If at first you don’t succeed… and so on and so forth. Although Karen Harding was forced to follow that age old proverb, it’s pretty hard to imagine quite how she didn’t make it at the first attempt. With a classic soul vocal that feels right at home in the deep-house and garage rhythms of her forthcoming debut single “Say Something” it’s bemusing that she found herself leaving 2013’s X-Factor competition at the infamous “Boot Camp” stage. Still, given that she has the lyrical dexterity to write her own songs and a list of influences that stretches far beyond the boundaries of banal contemporary pop, she’s probably best going it alone. Having already formed a formidable partnership with production man-of-the-moment MNEK and with all the soul-star boxes ticked she’s about to make a serious impact. Proudly introducing…Karen Harding.
You’re influenced by classic and contemporary soul artists. Who introduced you to that music? What are your earliest memories of hearing those kind of records?
My Mam who’s from the Philippines was really into Western R&B and pop music from a young age, so I’ve always had a soft spot for it (she even listens to 90s US hip hop and R&B in the kitchen now when my Dad’s not around!). My parents had a cool collection of CDs and tapes – my Dad is a bit of a rocker so I love old Whitesnake and Bon Jovi too. From what I can remember, my Mam always had Tina Turner, Whitney Houston and Lisa Stansfield blasting in the car, so me and my brother, even now, could remember most of the words and knew which song was coming next.
Your forthcoming single “Say Something” has got a real 90s house style. Is that something you were influenced by as well? How did house music become the genre you wanted to work in? What can you bring to the genre?
I can’t remember how old I was but I remember my Mam buying Craig David ‘Born To Do It’ and the Maddison Avenue album. I loved the melodies, great rhythms and lyric concepts. I think I’ve always been into garage and got into house from there. I was really into big tunes like ‘Gypsy Woman’, ‘Closer Than Close’ and ‘Rhythm of the Night’. It just sort of happened, when we wrote ‘Say Something’ house music was really up and coming in the charts, I remember the Duke Dumont song ‘Need You (100%)’ had just been Number 1 so it was making a big impact at the time. I want to bring back conceptual lyrics, melodies and strong vocals to house music, and bring in a bit of soul.
Masses of DJs have remixed your track. What’s it like to have your music reworked; do you always like what people come up with?
Ah, it’s amazing! I love hearing how other people hear the song and what they want to do with it. I love how much people like the remixes too, it really adds strength to the song, that it can be liked in different styles.
You previously appeared on X-factor getting as far as the boot camp stage. What did you learn from that experience?
I’ve learned that even if someone tells you no, there are another million opportunities to take, but you gotta go find them yourself!
You collaborated with MNEK for ‘Say Something’, is he someone you’d like to work with again? What did he offer in the writing and recording process?
Hell yes! I’ve worked with him quite a bit and we have some amazing tunes already (that I’m sure you will hear very soon!). MNEK helped me discover the route that I wanted to go down, and because we’re both into old school tunes and artists like Mariah and Janet we gelled straight away.
Are there any other artists that you’d particularly like to work with in the near future?
Wow, that’s tough, I feel like I’ve worked with some amazing people already! I’d love to do a duet with another artist but I don’t know which one yet. I’d love something like that for my album.
When writing a song, do you take from personal experiences? Where does the song writing process begin?
Songwriting is a mixture of everything really, sometimes I can pull from personal experiences but I also like to step back and talk about a situation that a lot of people could relate to whether it’s personal or not. Working with different songwriters also helps with inspiration, I like to know what they want to talk about as well so it’s mixture of different emotions every session.
What kind of reaction are you hoping for when ‘Say Something’ is released?
It’s come so quick, it’s so exciting! I can’t believe my first single is coming out and I really hope that people enjoy it as much as I enjoyed making it. I want people to hear my voice and recognise it’s me but also relate to it, be able to put their hands in the air to it, blast it in the car and even sit and relax to it. I’m so excited for it to come out!
Is a debut album in production? What will it sound like and when can we hope to hear it?
Yes, there’s a lot of music being made, drawing inspiration from all of my influences, and I can’t wait to share it with everyone. I will make sure to let you know!
Listen to more from Karen Harding on her Soundcloud.