When I saw Ed Harcourt play his headlining set at Bush Hall in London last December, there was one thing I was very sure of. I wanted to interview him. I wanted to know what he was up to. It had been ages since we’d had a decent catch up so I was massively curious. He’s a man I could write a massive ‘Did You Know.. list about, but I’d rather let the musical one speak for himself. So I caught up with him earlier this month and this is what he had to say. Read on and enjoy what Ed Harcourt circa 2012 is all about and be sure to mooch his recommendations. I know I’m going to.
Yasmin Selena ; ) x x
YSB: How’s it going Ed? How’s 2012 treating you so far?
EH: Hi Yasmin. Life is pretty hectic at the moment, I’m juggling being father to two young children and writing my next record, as well as being a co-writer for lots of up and coming artists. As usual, I’m glad to have sailed through January without too much calamity, it truly is a tiresome month.
YSB: Musically, what are you working on at the moment? Can we expect some new music from you this year? Lustre was a lovely record!
EH: This next record is a little mad in places. I already have some immense heavyweights lined up to contribute to it, I’ll let you know soon enough, but I don’t want to jinx it. I veer between home and my studio which is five minutes away and so am tootling back and forth…there’s a lot more samples and weird sounds on the next record. The drums are much more loose and beat-driven. I have no particular aim other than be totally selfish and please myself! I’ve got four months left to finish the writing side and then I’ll go into production; the context of the record is very different to Lustre, much darker lyrically but very playful in an Eels/Beck sort of way.
YSB: I’ve noticed in the last few years you’ve increasingly started writing songs with other artists. I remember you working on Paloma Faith’s début record with her. Who are you working with at the moment Ed? What is that process like for you?
EH:I’ve been working with Paloma on her next record, a great new singer called Ren Harvieu, she’s amazing, Jodie Marie who is on Decca who’s also gonna do well I think… Jamie N Commons who’s got a really bluesy spiritual thing going on, Louise and the Pins who’s wonderfully warm and melancholy, Laura Jansen who is Dutch/American, beautiful voice, we wrote a killer song the other day!
One of my main priorities has been Kristina Train, who you’ll be hearing a lot of quite soon, she’s from Savannah, Georgia and her voice is ridiculous – it’s so good. We’ve written about half her album….also my wife ( Gita Harcourt – The Langley Sisters) and I write together sometimes when we can. I’m still waiting for the Lisa Marie Presley record to come out, got three songs on that and Mr Hudson & I have done some writing, he’s a great guy. I don’t know, there’s always stuff in the pipeline.. The process is different to writing on my own, it’s more of a 9-5 kind of feel, sometimes you hit it off and write a great song, other times it’s frustrating and fruitless.
YSB: Is it something you can see yourself doing a lot more in the future? Do artists approach you directly for collaboration? Is there an artist or band you’d love to pen a song for/with?
EH: To be honest this is my main priority now because I make more of a living out of it than as a solo artist, but I feel I’ve learnt from writing with others as well, it’s helped me fine-tune and streamline the lazier elements of my song writing. Some artists approach me directly, like Melanie Pain from Nouvelle Vague just sent me a Facebook message! We wrote a song called ‘Black Widow’ that’s on her forthcoming album, it’s a film noir duet! I would love to do something with Bjork or Tom Waits or even RZA or one of my musical idols, but off the top of my head I can’t think of anything new right now…my management are better at notifying me about new talented artists.
YSB: When I first got into your music, you used to gig prolifically, but I suspect since you and Gita have become parents it’s probably a bit trickier. How are you finding combining being a dad with being a musician? How do you and Gita make it work?
EH: There is a huge compromise; pretty much any time I have, is spent writing for myself or others. Today I’ve been looking after the kids since 6.30am, it’s a full-time job and I love being with them, but there’s always that unfinished song in the back of my head! I still play gigs here and there but my touring days are pretty much over, it’s hard enough to tour without label support anyway…
YB: Is being a father what you expected? What are Franklyn and Roxy like? Are your kids going to be singing ‘Hellraiser’ at you? : ) What do they make of your music?
EH: Roxy is a real performer and does not stop talking, she’s very switched on for a 3-year-old and completely hilarious. Sometimes she sings at the piano, I mean it’s hard for her to avoid it I guess? Franklyn is only 9 months, but built like an ox – yet very gentle and Buddha-esque. Roxy tells it like it is, she said one of my songs was boring the other day!
YSB:One of the things I love most about you is your passion for new music and culture. I got into Hush The Many and Sandy Dillon thanks to you! Who have you been listening to lately? Is there anyone out there that’s a must listen that you really admire that everyone should know about?
