North London-born Sinead Harnett’s own brand of R&B on her new self-titled EP is filled with delicate melodies and underlying embellishments but anchored with a hard bodied soul that is mature beyond her 26 years.
Living at home with her mother and sister, Sinead became obsessed with the classic sounds of Michael Jackson and Tina Turner. Naturally progressing from the harmonies of the music she would hear from her home, her love for female-led R&B began to grow, specifically from the likes of Destiny’s Child permeating from the walls of her sister’s bedroom. Using that passion for addictive toplines, Sinead was drawn to a family piano after her sister left for university and her mother would spend a large amount of time away from home: “ I had quite a lot of time on my own. I’d go to the piano and it was almost like company.”
From the age of around 10, Harnett began writing the earliest blueprints of songs from the family piano as a means of catharsis from the isolation at home. “I felt quite alone as I was growing up and it was really simple stuff, but already that was somehow becoming a form of therapy for me.” As her musical ability started to grow, so did her musical palette, quickly beginning to nurture an affection for rhythms further leftfield than the tones of Michael Jackson or Beyoncé Knowles.
Using this broad musical taste, Harnett began to use jazz, blues and hip hop instrumentals as her backdrop, creating a musical fingerprint and honing her songwriting craft as a means of self expression. This craving to entertain eventually led her to the stage, both in the form of dramatic performance and her very first gigs at the age of 16, helping her identify and express these conflicting emotions she harboured growing up.
When the time came to apply for university, Harnett’s passion for creativity saw her shun a psychology degree in favour of an acting course at Bournemouth University, pushing her home of London away in favour of the “independence” of the South coast. This independence led to a double life between her studies, as she sacrificed her weekends to travel back and forth to continue recording with her London-based musical network: “ I’d always be getting the coach back and spending the whole weekend recording with my friend. I’d sleep on his floor, then get the coach back.”
After working in a burger bar, singing Motown hits and serving food alongside her degree and regular visits back to London, Sinead was called upon by the Godfather of Grime, Wiley, to record vocals for his single ‘Walk Away’ after a chance exchange on Twitter. This link up became the catalyst for something much bigger, as Sinead quickly picked up more high profile collaborations in the shape of Disclosure’s ‘Boiling’, Ryan Hemsworth’s ‘Small + Lost’, and three tracks on Rudimental’s debut album.
Across two EPs, a number of singles, and a few more high profile collaborations, Harnett’s artistic identity is fully realised.
Comprised of four tracks, Sinead Harnett’s eponymous EP alludes to her diverse range of influences, but with a clarity and self-assuredness in her own vision. This confidence in herself and resistance to stereotypes is a value that comes across in her forthcoming record, as she moulds the conventional sounds of contemporary R&B to her own design alongside forward-thinking producers Grades, JD Reid, Kaytranada and Snakehips for a sultry blend of soul and cutting edge electronic music.
“If You Let Me”, produced by London beatmaker Grades, is a haunting letter from a lonely lover, punctuated with echoed harmonies, yearning lyrics and a throbbing, distorted bassline, all punctured by a seductive percussive layer reminiscent of 90s R&B slow jams and hushed melodic embellishments. If “If You Let Me” embeds itself in Harnett’s lonely moments, the EP’s second track “Rather Be With You” ignites the playful spark that’s been omnipresent throughout her life. Combining with production duo Snakehips again, “Rather Be With You”, is an undeniable ringer for the summer months, with it’s infectiously rhythmic bassline and hazy synth work embedded within dancefloor-ready percussive elements and rich vocal toplines; lyrically exploring the discontent that comes from enjoying life without the object of your desires (“I stay out every night and live it up, but nothing feels the same”). Montreal-based production maestro Kaytranada lends his signature ebb and flow to “Say What You Mean” with what could be Harnett’s smoothest vocal performance to date providing a perfect counterpoint to the producer’s measured backing, creating a track that’s as confident as it is cutting. The final track on the EP, “Love To Lose” paints a solemn picture of lessons learned from mistakes made, using a trip hop-invoking production from London’s JD. Reid as its starting point.
In her most autobiographical work to date, Harnett knows her objective differs from the majority of cookie-cutter pop stars occupying the charts today: “ This EP isn’t built with the radio in mind. It’s a vibe. I’m self-titling it because I feel like it’s the closest thing to me.” Already with credits on three number 1 albums to her name, Harnett feels no need to pander to the mainstream, instead, she’s created a body of work that not only feels true to herself, but speaks to anyone that’s felt like they’ve visited a dark place; offering hope through a record that pays homage to the music she listened to growing up and inspiring a vibe unlike anything heard in popular music today.