George Ezra

Helen Herimbi

What is the best song to listen to when you’re being kept on hold on the phone? While waiting for British singer and songwriter, George Ezra, to hop on the horn, a syrupy sweet pop song with light vocals plays in my ear. I wonder what song Ezra, who will perform in Durban, Cape Town and Joburg next week, would rather hear on hold.

“I’m pretty easy, to be honest,” Ezra says from his American tour stop where he’s “sat on a boat overlooking a lake and snakes”. Then he thinks about it. “If I’m ever on hold, I hang up,” he laughs. “I’m very impatient.”

His impatience has forced him to take the lead in his career, thus allowing him to be hailed as one of the breakout stars of the past two years. At just 22, Ezra is a double-platinum-selling artist whose debut album, Wanted on Voyage, has made him a voice of his generation. But it was at 18 years old that he decided to take his future into his own hands.

“I moved to Bristol when I was 18,” says the Hertford-born artist, “and so how the song Blame it on Me came about was because I knew it was all on me to get gigging and writing as much as I could. Otherwise you could blame everything on me.”

Along with that song, Budapest – off his first album – is also a fan-favourite.

“I travelled around Europe by train,” he recalls when I ask about the song. “I had a ticket for a month and went everywhere and just took notes. Budapest was the only city I wanted to go, but didn’t make it to. I got too drunk and never went,” he chuckles. “The song is an ode to things that I never got to do.”

He’s since been to Budapest a few times as well as places, like Barcelona, which feeds his obsession with travelling and “the opportunity to meet new people. I am easily bored if I stay in one place for too long”. So I ask what a song called South Africa would sound like after his concerts next weekend.

“I don’t know yet, but I bet it would be a fun song,” he says before mentioning that only one of his crew has been to South Africa so his whole party is stoked to be touring here. Although he’ll only be in town for the weekend, he is adamant that he wants to try new things.

In that case, I tell him, he’d better get his hands on some biltong. “What’s that?” his British accent makes him sound bewildered. “As long as it’s not from a sheep’s skull because someone told me about that.”

So he won’t be getting his hands on iskopo, but Ezra says: “A lot has happened over the past few years that I wouldn’t have expected – like touring South Africa – because of my music, so I’m genuinely excited to be coming.”

l George Ezra at Durban Shongweni Polo Club on August 28, the Durbanville Racecourse in Cape Town on August 29 and Outdoors at Carnival City’s Festival Lawn in Gauteng on August 30. Tickets: from R575 at www.seedtickets.co.za.