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Interview with Shelley Harland Print E-mail
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Written by Dimitri Kechagias   

Interview with Shelley Harland for 1Mix Radio..Interview with Shelley Harland. One of the finest voices in the Electronic Dance Music scene is the unconventional Shelley Harland. She worked with some of the biggest artists for tracks that became instant club anthems including Delirium, Ferry Corsten, Morgan Page, and Pole Folder, and lately with Don Jackson and his project ‘Headstrong’. Her voice stands out because it sounds so delicate, fragile, truthful and deeply expressive.  Many clubbers worldwide fell in love with her exquisite performances and easily identify with the lyrics and the situations or experiences that she sings about in her own very personal way. Her latest invasion in the club scene is her collaboration with Headstrong for the awesome club anthems ‘Helpless’ and ‘Here in the Dark’ which were supported by A list DJ’s such as Armin van Buuren, Above and Beyond, Ferry Corsten and many more. 

It is useful to provide as intro the information that Shelley provides in her facebook page about who she is:

“Shelley Harland is a singer-songwriter who has a secret studio in her home in Sydney. With a passion to sing and write music of all flavours, she has written pop songs, dance songs, acoustic songs, deep dark and beautiful songs. Like most people, she enjoys a variety of music and enjoys that freedom within her own creations, rather than putting herself in a box... So you never know what you're gonna get with Harland!
Untrained in music, she discovered her talent while living in New York. She picked up a guitar, wrote a few songs and her journey began. Her amazing voice has inspired collaborations with people all over the world, and you can find her on many albums globally, as well as her own albums.
Interview with Shelley Harland for 1Mix Radio..Shelley loves to remain "incognito" and shies away from the spotlight..
You can find her secret treasures here..”

This description sounds very mysterious and intriguing to me, so when Shelley sent me an email to thank me for my review of her track, ‘Here in the Dark with Headstrong’ I had the idea to request an interview with her, and try to find more details about the person who is behind this wonderful voice, and is responsible for the deep and meaningful heartfelt lyrics.  I’m very glad that Shelley accepted my request, and I’m very proud to present to you this interview which includes great answers. Its well worth devoting some of your free time to read it, because for me an interview is like a mirror of your soul, it never tells lies….

Ladies and gentlemen, Here In The Dark is Shelley Harland..

Dimitri: First of all I would like to say how happy I am that I’m doing this interview, because I’m big admirer of your exquisite voice. Let’s start with the basics. When and where were you born? Are you fortunate enough to come from parents that have any connection with music or other arts? Are your parents supportive in your decision to have a career in the music business, and write wonderful music?

Shelley Harland: I was born in Croydon Surrey, England and grew up in a town in Surrey called Caterham. My father was a carpenter and my mother did nursing among other things. My dad was very creative with his work and my mum was always involved in creative things, painting, drawing, making clothes etc. They weren’t necessarily musical, but they both loved music, and they had a great record collection of Mowtown classics and disco tunes. My mum bought me a Casio Keyboard, and I would lock myself away in my room for hours, making up songs. They both only showed encouragement for my musical adventures.

Dimitri: Do you have formal training on how to become a good singer and how to write lyrics, or are you 100% self taught? Do you believe that formal training is important, or do you believe it actually kills spontaneity and uniqueness?

Shelley Harland: I have no musical or vocal training at all, and I’m cool with that. I come at music from a different angle because I haven’t learnt that things are “supposed” to be a certain way.  Whether it’s piano, guitar or my Beatmaker Sampler – I fumble my way through it all to create the song I hear in my head - it works for me :)  There are plusses on both sides I believe.  Of all the songs I’ve written, people seem to always gravitate towards my early raw recordings on “Sinking Shade” – I had no idea of song structure then, verse-pre-chorus etc... I just did them. They seem to connect with people.

Interview with Shelley Harland for 1Mix Radio..Dimitri: It would be great to let us know the singers that have influenced you the most in the way that you sing and write your lyrics. Is there any singer that you maybe like because of her brave stance in the music business which is dominated by men in particular?

Shelley Harland: My early inspirations were Bjork, Beth Gibbons from Portishead, Kate Bush, and then I became interested in Joni Mitchell, The Carpenters, and Fleetwood Mac. I’ve always been a huge fan of Morrissey, melodically and lyrically. I love Burt Bacharach and could sing his songs all day. The Beatles, Frank Sinatra, Muse, Radiohead.. It’s so varied – just great songs really.

Dimitri: DJ’s and fans of electronic dance music know you through your great collaborations with well known DJ’s and EDM producers. However, can you please tell us how you started your career, and pin point some of the most important moment in your career before to got involved with EDM artists?

Shelley Harland: I started creating music after I moved to NY. I had a sampler, an 8 track and an acoustic guitar. I wrote some songs which all came fairly naturally, after showing them to a friend in music, I was immediately managed by Nettwerk. I was flown to LA, had meetings with people like Randy Jackson, and got signed to Chrysalis Publishing in LA. It all happened very fast. Shortly after that, I was working on a song for John Cale (Velvet Underground) in NY, writing with Larry Klein (legendary songwriter) in LA, and hanging out with Andy from “Lamb” in UK, who said I was an amazing programmer. Headspin.. Because my first creations were very much in the electronic world, DJ’s gravitated towards my sound, and I had lots of offers to appear as a guest vocalist on their albums.

