George Ezra Heading For Stardom With A Little Help From Sam Smith

. (Radio.com) George Ezra can remember playing a particularly small show three or four years ago to a handful of people in the back room of a London pub. The irony isn't lost on him that this is the gig he remembers as he geared up to play a sold-out show this week (Jan. 15) at Madison Square Garden.

When you mention offhand that MSG holds over 18,000 people, Ezra just laughs a giddy, childlike laugh and says, "It's mental isn't it? It's just crazy. I'm flying my mom out, so my mom will be there."

What may be even crazier is that the little gig from a few years back--the one in London--had him playing alongside Sam Smith. You know, the guy who sings everyone's crying anthem "Stay With Me" and earned himself six GRAMMYs with his 2014 debut, In The Lonely Hour, tying Beyonce for the most nominations this year.

Smith is also the guy who offered Ezra the chance to play New York City's iconic arena. "I think Sam's amazing, he's huge, isn't he? Well deserved. He just politely asked me to come along with him," Ezra tells Radio.com of how he earned an opening slot on Smith's current North American tour. "And it's kind of the best gig you can be on this year, isn't it? He's huge."

The English singer, who is already a household name overseas, is gearing up to have a Sam Smith-like year of his own, thanks to an impressive touring schedule--he's opening for Hozier this spring, while also playing a few gigs on his own, including Coachella--and a catchy single inspired by a Hungarian city that at the time he'd never even been to.

The song "Budapest" came straight from a line Ezra had written in a diary he had taken on a trip across Europe: "I didn't make it to Budapest."

"That's how it started," Ezra says. "It stuck out."

It also sticks out for inspiring the first love song Ezra ever wrote. "It's a kind of tongue-in-cheek way of doing it about what I don't have," he says about the track that has him singing in his gruff but somehow also pretty, Tom Waits-like voice about giving up his "house in Budapest, hidden treasure chest, golden grand piano" for that special girl.

"I think it's that willingness to stop what you're doing for somebody. Where you find yourself in a situation where all of a sudden you don't put yourself first. That's what happens when you're in love," Ezra says.

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Copyright Radio.com/CBS Local - Excerpted here with permission.

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