work: Georgia

The dance-music star has enjoyed a spike in fan engagement thanks to some choice placements.


For British dance-music luminary Georgia, pursuing anything other than music was never an option. “Really, my whole life has been music,” she says. “I think I’ve loved it from the moment I first heard sound.”

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the London native grew up in a flat that essentially served as a studio and hangout spot for local musicians. Her father, Neil Barnes, is one-half of Leftfield, the production duo who helped pioneer the progressive house movement in the UK, and her mother would take her to see his shows. Georgia also became a devoted follower of Top of the Pops—“It was sort of like my Bible,” she admits—and began picking up instruments on her own. By age 13, she had a four-track recorder and soon transformed her own bedroom into a studio.

Fast-forward a decade and a half, and she’s now finding herself among the top of pop on a different type of forum: some of Spotify’s most popular playlists. Her track “Started Out,” a euphoric slice of alternative dance-pop that nods to the classic dance music she soaked up as a kid, has spread across numerous playlists. These have included New Music Friday and Women of Pop, the latter of which boasts over 1.75 million followers and features tracks from artists like Beyoncé, Fiona Apple, and Madonna.

The warmth of a big spotlight

“That was mad,” she says. “That was the first shocker of like—wow, these playlists are big.” Her songs have also landed on playlists including Alternative 10s, Young & Free, and Feel Good Friday, and she’s definitely felt their impact. “I’ve noticed a massive increase on the listener numbers," she adds. "More and more people are joining in monthly, and people are singing along and tagging me on Instagram stories and commenting on my posts. It's definitely had a huge impact on this period of my career.”

Indeed, it’s a significant rise for the artist who started out as a session musician. In her late teens, Georgia was working as a drummer for artists like Kwes. and Micachu, mingling on the fringes of an underground London scene that was quickly bubbling up into the mainstream thanks to artists like The xx and James Blake. Being among that select group inspired her to step out from the shadows of the drum kit and channel everything she knew, loved, and experimented with over the years—from the records her parents played to folk to hip-hop to electro-pop—into writing, producing, and recording her 2015 self-titled debut album.

Now, Georgia’s preparing for the 2020 release of her sophomore album, Seeking Thrills, with more confidence and an even greater appreciation for ‘80s dance music. “The whole album is really inspired by Chicago house and Detroit techno. Those tracks and records are so simplistic, but the simplicity is the beauty of them,” she says. “I’m a proud child from the UK rave dance scene, and I guess I just reached the age where I started wondering, what is it about the dance floor that makes it such a special place? What is it about Frankie Knuckles’ tunes that just makes you want to dance?” She also began to trace these sounds to nearly everything we now hear on the pop charts. “For me, there’s a clear line that house music really is one of the most important musical forms of the 20th and 21st centuries,” she says.

Rejoicing in what makes her tick

It’s hard not to agree with her, especially when she makes her argument so convincing on bold synth-pop anthems like “Never Let You Go” and “About Work The Dancefloor,” both products of an artist unabashedly celebrating her influences while spinning them into pure pop gold that does exactly what dance music is meant to do: make you feel, move, and fully let go. Beyond her songs, Georgia is just as passionate talking about those influences, something that has allowed her to make a deep connection with her fans.

That's the engine that powers projects like Radio Georgia, a Spotify playlist she put together that shares her latest tunes and collaborations and the inspirations behind them. ”I think that Radio Georgia was a great way of just breaking down that barrier between listener and artist. It felt like I was giving people insight into me as just a human being who likes music,” she says. And the listeners' reception has been empowering. “It’s given me some ideas that I want to explore. I’m thinking about a podcast, particularly about dance music,” she says.

It seems like a natural move given Georgia’s lifetime immersed in the type of sounds that have changed and saved lives—all within the sacred boundaries of the dance floor. “What matters is that you have this shared experience on the dance floor. That's what’s universally so incredible," she says. "It's about a feeling. It's about an emotion. And I think more and more people are wanting that rather than just to be entertained. And that’s what I strive to achieve in my music.” At the same time, Georgia has realized that patience and being true to herself and her art is what has resonated most with listeners: “I feel like this is really me now, and it feels like people are connecting more with the music.”

—Stephanie Garr