Singer-songwriter Luca Georgalli is gifted with a distinctive, hauntingly expressive voice. Recording as Luca George the former Wanaka (now Tāmaki Makaurau) artist has been making waves with his debut EP, ‘You’ll Never Know Me Sober,’ amassing 1.2 million streams in only two weeks. This collection of deeply personal pop ballads displays an emotional maturity beyond his years. Nur Lajunen-Tal finds out more, made with support from NZ On Air Music.
Luca Georgalli says he has always done music, but he has plenty of other alternative skills besides.
“I’ve always, always sung … I’ve had a lot of hobbies over the years. I’ve been number one in New Zealand for archery in my division. I was going to the worlds in South Africa. I’ve sold rare and exotic plants. I studied horticulture, I thought I wanted to get into gardening and grow rare epiphytic species and pitcher plants and nepenthes. I wanted to be a photographer, I wanted to be an actor, I wanted to be a model… and I think music encapsulates all of that. I’m able to be a model. I’m able to be an actor in music videos. I’ve been in short films. I can sing. I can be in front of a camera. I love interviews. I think being a musician ticks all those boxes, so that’s why I picked that.”
His first taste of the music business came during high school, when he won a recording session at Roundhead Studios through Play It Strange.
“That opened my eyes up to the world of songwriting and session culture and being in the studio. Literally the second I had a taste of this world I was like, ‘I’m never going to stop, ever! And I’m not going to stop until all my dreams are met.’”
Luca’s music teacher, who encouraged him to enter the Play It Strange contest, also introduced him to Rodney Hewson who became his manager. The former Sony Music employee has managed artists including Anika Moa and The Exponents.
“What happened was my music teacher was approached by this random guy called Rodney, and he was like, ‘Hey, I am retiring from the music industry and I’m moving to Wanaka. If you’ve got any students that you see potential in or want to take music seriously, if you want me to share advice or anything, I’m here.’ Mr Doyle was like, ‘Actually, I do have this one kid. I’d love you to meet him!’”
Telling Luca about this opportunity Matt Doyle mentioned Anika Moa, but Luca then didn’t know who Anika Moa was.
“So I looked her up on Instagram and I liked four of her photos. The next day comes around, and I look at my phone in the morning, and Anika’s sent me a message. I had a singing video on my story at the time, and she sent me message saying, ‘Hi Luca, I love your voice, it’s so beautiful. Who are you signed with? Do you have a manager?’ And I was like, ‘No, I don’t have a manager, I’m not signed, but my dream is to be signed one day, and to be able to do music full time.’ She was like, ‘Where are you?’ I told her I’m based in Wanaka, and she was like, ‘Oh my god, my ex-manager’s just moved to Wanaka!’”
Following the cartoon-like script Moa called Hewson to tell him about this kid he should meet, getting the surprised reply that he was about to meet Luca in 10 minutes at his school.
“So he ends up coming to school, and I’ve got this crazy outfit on. It was so cool ‘cos I think it was mufti day, and I always go out. Fashion’s a huge part of me as a person, and me as an artist. He basically walks in and he’s like, ‘Oh my god, that’s him!’ I end up sitting down and I play him some stuff on the piano. Over the years since I’ve learnt that he is the hardest person to impress in the whole world. He is so hard to please! And I still have no idea what I did that day that got his attention.”
Moving forward a few years, 2023 sees Luca beginning to showcase his music, with debut EP ‘You’ll Never Know Me Sober’ released in early September. British artist/producer/engineers Joseph Wander and George Glew, who have worked with artists such as Frank Ocean and Lewis Capaldi, co-wrote and produced the project.
“Basically, my goal with this EP is to make people cry,” says Luca with a smile. “I wanted to create music that people could relate to, with quite specific situations, and know that they’re so far from being alone, because so many people experience the same things. I love stupidly personal stuff that not everyone can relate to. I think with me, I love listening to really specific personal music, and even if it doesn’t relate totally to me, you can kind of mould it into your own story.
“As an artist, if you can actually get a physical reaction out of a listener, that is the ultimate form of success in my opinion. If I could actually make or invoke someone to cry with my voice or my lyrics or my melody, I’ve done it. I’m a happy boy!”
