Harriet! Welcome to DSTP! It is such a pleasure to have you hear on our “pop-sofa!” Its well-overdue! Hope you're sitting comfortably?
I am indeed! And yes, well overdue :-)
We’re heading into 2015 – 2014 was an interesting year for you! The appearance of Afterglow started proceedings 11 months ago! How does it feel looking back and your achievements.
It feels a little overwhelming. The journey this year has been very special. So much has happened in such a short space of time, and the response to the music we’ve put out there (including Afterglow) has been incredible.
You’re performing live on Graham Nortons show tomorrow! Are you excited?
I am. Very! Also a little nervous though. This is such a huge deal. I am so lucky to have had so much support from Graham Norton, Paul O’Grady and of course Malcolm Prince (their producer) at Radio 2 with my music so far. The endorsement has been a little overwhelming!
You’re working with Steve Anderson. Kylie’s Music Director. I wanna know more about the collaboration. How did it come to be – and so far – what has been the best song you’ve written....
I was introduced to Steve by a mutual friend, who worked with Steve when he started out in the music industry. Before we met, I had been collaborating with numerous brilliant songwriters and producers in an attempt to discover and develop a sound that would define me as an artist going forward. This experience was invaluable and has proven fundamental in my learning to write. However, when Steve and I had our first session together, something incredibly special happened - I can still remember the feeling I got, upon listening back to the track at the end of the day; I thought “This is it. This is me and this is all I want to do”. I was very excited (and I’m a little embarrassed to say I felt rather emotional)! I feel very fortunate to have such a great partnership with Steve. He is one of the kindest, most talented people I have ever met. With regards to the “best song”… I struggle to answer that; what defines, “best”?! Hmmmm I am fond of all the songs we have written for different reasons - each captures a bunch of memories and feelings from the time it was written… I love performing Afterglow - every time I sing it, I go to a somewhat magical place. And there are some songs to be revealed in 2015 that I am proud to have been involved in writing, including the one from our first ever session together!
You’re also working with the maestro Cliff Masterson. What was that like?
Oh it was wonderful! Cliff has an immense gift for hearing the entire musical journey of a song before it has even been written! Hence, why everything he works on seems to emit fairy dust! I remember the first time we worked together, he played me a chord progression that he had been working on, that I connected with instantly. The session flowed from there. We had to dig deep for the lyrics of this song; the time it was written was surrounded by a profound event, which inspired the song enormously. I can’t wait to go into the studio with Cliff and Steve together, again! The two of them could have been separated at birth! We will have a songwriting, magic-making ball!
He also worked with Steve – most notably on Kylie’s immense Abbey Road Sessions and Susan Boyles winter albums. How does that music history of your fellow song-writers and collaborators contribute to the session?
I can only speak for myself of course, but the fact that I tend to love anything that either of them work on, really does say something about why we work well together. The Abbey Road Sessions is a dreamy whimsical masterpiece. People forget that behind a ‘pop hit’ is most frequently, a truly beautiful song. The album exposed the quality of the writing behind Kylie’s amazing career. It is like they re-interpreted the colour of the original tracks and then repainted them with an entirely new palate. Wonderful. Both Susan and Kylie have such distinctive voices, and these are examples of where Cliff and Steve know exactly what they are doing when it comes to surrounding a vocal with the perfect arrangement to best enhance and support it.
Cliff and I just did an interview where he mentioned an intriguing song called Empty Shoes which is yet to be released. I wanna know more!
Ah, Empty Shoes! The plan is to release it next year. It is special. I hope that it ends up on the album actually.
So would you say your album is pretty much wrapped-up? Or is there still a bit more fine-tuning left with you and Steve?
I’d say that we probably have the main bulk of material for the album, yes. But it’s not done until it’s done (if you know what I mean)! We have some writing sessions planned in the new year, so who knows…
Harriet's First EP (iTunes)
You released your first EP this year – What’s Mine Is Yours (link here). What is the story behind the songs and why did you include those three from your growing songbook?
I wrote What’s Mine Is Yours with Steve and the wonderful Judie Tzuke. The song is about receiving a gift and sharing it with everyone you love. It also deals with the subject of nostalgia and that often we hear or experience things that are able to take us to another time or place in our hearts. Afterglow was a definite choice for my debut EP, because I feel that the song captures everything about who I am as an artist - the lyric and melody, and Steve’s production best define my ‘sound’ and identity as an artist. If (When You Go) is a cover of Judie’s original version of the song and it was written by her and Steve. Quite simply, I adore the song and love to sing it. We thought it would tie our collaboration on What’s Mine Is Yours together well too.
