Composing a Creative Life: Meet Musician + Illustrator George Hage

Saturday, August 31, 2019


This fall George Hage’s art will be hard to miss across the Triangle. You can find the Raleigh-based musician, artist and entrepreneur's designs at Hopscotch Music Festival and the IBMA World of Bluegrass  Festival. You can find the music of his band Jack The Radio in venues across the region too. All of this on the heels of a busy few months of making new music and creating signature art for Dreamville and Artsplosure last Spring. We caught up with George to find out how he does it on the eve of his busy September. 

What’s your origin story?

I grew up in Charlotte/Concord area and moved to Raleigh to attend NC State University and have been in Raleigh ever since. 

As a kid I was into comic books and would attempt to design my own characters. In 8th grade and I had the opportunity to take classical guitar lessons and shortly after I picked up electric guitar and attempted to write my own songs. My passion for art and music collided when I started to discover some classic album covers like Hendrix Axis: Bold As Love, The Beatles Revolver, Thin Lizzy Jailbreak, along with concert posters from artist like Griffin, Mouse, Phillips and Forbes. That inspired me to try to design logos and makeshift posters for my first bands. Today I'm getting to do that for venues, festivals and bands around North Carolina.

Someone recently described you to me as the hardest working man in Raleigh. Tell me about all the different artistic hats you wear?

That's very kind of them to say. The past three years I've been doing full time freelance graphic design and music. So far in 2019 I have been working on apparel designs for venues, restaurants, record shops, festivals and bands, as well as, branding assets for bands and businesses and poster designs for comic conventions and sports teams. I even got to create the branding and packaging design for a new percussion company, Baldman Percussion, that debuted at summer NAMM and won best in show. 

It's been amazing to be able to work with places all over North Carolina like The ArtsCenter in Carrboro, The Rooster's Wife in Aberdeen, Oddco in Pittsboro, State Theatre in Greenville, Moondog Pizza in Morganton, The Shindig in Clayton and River Park Concert in Hillsborough. It's culminated here in Raleigh this year allowing me to work with folks like Artsplosure, Dreamville, Hopscotch, IBMA/World of Bluegrass, Coastal Credit Union Midtown Park.

I'm also a songwriter and performer. My design life sometimes overlaps into my music life. I have connected with folks I've done design work for through my music and I have been able to play music at places because of my art. They propel each other forward and help me stay in a creative space longer.



Can you break down your music projects for me?

I try not to limit myself musically and love working with different writers and performers and learning from their process and approach to music. I've been writing and performing with my band Jack the Radio since 2009. We are working on our fourth studio album right now with a new rhythm section and I'm singing more.

I'm formerly of New Reveille, which put out a full length album September, 2018. I had the privilege of writing and co-writing a couple songs on that album and playing some memorable shows with the group. In 2017 I had the opportunity to fill on guitar with American Aquarium for a bit. I've also had the pleasure of recording and performing with folks like J Kutchma, One Small Step For Landmines and my first touring band, Yearling. Most recently I started a studio project with drummer, Nick Baglio (Foreign Exchange, Hot At Nights) doing songs about indie comic books. We did one for Image Comics' Middlewest that land us in the comic.

When did you and music first really hit it off?

I picked up guitar at the age of 13 but I started developing my own musical tastes around age 11. I didn't have any older siblings so I was hearing music from kids in my neighborhood and at school. I used any money I had to do those old, mail order CD subscriptions services where you could get 10 CDs for a 99 cents and buy 5 at full price. 

At that age I was mostly into hip hop and some (90's) country. Some of the first CD's I purchased were LL Cool J, Queen Latifah and George Strait. That lead me to the Beastie Boys who at the time had just released Ill Communication and their "Sabotage" music video, which opened the doors to grunge, classic rock, soul, funk and beyond. Ohhhhh, just re-watched that music video and Spike Jonze's work still holds up.

What does music offer as a creative outlet that differs from your design and illustration work?

Design and illustration can be a very isolated medium. Generally I'm drawing alone and I'm sometimes sharing the work from a far. With music I get to perform with the band and feed off their energy and emotions. At shows I can feel the crowd's energy and emotions and get a reaction in real-time as well as the energy from other bands. More senses are engaged at shows. I think that's why I love comic book conventions. They give you that crowd experience and energy with art as the focus.

Jack the Radio's "City Slippin"
Jack the Radio's "Wayfared Warriors" featuring BJ Barham

Is there a shared DNA or philosophy that connects your mediums?

I'll simply say I try to create the best art I can create at that time and use art to connect with people and ideas and hopefully people will connect with the art.

What makes North Carolina’s music unique?

It's home to icons in bluegrass, jazz, funk, metal, country, pop and almost everything in between. 

How does the music and arts community here shape your work?

Seeing the accomplishments of musicians and artist in the triangle inspires, drives, and shows me great things can be done. It helps push me to want to be the best me.

If you could share a meal with any N.C. musician – living or dead – who would it be and where / what would you eat?

My first thought is to share a meal with George Clinton. Parliament Funkadelic had a profound impact on me as a teenager as they were combining all my favorite things from the music, to the sci-fi, psychedelic and comic book elements. According to a quick google search his favorite food is beans so maybe we could go a little north of his hometown to get some beans and bbq in Lexington, NC.

Where can people find you (web, social)


What’s on tap for you this fall? (concerts, showings, etc)
Musically I'm the studio making Jack the Radio's 4th studio album at Warrior Sound in Chapel Hill, NC with Al Jacob and special guests. We've got a few shows scheduled as well.

For art I've got a limited edition poster for Hopscotch 10, special t-shirt with Schoolkids Records and lots of festival art coming with World of Bluegrass that I was able to create with Landon Elmore, and festival branding art for Midtown Events Moon Taxi concert, The Shindig and River Park Concert.

Some upcoming events:

September 5th @ Schoolkids Records Hopscotch Day Party - Raleigh, NC

September 7th @ Slim's Downtown Hopscotch Day Party - Raleigh, NC

September 12th @ Speaking at DRA's State of Downtown Event - Raleigh, NC

September 20th @ The Rooster's Wife - Aberdeen, NC
October 5th @ Oddco - Pittsboro, NC
October 19th @ River Park Concert - Hillsborough, NC