Dimitri: The majority of the people that will read this interview, love your voice through your collaborations with great EDM artists. I’m going to mention some names, and I would love to give us your opinion about each artist, and to provide us with some background information about your collaboration with them.

Shelley Harland:

a) Don Jackson (Headstrong):
Don & I have not met in person yet, this is often the case. He’s in UK and I’m in Sydney – but he first sent me one of his tracks called “Helpless” which was really calm and beautiful, I hadn’t done a track like it for a while, so it was nice to sing it. We then talked about my song “In the dark” which I had written years before. There had been so many offers to remix it, and get it out there in various ways. But Don had a good plan, and seemed like he wanted to work really hard on getting it out there. We worked out a way to do it, and re-titled it “Here in the dark”.

b) Ferry Corsten:
I wrote “Holding on” for Ferry after he sent through a track, and then I had previously written a song called “Skin”, which is on my album “Salt Box Lane”. Ferry loved it, and did a version for his album called “Skindeep”. I met ferry after the songs were written, and recorded in a cafe in NY. He was nice!

c) Junkie XL
Tom (Junkie XL) sent a track to me in NY and I wrote ‘Rivers’. The original track he sent me was up tempo, and had lots of beats etc. After I sent him the vocals, he stripped the music completely, and created this atmospheric sounding track. I got to hear it in his studio in Amsterdam, after driving to meet him with my friend Benoit(Pole Folder). It sounded awesome!

d) Delirium:
I was asked by Delirium to be one of the two main singers for their first Canadian/American tour. Kristy Thirsk and I were to sing their beautiful songs such as Silence, Innocente etc. It was such a thrill, a brilliant experience and we had a blast on tour. It was only after I was asked to go on tour with them that I wrote “Above the Clouds” for them.

Interview with Shelley Harland for 1Mix Radio..e)Morgan Page:
I met Morgan here in Sydney while he was on tour, and he had done a remix of one of my songs called “Wonder” on my album “Red Leaf”. He did a great job and he’s a nice guy! He sent me some instrumentals for his new album, and I wrote songs called “Loves Mistaken” which will be on his album released in April. I have to say, I can’t wait - I love it!

f)Rio Klein:
Wow.. this was such a long time ago, I had to think. But actually, it was during one of my visits back to UK from NY – this was one of the few times I actually went to someone’s house, met them, and we recorded the track together! The result was “Fearless”.

g)Pole Folder:
Benoit is my lifelong friend! He contacted me through his manager years ago, and I recorded with him in Belgium for a few months. There is something about the music he creates and sounds that he chooses, that connects with my heart.. I love writing to his tracks. He has been to stay with me here in Sydney, and I hope we get to hang out again soon. We are definitely writing together this year!

Loverush UK
I wrote “Different Word” with Loverush UK in the same way – they sent me a track and I sent them back my vocals. I then got to meet Mark and his partner in England, they cooked us a nice dinner!  Mark has been truly supportive of my music, and even had the words of our song tattooed on his arm! Hopefully we’ll work on something again this year.

Guru- Jazzmatazz
I feel really pleased to have worked with Guru on his last Jazzmatazz album before he passed away. I love the track we wrote “ Follow the signs”

Dimitri: The reason behind this interview is the release with many brand new mixes of your track ‘Here In The Dark’ which you wrote with Headstrong. Is it possible to tell us what those lyrics mean to you? Do you describe a real situation that you went through, or do you describe a situation that any person on this earth can pass through, and can easily identify with the lyrics?

Shelley Harland: I wrote “In the dark” on a plane, after watching a film. One of the sentiments that struck me was that in all of us there is a “criminal”, we all want something we can’t have, or have a thought that we shouldn’t, we’re human.. As much as those thoughts can make us feel like a criminal, they also make us feel “alive”.

Dimitri: You write vocals for a wide variety of types of music from Rock/Pop to uplifting trance. Do you believe that each type of music requires a different style of lyrics, and a different way of performing them?

Shelley Harland: To some degree you have to approach it differently. Although fundamentally I try to write a “whole” song, so that if that song was stripped down to just acoustic guitar, it would still sound strong without relying on the track.

Interview with Shelley Harland for 1Mix Radio..Dimitri: Do you have a favourite style of music that you believe your voice sounds perfect in, and is there a style of music that you dislike so much that you would never like to use that style?

Shelley Harland: I must admit I always gravitate towards the darker side of music, it’s where I really “feel” it. Probably wouldn’t go for screaming heavy metal.. but I like to keep an open mind!

Despite being successful in EDM music, I’m quite curious as to why you took the decision to write a rock/pop style album, rather than releasing an EDM style album, with collaborations from the various artists that you have worked with in the past? For example, many featured vocal artists release EDM albums, like Betsie Larkin, Emma Hewitt etc.