What is the heartbeat behind the lyric "some part of me has been here before...you'll hear it in my voice" – This always sends me into a harmony of goosebumps!
People say that my music reminds them of artists that were around in the 60s/70s and interestingly, these are the eras that have most influenced me. That line in the song refers to this comparison. The song is about receiving a gift and sharing it with those that you love. If people connect with my voice and my songs because I remind them of a previous time or an artist that was close to their hearts, then that is very special.
After the release of the EP, you covered Michael Buble and 10CC. What made you pick those two specific songs?
I’m Not In Love came about because Steve and I wanted to record a version of a song from the era of the music that I love (predominantly the 1970s), but without it being an obvious choice. I am a hugely influenced by acts from the 60s and 70s that used such elaborate arrangements and vocal harmonies - The Beach Boys, The BeeGees, Art Garfunkel, The Carpenters, and 10CC’s original hit record felt like something we could be true to the spirit of it, whilst still injecting something fresh into our version.
Michael Buble’s Home (listen here) came about through my adoration for his voice and work. I honestly believe he is one of the most exceptional singers and performers of this generation. He has mastered combining classic ‘crooner-ism’ with contemporary pop, and Home is a perfect example of this. It is written so phonetically and his phrasing is magnetic - I couldn’t help but connect with song as soon as I heard it. The song was written by Amy Foster and Alan Chang (Buble’s MD). The words are so simple, yet incredibly effective, and the melody flies to every destination in the lyric and back - it’s beautiful to sing.
What Michael Buble song would most love to duet on together?
His entire Christmas album :-D Please.
And, while we’re on the subject of inspirations and duets – what living male act would you most love to duet with?
Ok, so Michael Buble, you have probably already gathered. George Michael would be a dream come true. He is quite probably my favourite male vocalist of all time. I would love to hear our voices together, it would be a dream come true. Also, Steve has been working with a brilliant singer, Mark Feehily (of Westlife). I was treated to a taster of what they’d been working on and I think my mouth just hung open throughout the entire song! What an instrument. He’d be awesome to sing with.
What is it about GM’s voice that draws you to him in particular?
Everything about his voice gets me. His inflections are so unaffected, yet incredibly distinctive. In fact, I believe they become the way the song is remembered - If you sing back a verse of one of his songs, you cannot help but copy all the little magical things he does - it is magnetic. I also love that you can hear every word he sings, unlike a lot of singers, where you catch the odd vowel sound and you have to kind of guess…! You can’t only hear his voice, you can smell, taste and feel it - somewhere between smoking wood, molten chocolate and wintery night air. I love it!
You recently picked his Christmas song as a b-side to Maybe This Christmas. The way you performed his song – its as if you lived his lyrics. What drew you to December Song? (Soundcloud link here)
The song has always been a favourite Christmas song of mine. I love the way the melody sits over particular chord changes. It is close to my heart because I have memories where difficult times during the year, were put aside at Christmas time. In a way, it might seem wrong to pretend that everything is ok when it isn’t, but I think we all need to do that sometimes, in order to remember what is important.
In many ways then it is a perfect song to follow your very own Christmas song – Maybe This Christmas. What was the internal heart behind the song & its lyrics?
You have probably heard the phrase, “Christmas is for children”. Well, I believe this. But I also believe that we are all children inside; hence why it is for everyone. When we are little, the only things we have to worry about are being good (so Santa Claus will come) and that we know where the people are who love us most, so we are safe. When we become adults, life becomes so complicated, and we suddenly see the truth in everything, which of course makes people confused, unhappy and sometimes bitter. Maybe This Christmas is about wishing to return to being a child, when you didn’t have all the answers and you were happy to ‘believe’ without any need for proof or reason. If we capture that at Christmas, well “be alright”.
How was Christmas for you growing up – as a child?
Growing up, Christmas was a very special time of year - the best in fact. I love Autumn/Winter weather. Bitterly cold - blue skies. I grew up in the countryside, so remember long walks on Boxing Day. Decorating the tree was always a scheduled event - carols playing, mince pies (and champagne as I got older)! Christmas was always spent with family, and we would all dress up and make an effort to wrap gifts beautifully. And most importantly, Christmas is probably the time of year that I got to know most of my extended family… We saw each other throughout the year, but Christmas with tons of cousins and uncles, aunties and grandparents was just wonderful. I feel very fortunate to have had that closeness with my family at a young age.
