Words by Keane Fletcher
For Melbourne-based singer-songwriter Karen Harding, the last couple of years have been a mixed bag. On the one hand, the numerous lockdowns and a constant nationwide precariousness have led to a burst in creativity for the artist; she even went so far as create her very own platform, Sounds On The Couch, a website that enables artists to connect and perform in an online space in lieu of any live gigs. But then, of course, on the other hand there were all the other pandemic-related issues to deal with as well. People getting sick. People getting scared. People getting angry. That's where her newest single, 'I Heard Somebody Talking', comes in.
I was watching a [news] story about an anti-mask rally...There was a man that ran across the screen and I wrote this song as a conversation with him. It relates to asking what he would do if he was wrong about his beliefs about the effects of Covid-19 and if his family were to become unwell as a result of his actions. The song is not to condemn his ideas, but as a simple query...an encouragement for us all to be open to challenging our ideas.
A haunting meditation on the interconnectedness of our decisions and the impact we have on each other's lives, it's hard to believe 'I Heard Somebody Talking' is only the second release from Harding, a multi-instrumentalist who has been playing music since she was 6 years old. There is an EP in the works, but that's another thing that's been disrupted by COVID-19. On the plus side though, now that Melbourne is in lockdown 6 (or is it 6 and 1/2?) think of all that extra material she'll be able to write!
We recently caught up with Harding to talk all things music, inspo, and what creating during a pandemic means to her. Check it out below!
1- Where in the world are you based?
I am based in Melbourne in Victoria, Australia.
2- How would you describe your sound? Who are your musical influences?
Within my music, you will find a delicate, emotional feel. I tend to create music that allows me to express my feelings, my surroundings and experiences. My sound can be likened to artists like Sarah McLachlan, Norah Jones or Eva Cassidy.
In terms of influences, I grew up surrounded by great classic storytellers and songwriters...the likes of Leonard Cohen, Tracy Chapman, Carol King, Linda Ronstadt and Norah Jones.. My dad had an incredible record collection of amazing artists and I was drawn into the feeling within their songwriting and performance.
3- How does the creative process usually work for you? How do you go about writing and developing a song?
My creative process varies significantly between different songs that I write. Often, I will just sit at my piano or with my guitar and the song just flows as I reflect on what it is that I'm feeling, or what I've seen or experienced. Other times, the process is more structured, where I create a storyline and lyrics and then structure them into a song.
More recently, I have been playing with different sounds through production software, which has allowed me to use another process again.
I love playing around with different methods of songwriting. I find that every different way you create, provides you with an opportunity to find a different feel or explore a new road of songwriting. Music, for me, is an exploration of what is possible...a musicians playground...and I am always looking for ways to discover something new.
4- Can you tell us a bit about your latest release ‘I Heard Somebody Talking’? How did the idea come about?
'I Heard Somebody Talking' (released 16th July 2021) is a song inspired by Covid-19, specifically, the anti mask rallies that have been occurring throughout the pandemic period.
In the first Melbourne lockdown, I was watching the news and there was a story about an anti-mask rally that was happening in Melbourne at the time. There was a man that ran across the screen and I wrote this song as a conversation with him. The idea behind the song is about questioning our beliefs and ideas, questioning how we would react if things didn't turn out as we expected. In this case, it relates to asking what he would do if he was wrong about his beliefs about the effects of Covid-19 and if his family were to become unwell as a result of his actions. The song is not to condemn his ideas, but as a simple query, challenging his views...as an encouragement for us all to be open to challenging our ideas.
Around the same time, I painted an image of a person wearing a mask, over a collage of newspaper articles, relating to Covid-19. This became the artwork that was used with the song.
5- And I believe there are also plans for an EP in the works?
There is an EP in the works! Unfortunately, the recording process has needed to be delayed a couple of times due to lockdowns, however, it is on the way. I am looking forward to sharing some new music that I have created over the last number of months.
To stay up to date with updates for my releases, you can subscribe to my email list at www.karenhardingmusic.com or follow me on social media.
6- Not only are you a fantastic singer, you’re also a multi-instrumentalist. How long have you been training? How important is music to you on a day-to-day basis?
Thank you very much! Music has always been ingrained in my life. I began playing piano at the age of 6 and as a child was involved in every possible music opportunity I could find. At 14 years old, I began formal singing lessons. Guitar was a more recent endeavour, which I picked up as my lockdown project.
I can't express how important music has been to me on a day to day basis. I am a very introverted person and music has been a tool that has allowed me to express and to process life. It allows me to truly make sense of the world and to really feel into what is happening within me...it's very personal, yet, I am so honoured to have the opportunity to share my music with the public, in a way that hopefully allows them to recognise their own feelings and experiences through the music.
7- A lot of artists are really suffering at the moment due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its ramifications. How has it affected you and your creativity? Have you enjoyed having more time to create, or have you found it stifling?
There is absolutely no doubt that Covid-19 has been incredibly hard for musicians. It's been so tough for musicians who rely on income from gigs to survive and haven't been able to get out there and play. For me, fortunately, I do also work within a full time job and I have been able to work from home. Financially, I have been less affected than many musicians.
It's actually been a time, for me, that has allowed me to grow musically. The greatest gift that Covid-19 has given us is time, time to reflect and take stock of where we are and what direction we would like to move. At the beginning of Covid-19, I started a platform for musicians, Sounds On The Couch, to provide an opportunity for musicians to perform in an online space, while they couldn't perform live. Through this platform, I had incredible opportunities to talk to so many artists and experts within the music industry and ultimately, I learnt a lot about what was possible. Through this experience, I gained the confidence and self belief that led me to release my first single.
Music was always a huge part of my life and it always will be...however, I truly believe that if it were not for the impact of Covid-19, that my music would not be publicly available.
8- What's next for you? Where do you hope to see yourself in a year’s time?
I have so much that I would like to do in the future. I have a lot more music that I plan to organise and release. I am working on some collaborations at the moment as well and can't wait to see what develops from there.
I also have some projects in the works for helping other independent artists to move forward. I know this sounds very mysterious at the moment but stay tuned via my social media and website to find out more as it unfolds!
Thanks for stopping by Hipland!