EH: Been listening to The Walkmen record, ‘You & Me’….Camille’s new album, Ilo Veyou ( I would love to work with her), Feist’s new record ‘Metals’ is so good, you should check out this girl called FOE, she’s pretty weird and dark I like her, like early PJ Harvey in a horror film or something; been listening to a lot of Ivor Cutler, my tour manager and I listened to him for about eight hours driving from Stockholm to Oslo about a year ago. Max Richter, I’m obsessed with his music I love it so much and also Mark Lanegan’s new record ‘Blues Funeral’ is brilliant. Also check out Willy Deville’s version of ‘Hey Joe’ from the early 90’s, (it’s) really great!
YSB: Excellent, loads of good new stuff to check out. And on the flip side, who do you thinks sucks and should be fired out of a canon to a land far, far away?
They’re both rich enough so they should just stop right now and fuck off to a private island far, far away.
YSB: : ) So, what do you think of the current music scene in 2012? Is it in a good place if you’re an artist making original music?
EH: The kids are more savvy and PR-conscious these days. The Internet has made sure you can be a sensation over night, I don’t think that’s a good thing at all. I believe that record labels are still important, because they can sign a young band or singer and let them or help them develop and fund them before they make their first record. They have the potential to let these people spend a few years focusing solely on being better songwriters. But the Internet means we have access to everything whenever we want, wherever we are. YouTube spawned Justin Bieber’s career, there’s always a negative side to technology. Do I sound old? I FEEL OLD. Don’t get me wrong, YouTube and Facebook etc are powerful tools, I use them and embrace them. You have to.
At the end of the day you can be the hippest band in the world, but if you don’t have the songs then you’re screwed long-term. It’s all about the song.
YSB: I know you really loved the movie ‘Drive’, (which was my favourite film of 2011), but has anything else grabbed you at the cinema or on DVD?
EH: I went to see ‘Martha Marcy May Marlene‘ last night. Not a huge barrel of laughs. Great acting though. Right now I’m obsessed with ‘Breaking Bad’, it is seriously addictive. Oh and I loved ‘The Artist’, such a charming film I hope it wins lots of Oscars. I think ‘The Road‘ is one of the best films I’ve ever seen, really affected me.
YSB: I absolutely loved ‘The Road’ too. It’s my World Book Night title giveaway this year. It killed me Viggo Mortensen didn’t win an Oscar for that. I didn’t see it, but was The Rum Diary any good? I know you’re a fan of Hunter S. Thompson? Are there any films coming out that you’re really looking forward to seeing?
EH I was so disappointed. I wanted to like it so badly, but it just didn’t cut it. It could’ve been so much better, I loved the book so much. Hunter S Thompson is one of my genuine heroes, I’ve had the honour to meet Ralph Steadman, I’m trying to convince him to do the artwork on my next album, fingers crossed.
YSB. That would be really cool if he does! As a novelist, I’ve got to ask you, what have you been reading lately? Who are your own favourite writers at the moment?
EH: I’m terrible because I read about five books at the same time, it’s a bad habit. I’m reading the lost Jack Kerouac novel: ‘The Sea Is My Brother’, ‘Little Hands Clapping’ by Dan Rhodes, very macabre book:
And I loved ‘The Psychopath Test’ by Jon Ronson. I like reading Charles Bukowski’s poems a lot, they resonate with me for some reason.
YSB And I have to ask you about Wild Boar! (Ed’s heavy metal outfit) Will the Wild Boar album ever see light of day? ‘I’m In Love With My Therapist’, actually made my body vibrate when you used to play it live!
EH: We’re the laziest, most disorganized band in the world. I have no idea, maybe one day when we get our ‘act’ together.
YSB: You and Nick De Cosemo used to run those fantastic days of music at the Nektar Bar and Paradise By Way of Kensal Green, are there any plans to ever run those again? They were awesome.
EH: Oh wow those were some very fun times, we keep talking about it, I hope so. Maybe we should do one this year. I’ll get on it!
YSB: I would absolutely love that. Your gig at Bush Hall at Christmas was a beauty – and it was clear from the audience’s response you’ve been sorely missed live. Do you have anything coming up in the next few months you’d like to tell your fans about?
EH:Not at the moment but I’ll let you know for sure….
YSB: And just for a bit of fun. Word Association.Tell me the first thing that comes to mind when I say the following?
EH: Simon Cowell: HUMAN CANNON
Jedward: HUMAN BAIT FOR BEARS
Facebook Timeline: BOREDOM
Alien life forms: DISAPPOINTMENT
2012: VAST RICHES & SUCCESS
Ed Harcourt: SEE ABOVE
Lana Del Ray: GIVE HER A BREAK!
Courtney Love: APOPLECTIC
The Olympics: ANNOYING TOURISTS
Ed Sheeran: GOOD LUCK TO HIM
YSB: Thank you, Ed Harcourt