Shelley Harland

Shelley Harland

Musical Discoveries: Please tell us a bit about your background Shelley.

Shelley Harland: I was born in Croydon, Surrey, England in bed at home. But I mostly grew up in a small town called Caterham in Surrey. My family loved music. There was a lot of Motown in the house: Michael Jackson, Tina Turner and Frank Sinatra, too.

I had a little Casio keyboard and would make up little songs. My sister and I danced in competitions. I remember being so hooked on "Rappers Delight." I wrote out every word on paper so I could sing along to it.

At weekends I would go to clubs with my friends and dance all night. I love dance music--there's nothing like four to the floor--but when I moved to London I was introduced to the other side of music. I saw a lot of live bands and loved watching people perform. It inspired me.

And then what happened?

I knew I could sing at that point. But I was really quite shy and wouldn't dream of singing infront of anyone else. It took a few years for me to overcome this. In the meantime I began writing songs on guitar and a four-track. This all began about four years ago.

I wrote sketches of songs - and at the same time I was collaborating long distance with a great programmer/producer in Australia called Andrew Wright. I flew over to Oz and We recorded fifteen songs in a month and created the album Phoelar. He inspired me to become a programmer. When I got back to New York I bought an MPC 2000 and a JV1080 and started s ampling and creating songs. I was a happy girl.

What artists influenced your singing and songwriting?

I have been influenced by: Bjork, Portishead, Radiohead, Everything ButThe Girl, Sneakerpimps, Lamb and Mandalay (review).

How would you characterise your "sound"?

I got a letter in the post today from a fan who said "Every once in a while I need music with lyrics that match my feelings about something at a given time--to let me know that I'm not alone. Other times I need some kick ass beats and great electronica to chill to. It's rare that I find both of those things in a single project. You do it, and you do it well." This makes me feel like I'm doing something right.

Please tell us about the time leading up to your first CD. What was going on in your life and how did you express that in the finished product?

I was full of excitement, aving newly relocated to Brooklyn, NY and meeting new people--finding out that I could write songs--I was very happy and couldn't wait to record. I had lots of ideas and Andrew was so great to work with. We had a blast. We talked very openly about things in life which helped me to write lyrics that I am very proud of. Andrew inspired me to becomer a programmer. I wanted to create music as well as sing and write.

Shelley Harland


What about Salt Box Lane? How has your sound changed and where do you see it evolving?

While making Salt Box Lane I was going through the hardest time in my life. My father was dying and I poured my heart into music. Thankfully this is what helped me get through such a difficult time. I began asking a lot of questions about life--myself--etc.

Confusion set in and, if I'm honest, I'm still working on figuring it all out. What I love about this album and what was important to me was that each song was strong enough to be played simply on a piano or guitar and still touch peoples hearts. I think it has a simplicity to it but still sugar coated in my favourite electronic sounds. I hope to get it out to more people.

And then how did you get hooked up with Delerium?

I am managed by Nettwerk and Delerium are signed to Nettwerk. I was working with Carmen Rizzo in LA. He said that Rhys had been asking him if he thought I'd be interested in doing the tour. He'd heard my music through Carmen. Rhys called and asked me to a lunch with him. I met him--he seemed cool--he asked if I wanted to do the tour. He said there wasn't much money involved, but we both thought it would be a good experience for me so I said "yes." That was pretty much the whole discussion regarding the tour. We just hung out and ate good food after that.

Tell us all about the tour and the different people you worked with. What was the response like?

The tour was wonderful. Everyone was professional, fun and chill.

And what about Kristy Thirsk? How was it working with her?

Wicked - wicked - wicked - she's my sista!! A true friend.

We hear that you are working on a collaboration with Kristy and a collaboration with Adrian White (drummer for the delerium tour) What can you tell us about them? When do you think we will hear some of the results?

"Silent Alarm" is the name of the project Adrian and I are working on. "Pillofite" is the one I'm working on with Kristy. Right now they still in the early stages. We are just getting ideas and piecing things together. But I'm enjoying it so much. They are gonna rock!

Is there a song you'd love to put the Harland touch on from the past?