You live your lyrics.
Very. In fact, I was in a writing session recently and we were writing a song on a topic that I was struggling so hard to relate to and we kept reaching brick walls… What started off as a great idea for a song, ended up as something I felt incredibly disconnected to.
There is hope in Maybe This Christmas – but also loss. What is the saddest song you ever wrote?
There is an element of sadness in quite a few songs I’ve written, but if I had to choose one, I would say Empty Shoes that I co-wrote with Cliff Masterson. It was hard to get the words out when I was recording the vocal. There were some teary eyes that afternoon.
And I have to ask…what female artists would you most love to duet with?
There are so many female voices I love, but I really don’t know who I could duet with (I think I would wait to be asked!!). This is mainly because I love distinctive voices, which more often than not, stand alone, and I don’t think I compliment any of the singers I really love. However, saying that…Judie Tzuke sang backing vocals on our song, First And Last, which got me very excited about the prospect of doing a duet with her one day. I would love if the song could be one we have written together too. Of course, I wouldn’t turn an opportunity to duet with an incredible voice if it came along! Kylie, Olivia Newton John… Goldfrapp - Would be pretty incredible.
You’ve started to get a lot of early support from blogs like Paul’s fabulous My Fizzy Pop music blog and ChartShaker. What has that been like?
It’s been amazing. Paul (My Fizzy Pop) is such a beautiful writer, and is always extremely generous with his choice of words in reviewing my work. And Nick (Chartshaker) was responsible for my first interview for a music blog. I enjoyed answering those questions so much. It is very special to have such brilliant musical critics saying great things about what you are doing.
Is it true you introduced the artist Tom Butler to Paul. An artist you’ve actually been working with recently?
Steve and I have recently been in the studio with a wonderful singer/songwriter, Tom Butler working on some new material. Tom writes on guitar and we thought it would be great to bring his writing style into the mix, and Steve and I usually write on the piano. The sessions were brilliant and we got two new songs out of them; each very different.
Ah so when do you think we will get to hear about Fall In Love Again? Will it be part of a release next year perhaps?
Perhaps… ;-) The song was written on guitar and has a lovely melancholy feel to it - very simple, almost touching on the vibe of mine and Steve’s Can I Keep You. I’m excited for people to hear, as it’s very different to a lot of my work so far.
When do you think you’ll embark on a tour?
As soon as it is possible to do so! I am so excited to spread the music across as many places and to as many people as possible.
And, what would you like to achieve in the early part of next year?
We have a few exciting things planned for 2015. Including a physical release. Watch this space!
Choosing songs for the album is going to be a tough one. We are fortunate enough to have a good sized collection to choose from, but are also planning more writing sessions in the new year. It’s got to be just right. We have been working on some more uptempo songs,that should help balance the album well.
Its great to hear that your album is in works AND on the way to be completed. Exciting. Before that though are you planning anything perhaps in the early quarter of 2015 Perhaps an EP?
We are planning a release in the early part of next year. Can’t say too much so maybe we’ll have to do another interview in January or Feb – if you’ll have me?!
Of course, I’d love to to have you back. Can you share some hints to the next EP?
With my debut EP being an introduction to my music, and the Christmas EP being… well, Christmas! I wanted to explore a romantic and uplifting theme for the new year. I’m excited for everyone to hear the songs we’ve chosen for it!
Next year, a new James Bond Movie is being released! I can totally envisage you fronting the next James Bond feature. That has to happen! Lets make it happen! What is your favourite James Bond theme song annnnnnnnnnddd how many heartbeats would it take for you to say yes if they actually offered you the chance to sing the next James Bond theme?
I love the theme to Octopussy, Live And Let Die and The Spy Who Loved Me. And I would probably say “yes” before the question of “would you like to…” could be finished!
Talking of film soundtracks, your Christmas EP also included a magical cover of A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes. A good idea to include a song on a Christmas EP that is yet both festive and not. Was that the intention?
In a way, yes. I think the lyric is perfect for that of a lullaby to a small child. And I guess that although we can have dreams all year round, Christmas is the time of year when there is a little more magic in the air and they are perhaps more likely to come true…! The song also feels like a little reminder - it’s Christmas, so don’t forget to make a wish!
Beyond “A Dream”, what are your favourite Disney songs?
“God Help The Outcasts” from The Hunchback of Notre Dame and “When She Loved Me” from Toy Story 2.