He certainly doesn’t shy away from challenging subject matter, evident right from the EP’s opening lines: ‘Car crash on a Saturday night, wrong side of the 135/ Airbags then a blinding light, ripped away my youth in one breath.’ Titled Godless the song imagines Luca’s own death.
“Godless is about a concept of me dying in a car crash, and waking up and hovering over my own funeral, and seeing certain people that I love most not being there and supporting me at my most important time, the celebration of my life. They’re not there for it, which is just crazy, and looking down and not being able to say, ‘fuck you’, because I’m gone.”
The EP’s title track You’ll Never Know Me Sober follows. “That song’s just about my experiences with sometimes drinking a little bit of alcohol to make me confident in certain situations,” Luca explains, a little enigmatically perhaps. The song has a music video filmed in London, which features Luca writing in a dark room.
“It’s kind of meant to be a metaphor for my brain – the whole video is meant to be in my head. The idea of the video was me writing until my hands were bleeding. I was just writing, writing, writing, and overthinking. By the end of the video I was surrounded by paper, and all of these songs that I’d written, and I feel like that was a metaphor for being this anxious, nervous wreck, but using alcohol to tame my mind.”
The music video was directed by Sonali Ohrie who has worked with known TikTok-ers like Noah Beck and Charlie D’Amelio.
“I’d met her at a Soho house party in London. I somehow got into one and she was there. I’d basically just had my director cancel, because he was really sick, and it was a week’s worth of shoots. My management were like, ‘Oh my god, who can we get?’ And I’m like, ‘Oh, I just met this lady called Sonali. She’s a director and photographer.’ So I messaged her and she was like, ‘Yo, I’m keen.’ We ended up doing a bunch of videos with her! We filmed like three videos in one day, in a crazy big warehouse, with a bunch of people I’d never met!”
The haunting Suit of Blue is about Luca’s parents divorcing when he was a child.
“Suit of Blue is about being a kid, and kind of feeling forgotten while your parents are going through such a hard thing. I know that they obviously would never purposely make me feel that way, but being a kid and having two homes and constantly moving. Mum and Dad have always made me feel very important and secure, but I feel like through a divorce there definitely are times when it’s hard.
“The metaphor is basically wearing the suit of blue. It’s kind of wearing the hardship and pain that someone has had to go through a certain experience in their life. Whether it’s a death, or an experience like watching your parents go through a divorce and feeling forgotten about, whether it’s a break-up… actually wearing it on you. Something like that doesn’t just go away. It becomes a part of you, and I’ve noticed with my parents’ divorce it’s made me interpret love in a really specific way. I’ve never been in a relationship. I don’t think I will for a very long time because of the career I’ve picked. I move very very often. I’m not in the same place for very long. It’s just wearing this kind of thing on your skin.”
Reinforcing the EP’s intimate sense, the music video for Suit of Blue features home footage of Luca as a kid.
“That was just a bunch of old tapes of my family from when I was little and lived in Italy. My mum had this little maroon handheld camera, and I remember filming a bunch of Christmases on it, and just really random, specific times in my life. I wanted it to be really personal, but I feel like also, lots of kids have the same thing, old video footage. I was like, ‘I feel like people could relate to this video too.’ So we just edited it and it came together, and it was beautiful and pretty and sick!”
His EP comes to a close with the raw and harrowing I Fall Apart which Luca explains as being about changing yourself to the point where you’re falling apart and broken, just for the chance for someone to look at you or notice you or give you a chance of love.
“It was about this guy in Wellington, and he would make me crazy. He would promise to hang out, and then he would cancel at the last minute, but he would have no idea how much effort I would put in. I would shave my body until I was bleeding, I would not eat all day, I would clean my room, I would buy new pillowcases, I would make sure that there was an extra pillow in my bed because I only had one pillow. I would do so much and he would have no idea, and then 10 minutes before I was supposed to be meeting him, he would be like, ‘Hey, sorry, I can’t do tonight.’ And he did it about five times.
“I’ve learnt not to do that – not change everything about you just to have a chance for these people to look at you in a different light.”