For Melbourne, Australia-based artist Karen Harding, music is a soul conversation that allows the masks we hide behind to fall away for a moment of sharing and mutual understanding in a language that does not discriminate. Her alluring vocals are reminiscent of Sarah McLaughlin, Sara Bareilles, Eva Cassidy, Gabrielle Aplin, Adele, and Ella Henderson. She started piano at 6 and singing at 14. She has played solo, duo, and band shows in Melbourne’s north-eastern suburbs, which shaped her sound.
Karen has 5 single releases under her belt and an upcoming EP in the works. She won the November 2021 Bendigo Bank sponsored Independent Songwriter Talent Show on Radio Eastern FM in Melbourne, Australia, for her single, ‘Anxiety’, was a Top 10 winner for the World Songwriting Awards for her single, ‘Something Special,’ and was a nominee for Best International Artist on Crags Radio Independent Artist Award.
Karen Harding’s music has been featured on Bree Noble’s “Women of Substance” podcast, online radio shows including “Good Music Radio,” “DTong Radio,” “382 Radio,” “Eagles Nest Radio,” and “Oz Now Radio,” and on Australian community radio.
Her love of music comes from writing it herself. Karen Harding released the first single from her upcoming EP, ‘I’ve Got A Secret,’ on July 8, 2022. Check out this single and the exclusive interview below:
1. Can you tell us a bit about where you come from and how you got started?
KAREN HARDING: Absolutely! I am born and raised in Melbourne, Australia and have been lucky enough to have an upbringing surrounded with great music. For me, music was always a part of my life. I always loved to sing. I was always inspired by amazing singers and songwriters and I would always write tunes. but I never really saw it as something I could pursue seriously.
When I was 21 I began to perform as a part of a cover duo, playing at venues around Melbourne and I performed in some solo acts, however, it wasn’t until Covid lockdowns began that I really started to see that I could share my own music with the world. I had the opportunity to talk to many artists and industry professionals throughout that time, and it gave me the encouragement that I needed to begin to release some of my own music.
2. Did you have any formal training or are you self-taught?
KAREN HARDING: I learnt the piano when I was 6 years of age and went through all my classical piano exams and theory exams. When I was 14 I began singing lessons, which I still do today and absolutely adore.
The guitar is predominantly self-taught, other than a few lessons that I undertook at the very beginning.
3. Who were your first and strongest musical influences and why the name ‘KAREN HARDING’?
KAREN HARDING: This is a hard question.. my earliest influences, I can’t really remember. As a child, I was obsessed with the wizard of oz and the songs that Dorothy would sing.
I was always surrounded by great songwriters. My dad would play records of artists like Linda Rondstadt, Carole King, Elton John and Leonard Cohen and I loved singing along to the tracks. I think the part that I was most drawn to was the storytelling. The idea that they could paint an image with their words and emotions, that could sweep you away into your own world of imagination. Karen Harding is my name 😊 I wanted to continue my artistry under my name because I felt that music was personal and needed to reflect who I am.
4. What do you feel are the key elements in your music that should resonate with listeners, and how would you personally describe your sound?
KAREN HARDING: I honestly think that it’s different for everyone. The way that we hear and take in music is like our fingerprints. there are no rules to follow. That’s what I love about music. that it speaks a different language to everyone!
I feel that for me, the vocals, the emotion and the story within the songs are the primary elements within my music and I try to bring these to the forefront with every song that I create.
My sound is definitely a singer/songwriter vibe that sometimes leans more towards the folky direction and at other times towards the pop direction.
6. What’s your view on the role and function of music as political, cultural, spiritual, and/or social vehicles – and do you try and affront any of these themes in your work, or are you purely interested in music as an expression of technical artistry, personal narrative and entertainment?
There is no doubt, the power that music has as a vehicle for political, cultural, spiritual and social influence and change. In history, music has led people to fight wars. to stand for causes and to unite.
Just this morning, I was listening to a story of an artist whose guitar had been destroyed by an airline who wouldn’t take responsibility, and he wrote a song which went viral on YouTube and the airline took years to recover from the losses in share prices and customers.
To date, I haven’t written music directly for any of these. My second release, ‘I Heard Somebody Talking’ was written at the beginning of lockdowns, after watching an antimasking rally, however the song itself was more of a conversational understanding, rather than a political statement.
For the most part, my music has been a way of healing and growing for me.. I have written about moving through heartbreak, the experience of anxiety, appreciation of the people around me and my experiences and emotions throughout lockdowns.
You never know what might come in the future 😊
7. Do you feel that your music is giving you back just as much fulfilment as the amount of work you are putting into it, or are you expecting something more, or different in the future?
It does in so many ways! As I mentioned earlier, my music is an exploration of creation and of what’s possible. I’m in it for the journey, not for the outcome. although of course we all want it to succeed and for people to love what we create.
I am a very obsessive personality and I do tend to put my everything into what I do. But I love seeing what can happen with that. I love the connections that you form with people and seeing how far you have come.
My goal is just to continue to expand, grow and learn and to write music that truly connects to more and more people.
8. Could you describe your creative processes? How do usually start, and go about shaping ideas into a completed song? Do you usually start with a tune, a beat, or a narrative in your head? And do you collaborate with others in this process?
Honestly, it is so different every time! A lot of the time, I just sit down with my guitar, or on the piano and I just see what comes out. it might be a whole song, a verse, chorus or just a line and then it develops from there.
Other times, I will create the instrumental or a beat first and then bring in the melody and lyrics later.. And then sometimes, it’s a lot more structured, where I begin with a structured story, create lyrics and then put music to the lyrics.
I have been doing quite a bit of collaboration lately with a number of different styles and personalities and with people from all over the world.. There is so much to be gained from working with people, and I think that you always take a new little something away from the experience.
9. What has been the most difficult thing you’ve had to endure in your life or music career so far?
KAREN HARDING: Within my music career to date, I can’t say I have experienced anything that has been a significant challenge, that has affected me.. my music career is still within the early stages and I am grateful that it hasn’t been too challenging.
Within life, I feel like a lot of my challenges led to the music that I have created.. they have made me who I am and I wouldn’t change them because I am really proud of who I am becoming as a result.
The most difficult thing for me, but the thing that shaped me the most was the time and the space I experienced after a number of challenging events happened within a short timeframe. I had been living a very normal life and I experienced a string of miscarriages, my marriage ended and I became very unwell. After I healed, I could breathe again, but everything had changed very quickly.. the most difficult thing for me was rediscovering who I was and learning how to truly be me in this new world and life that I was living. There has been a lot that I’ve needed to overcome within myself and it’s a journey that I’m still on, but I don’t think that I would have made that journey if it wasn’t for the challenges that I experienced.
10. On the contrary, what would you consider a successful, proud or significant point in your life or music career so far?
KAREN HARDING: Right now I honestly get so excited with everything that happens within my music. every person that I connect to. every time my music is shared on a new radio show, playlist or publication. every time I receive beautiful feedback saying that my music has touched someone.
Over the last year, I have won and been nominated for a few songwriting awards, which is incredibly exciting, but I think the part that most ignites me is the people element!
Thank you so much for having me!
Photo credits: Susan Bradfield Photography