And if you would do a Disney Songbook EP what would be your 5 additional Disney songs you’d cover in a heartbeat?
The two above, He’s A Tramp (Lady And The Tramp), You’ve Got A Friend In Me (Toy Story) Some Day My Prince Will Come (Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs)
And into that what is it that makes Disney films - and their confluent soundtracks - that makes them ever so special?
The ability to touch every heart in a unique way, through catching an imagination or hitting a nerve… Cynics underestimate the power of Disney films. And the best songs stand alone in those movies. Look at how much of a hit Let It Go (Frozen) was and still is! And I remember years ago, from when I used to sing in a jazz band, Some Day My Prince Will Come was in the Jazz Fake Book!
What is your favourite Disney Princess and would you ever consider a role in a future film?
Elsa & Anna (Frozen) And not just because it’s the most recent movie. And Rapunzel. And YES, of course!
Back to the music. Since introducing yourself and your music with the appearance of Afterglow this year, what have you learnt so far?
A good friend of mine has the perfect quote to answer this question. I was going through a tough time and was getting anxious and impatient, and said, “All I want, is to move the world”. He replied with, “Be yourself and the world will move with you”. It was so profound, I even wrote it in my note book there and then! I have learnt that in this industry, there is a lot of pressure to try and fit yourself into a box in which you don’t belong. I am so happy doing what I’m doing and am so grateful to have the opportunity to do it. If it makes other people happy too, then that is immensely special.
Although its early days – what you say to other singer-songwriters starting out tracing the same path as your own?
Don’t pay attention to what everyone says you should be doing, stick to what makes you happy. Don’t be precious with your material or your technique - listen to criticism, take it in and then say yes or no. Take every opportunity presented to you (within reason). And only surround yourself with people who enrich your life. Learn something from everything and everyone.
Some quarters have begun to draw comparisons to Karen Carpenter (in relation to the voice) and Adele (in relation of being a young & exciting new female singer-songwriter). How does that feel?
Well, they are huge compliments as both are exceptional artists. There was no other like Karen and there never will be again. Karen is undoubtedly one of my favourite all time female singers. I adore her voice. If people say if I move them in a similar way to how Karen did then that is a great honour. And to be spoken about alongside Adele is amazing - she defies any trend or genre and has achieved an enormous amount of success in such a short space of time. I would love to meet her.
I get the sense your most happiest both on stage but also in the studio too. Right?
I love both. Creating (studio) and sharing (stage).
I would love to work with David Foster - I think he is a wonderful producer and songwriter, with such a great ability to work with distinctive voices. Also, Diane Warren is such a great songwriter - I would love to hear what she would write for me, or even collaborate with her… Burt Bacharach would be fantastic, as I grew up with so much of his music. And Barry Manilow - I think he is one of the most underrated songwriters and producers of our time. What a wonderful gift. I listen to his songs constantly; he is a big influence. Also, Jake Shears and Rufus Wainwright are two writers I would love to work with. Rufus Wainwright wrote Going To A Town on George Michael’s Symphonica album and I adore it. And Jake Shears is a brilliant songwriter. And Richard Carpenter is just incredible. His songs and arrangement have always been a big inspiration to me and that music, very close to my heart.
Would you ever consider ever a collaboration that is outside your current sound/direction? Perhaps a dance/house release. Like what Judie Tzuke did with the Freemasons? I could hear a special dance hook-up with Freemasons working especially with your voice.
Definitely. I think this would be a great way to reach another audience, that might not otherwise discover my music. Also, this would be such a great experience.
And, would you ever commission a dance remix of one of your singles? And if so – who would you most like to see take your song and bring it to the dancefloors……??
Mark Ronson. I think he is so brilliant at merging genres and would love to hear what he’d do with my voice and one of my songs.
What song do you wish you’d written?
A Song For You, written by Leon Russell.
I love A Song For You! Such beautiful song writing. Why do you wish you’d written that song in particular?
For me, this song is flawless. I feel incredibly connected to the lyric. I love everything about where the melody takes the voice. The Carpenters’ version is my favourite, but I also love Donny Hathaway’s version. I can’t really explain any more why this song in particular. Occasionally a song comes alone and it hits every spot it possibly could inside you. This does that to me. “I love you in a place where there’s no space, or time. I love you for in my life, you are a friend of mine. And when my life is over, remember when we were together. We were alone and I was singing this song to you”. Perfection.
Harriet's Christmas EP is available now on iTunes (Here)
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Harriets Official Website (Here)