It’s been a few years since we’ve heard from Leanne Harte. She released her debut album in 2006, shortly followed by a live album but since then there wasn’t much. That was until she set up a Fund It campaign to help get a new EP out there. Restless Sleepers is released today, and Leanne launches it at the Peacock Theatre in Dublin this evening. All the details are at the bottom of the post. I asked Leanne about why she took such a long break, what she was up to in the intervening years, if she kept writing in the intervening years, and how long we’ll be waiting for the next release.
It’s been seven years since your debut, self-titled album. Why was there such a long break?
At that point, I had been gigging since I was 15, recorded my first EP at 16, and it was sort of assumed by everyone around me that I would continue that path for the rest of my life. Personally, though, I wasn’t entirely sure that it was. I became somewhat disheartened with the music industry, because I felt that I had no real control myself. I had some issues with management and with bands that I worked with, and I found it very difficult as an extremely shy person to confront these issues and deal with them properly. Instead, I sort of went into myself, and became a bit withdrawn and depressed. This wasn’t only to do with music issues, but I was also trying to deal with my own personal issues, and it all became way too much for me. It got to a point where music wasn’t enjoyable anymore, and so I decided to walk away from it.
I went to college, because I felt I’d missed out on the student experience that my friends all had, when I jumped into the music world straight from school. I also joined a band called Queen Kong, as a guitarist, and not the frontwoman, which really took the pressure off, and I actually enjoyed playing again. After that, I joined an electro-rock burlesque troupe, as the guitarist, and we played the most enjoyable gigs I’ve ever played, including performing at Electric Picnic. After a while, I sort of became comfortable with myself, and with playing the kind of music that I wanted, and as much as I tried to walk away from it, I just couldn’t stop writing and gigging!
You told the Irish Times you felt lost over the last few years. Were you still writing songs through that period?
Yeah. I find that I actually only write when I’m completely lost and down. I find it completely therapeutic and it kind of helps me deal with what’s going on.
When was the last time you listened to the first album? Can you still relate to it, or do you just think, what was I doing?
I can’t remember the last time I listened to it in full! But the odd time I’ll listen to a track, and I can totally still relate to it. Actually, after I came out and realised why I had been so upset as a teen, the songs that I’d written back then actually made more sense than I’d ever realised. It was a bit like my subconscious was trying to tell me something.
Is this Leanne Harte different from the one who released those albums? Should we see Restless Sleepers as a new beginning? Leanne 2.0?
I’m certainly different to who I was before, but only because I actually know who I am now, and I’m comfortable in my own skin. So in that way, Restless Sleepers definitely is a new beginning. But I think you can still hear the Leanne Harte from before in there somewhere, just a bit more grown up!
When were the tracks on the new EP written? Did you need a lot of encouragement to actually go back to making music, or were you always going to do something else?
I didn’t really need encouragement to write and perform the songs, but I did need encouragement to record them. I wrote most of the tracks over the past few years, some are older than others, but I didn’t really plan on recording them, until I realised that people liked them and wanted to listen to them recorded. Knowing that kind of gave me a boost of confidence and I eventually decided to do that. I’d always been a bit wary of putting myself out there, having people listen to my music recorded, and deciding if they liked it or not, because at the end of the day the songs are incredibly personal to me. But I’m so glad I recorded these tracks, and I’ve been really happy with the response so far.
How did you find the recording process then? Did it feel like you were back in your comfort zone?
Totally! Also, Ray Traynor and Gary Reddy (the two producers) were an absolute pleasure to work with, and really understood what I wanted to do with the songs. It felt really great to be recording something new after such a long break!
Again, going back to that Irish Times interview, you said you love the fact you did the EP yourself. all independently, but that you would like to have “proper management” behind you again? Why don’t you want to stay 100% independent? Surely the likes of Bandcamp and Soundcloud etc have made it easier to do all that yourself rather than go through labels and everything?
I think it’s totally possible for people to do things entirely themselves, yes. And maybe I will end up doing that. But, as much as I enjoyed the learning experience of doing it myself, I also found it quite stressful, and in an ideal world I would like go focus all my energies into the creative side of things. I’m not great at selling myself, which I think can be needed to go places in the industry, and I’m not much of a businesswoman either. But, in saying that, this experience has been incredibly rewarding, and I’ve learned so much from it, so whatever happens, I feel like this process has benefited me hugely.
Did you enjoy your time on a label?
Myself and my manager set up a label, to release my first EP on, and it sort of grew from there and a few bands were part of it and it was great. It felt like more of a community really. I did enjoy my time on the label, but then I made the decision to stop playing music so that was that really!
You set up a Fund It for the EP. Is it nice to know people still remembered you and cared enough to part with their cash? Were you in two minds as to whether to do the Fund It or not?
Yeah, initially I wasn’t sure if I should do it, because I genuinely didn’t think I’d reach my target! So when I eventually decided to give it a shot and had that unbelievable response I was totally blown away. I really didn’t think people remembered me for one thing, and I definitely didn’t expect not only to reach my target, but to go way over it. It really gave me the extra boost I needed to put myself back out there again. The best part of the process was earlier this week when people got their reward and got in touch with me about it, with their thoughts. It was so nice to know that so many people were listening to my CD right away.
You’re launching the EP in the Peacock Theatre, somewhere I’m not familiar with. Why did you choose that venue?
I wanted to launch the CD somewhere different, somewhere I hadn’t played before. A friend of mine mentioned it as an option, so I went to have a look at the venue and just thought it was totally perfect. It’s part of the Abbey Theatre and it a proper sit-down theatre, which I think will be really lovely for the evening, and give people a chance to listen to the EP live. I also think it stood out a bit, as I don’t think many bands play there!
Should we wait another six years before you release more new music or are you already thinking about the next song/EP/album?
I don’t think that’ll be necessary! My plan is to follow the EP up with an album. I’ve enjoyed the whole process so much this time around that I’m definitely not ready to stop now!
Restless Sleepers by Leanne Harte is released today. You can buy it on iTunes, stream it on Spotify and get it physically from all good record shops around the country. Leanne Harte launches the EP in the Peacock Theatre, Dublin, tonight from 6pm. Support comes from the excellent Elaine Mai, so get there early. Here’s the Facebook event.