I've always thought it would be cool to cover "Running Up That Hill" the song by Kate Bush. I'd also love to do any "Smiths" tune because I love them. I wanted to do "It's My Life" by Talk Talk, but No Doubt beat me to it. There's lots more; this is just a few of those I'd like to do.

Shelley Harland
Kristy Thirsk and Shelley Harland with Delerium
Image © Graham Misiurak 2003

What is it like for you to perform in front of a live audience?

It was such an amazing experience. I had the time of my life. I was quite nervous for the first show, mainly because I had a raging sore throat, I was really scared I was gonna screw up my voice and have to leave the tour. Luckily Jack D sorted that out and I felt fine and loved every minute of it. After the first show I think we all knew its was gonna be a successful tour. The fans were incredible, and every show had such a brilliant response. I really loved talking to the fans after the shows and was obviously pleased they enjoyed what I was bringing to the performance. I was a newcomer and they could have thrown eggs at me or something!

And how would you compare it to studio work?

I think the main difference for me performing with Delerium and working in my studio or performing my own songs was that I'm used to singing quite softly--I love a breathy up close vocal--both when I record and also live. When I perform its relatively stripped down with vocals and keyboard or maybe guitar.

For the Delerium tour, we had to really sing loud in order to be heard within the mix. I loved performing with kristy; we had a crazy laugh. And I loved the energy Adrian brought to the tour; it wouldn't have been the same without him!

What would your greatest moment as a musician be so far?

The day I realized I could create it--it has changed my whole life.

Do you have any hobbies outside of singing, writing, and producing? Do you have a "day job" outside of music?

I love making clothes and I work part time in private investigators' office in New York City.

What do you think the biggest misconception most people have about musicians?

There are so many different misconceptions. I guess one is "all musicians wake up at midday and smoke pot." I can only tell you about myself: I wake up at 8am and if I'm not working at The Private Eye's, I'm straight in the studio. I work crazy hours and should definitely have more playtime. I have no money whatsoever and I don't think of myself as "special." I'm just lucky to be able to do what I do and happy that people dig it. I write a lot about pain, but I'm not the dark and mysterious person people expect me to be. I pretty much jump around with a smile on my face most of the time.

I've been asked before what I would do if I was not successful in music and this is what I say, "I am already successful. If this is the way my life goes and I work odd jobs to enable myself to create music and give it to others, that is a success to me cos I'll be doing what I want. The amount of money I make doesn't equal my success.

  Shelley Harland
Image © Graham Misiurak 2003

What is the most difficult thing you had to overcome in you professional music career?

Believing in myself enough to keep going even when it seems everything and everyone is against you.

If there was one thing you still want to do, what would it be?

Wow, there are so many things. But I guess one of them is having beautiful children one day. I think this has to be the most amazing experience in life.

What has been your greatest achievement and what is your biggest goal musically?

Honestly, that's a difficult question to answer because I feel so lucky to have been involved in all the things I have musically. If you asked me five years ago, I would've said my greatest achievment was simply to stand up and sing in front of another human being. I used to be petrified at the thought! From that point on everything has been a bonus to me.

My biggest goal musically will always be to write that one song that will touch someone on a spine chilling level and typically if I write that song or have even written it already, I'll still be on an endless crusade to write another that is ten times better. I'd love to have the opportunity for my music to reach out to more people.

Another goal is to have a full band project with mad players and people jumping all over the stage--high energy. I've kind of done this thing backwards--creating most things myself. This is cool, but I really would love to work in team. Because I've been away a lot I have not had the time to do this, but it'll be happening next year for sure, and I can't wait.

What are your hopes, plans and dreams for 2004 and beyond?

I hope for happiness, love and being able to pay the rent! I I plan to earn, travel, create, work hard and have lots of new adventures and I dream of no more confusion.

More Shelley Harland
Salt Box Lane and Phoelar Album Reviews

reviews © R. W. Elliot and Justin Elswick 2003
interview © R. W. Elliot and Darrin Brindle 2003
photos Clay Stang, James Wright and Graham Misiurak
all images © Harland Music 2003 | used with permission
Last updated 27 November 2003

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