Shelley Harland: I’ve done everything back to front. Most famous bands release a rock-traditional sounding album, and then go on to do something electronic and experimental, like Radiohead, for example. So for me, starting in the electronic world, I always had the desire to write and record a traditional sounding “Singer, Songwriter” album. Totally different to what I had done before. It was just something I wanted to do. Having had that experience, I’m being drawn back to my electronic roots, and want my next album to combine all those sounds.

Dimitri: For the recording of this album, you had the idea to ask your fans to finance it. How did this idea come about, and are you satisfied with the progress of this idea??

Shelley Harland: For about 2 years I’ve had so many emails from fans asking me to make a new album, I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it happen financially, so a friend suggested I create a campaign.

I like the idea that people can pledge and get something great in return, anything from $10, which will get you a digital copy of the album, to singing happy birthday to you, so playing songs at your home, or having a skype concert. Everybody wins. The fans get great experiences and I get to record the album they want.

I think it’s a great Idea for artists and fans to collaborate on these ideas. That way they get the music they want to hear.  People have been very kind.

Dimitri: It would be great to tell us roughly how much it costs for an artist to record an album. I wonder if you have sent the idea or a rough demo to a record company, and if they had answered you with the possibility of covering the cost of the album?

Shelley Harland: The cost of an album varies so much, I put my minimum as $10k, but in reality it will cost me a lot more than this. You have to pay for producer’s time, musicians, mixing, mastering. Mixing alone can cost $1000 a track. There is a lot to cover.

I haven’t sent this record to any labels. I’m not ruling it out, but I’m just really happy being independent at the moment. It could be a possibility, but we’ll see. I’m also really rubbish at the business side of music!

Interview with Shelley Harland for 1Mix Radio..Dimitri: Lyrics in your tracks are always very exceptional. Can you describe to us the process of writing them? Do you usually write only when you are at home or, as many other artists do, you keep notes while you travel or doing other activities, and then you work on it to finalise it?

Shelley Harland: Ah thanks? I’ve written lyrics on planes, subways, buses. Wherever the inspiration strikes! Sometimes though, when I listen to a new track, the lyrics sort of just come out of my mouth, weird huh? It’s just a feeling I get from the track, and then it all comes together.

Dimitri: What kind of life situations, emotions, and feelings influence your song writing? Are there any recurrent themes that you like to write again and again about and why?

Shelley Harland: Because I’m drawn to the darker side of music my lyrics are often about love, or the tortures within love. I think most people can connect to that sentiment.

Dimitri: All over the world many young singers find their way to the public through the well known talent shows, and they become famous through them. Can you give us your opinion about those shows, and if you ever consider taking part in any of them?

Shelley Harland: I like some of the shows as an entertaining TV show. It’s different from being an artist I think. There is amazing talent out there and it’s definitely a fast track to being famous. I think what’s interesting is how important it is for young people to be “famous” – that seems more important than being creative and unique? I simply never had the desire to be famous - it didn’t matter to me at all. It was desperately important for me to create, I felt like I might not breathe if I couldn’t. That’s what matters to me.

Dimitri: Are you active and passionate user of the internet and the social networks? Everyone nowadays talks about the Facebook or Twitter generation after the MTV generation. Do you believe in the importance of Facebook, or do you feel its a bit exaggerated and over hyped by the media? 

Shelley Harland: I am fairly reclusive at times and I definitely shy away from being in the spotlight, but being independent now I have to find a way to let my fans know what’s happening musically, and they all send me messages. It would be rude not to respond! They’re nice!  I post on Facebook and Twitter, but I also try to live a life that I post about every few seconds. So I think the balance is important.

Dimitri: Is it possible to let us know about future tracks that you are going to release within 2012 in collaboration with EDM artists?

Shelley Harland: Future releases include Morgan Page, Cassan & Coppola from Italy, Sweet Feet Music, and I’m in discussions with Thrill Seekers, Loverush UK, and Pole Folder.

Dimitri: What other things do you enjoy doing apart from writing music, or listening to other producers music?

Shelley Harland: Love to make clothes, love to cook, love to be with friends and drink wine.

Dimitri: Many thanks for the interview, let’s finish off this interview by dedicating to the people who will read your favourite lyrics that you wrote for an EDM song!

Shelley Harland: I love the lyrics to ‘Stylus’ which is about the needle on a record?

Your road is still and silent
When I place you upon it
You drive the static dances
Over my spine
You touch creation
Draw me in, take me, I want it
Unlock, unlock me for eternity
When you meet the master that triggers my world
You violently awake this sullen heart of mine
When you meet the master that triggers my world
You remind me, that I’m alive
Oh place your needle in my vein
I don’t want anything more
Cos just that beat that runs from you to me
Reaches my soul
No I won’t surrender my heart
To anyone other than you
No I won’t surrender my heart
To anyone other than you
When you meet the master that triggers my world
You violently awake this sullen heart of mine
When you meet the master that triggers my world
You remind me, that I’m alive
No I won’t surrender

Many thanks to Shelley Harland for devoting her time to reply to my questions

Don’t forget to support her to record her album.

Interview was written and conducted by Dimitri Kechagias, Music Journalist & Radio/Club DJ.

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