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Jess Higgs is suffering the repercussions of jam-packed SXSW. Only two days after the Austin festival wrapped, the London-by-way-of-Australia musician (who performs as George Maple) has made a pit stop in New York to do a show at Rough Trade — but the thing is, she’s not allowed to perform due to a throat illness. “I guess this is what happens when you do 10 shows in 7 days,” she said with a rueful laugh. Luckily, at the rate this talented performer is going, she’ll be back before we know it.
Although she’s only been performing under her George Maple moniker for a few years now, Higgs has been writing songs since she was 11. Rather than spending her days outside on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, she said she preferred to work on her future career. “As a child I started to get into music and then won a few song competitions. It eventually evolved into me writing for other people, and occasionally performing with Flight Facilities,” she remembered. “It’s been about helping people out, but I’ve never thought that I would be the one in the spotlight.”
With a slew of singles and 2014’s EP Vacant Space under her belt, that’s clearly all changed. She’s still working with her friends — Aussie pop artist Flume co-produced her track “Talk Talk” — but now she’s the one in charge. Fusing glimmering electronic beats with soulful, warm vocals and slow-burning melodies, she reminds us of a broody cross between Jessie Ware and Banks. Although her sound might be inherently vulnerable (“Words are like weapons, cut through the truth,” she croons in “Talk Talk”), it still radiates a quiet power.
The same quality is evident behind her onstage alter-ego. “George Maple was originally character-driven because I was afraid of being the artist,” she explained. “But as the project developed, I became more comfortable sharing the dark side of my psyche and didn’t need to keep the two so separate. So now, it’s all rolled into one.” Listen to more of George Maple’s multi-layered brand of electro-soul here.