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TC in Conversation with Harleymoon Kemp

The growth of country and Americana on this side of the Atlantic is astounding, not just through the scale of festivals and touring regularity of some of Nashville’s biggest names but also the emergence of artists from this side of the pond. The likes of Grammy nominated powerhouse Yola, Ward Thomas who have topped the overall UK album charts, The Shires with 4 consecutive UK top 10 albums, platinum selling Lucie Silvas to regulars at some of the UK’s biggest festivals like The Adelaides, The Wandering Hearts and Twinnie have led the way but now is the time for one of the most eagerly awaited debuts to join these ranks! Harleymoon Kemp has had a reputation of being a diverse and creative songwriter that has been involved in the process of songs that have streamed well into the millions in a variety of genres and draws influence from an array of different styles.

With a wealth of musical and entertainment genes being the daughter of Martin Kemp, the bassist of Spandau Ballet who are one of Britain’s most iconic bands and pioneers of the New Romantic movement in the 1980’s and Shirlie Kemp (née Holliman) who was an integral part of working with one of the greatest acts the UK has ever produced, performing with Wham! Despite the heavy pop influence you would associate with this upbringing, her songwriting organically drew her to Nashville and brings majestic lyrics combined with a smooth and blissful vocal sound set to take the country world by storm on both side of the ocean beginning with her debut single “Space” which we caught up with Harleymoon to learn all about:

Harleymoon Kemp on the experience of launching her debut single during a global pandemic:

It’s been really really hectic, but really fun and completely unexpected. It’s been an amazing lockdown experience in terms of productivity which was really nice. Well the second half of lockdown, because in the first half everyone’s in that kind of panic station of what is happening with the world? In February and March I started putting out videos on socials just singing and half written songs, then it was actually that when I thought, you know what if there was ever a time to sink my teeth into really putting out songs. I had always said I was going to release my own, I was always writing for other people so I fulfilled a lot of the creative urges and satisfaction after I had written the song. Then when we got to lockdown this felt like the perfect time to get my teeth into the project.

and why this was the right time to launch her career:

There wasn’t a better time, I think there’s always a lot of room for doubt and insecurity. I’ve had these songs for a while and always had the maybe I should release them? Should I release them? Am I more behind the scenes? I wasn’t sure if I fitted the mould of being my own artist and I think when you’re at a point of, not that it comes from this, but you’ve also got nothing else to lose. I’m in lockdown! I’m going nowhere, so let’s put these songs out there, let’s have fun and I love these songs, there’s nothing that could be wrong about making me want to release them now so it all came together really nicely

On the progression and writing of debut single “Space”:

I wrote it in a session in Sweden which was actually a pitch for someone else. It was one of those ones where, we didn’t even record a demo and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Sometimes when you’ve heard it you don’t know if you’ve been infected by the song because you’ve heard it so many times but I left it and was constantly singing it for months, like this song is haunting me! So I thought, I’m going to record it and see how it feels then sat with it for maybe about a year. I was never quite sure if it was finished, it was ready because it was from just a quick in the room session. I actually wrote the lyrics on a flight separately then took it to a session, found the melody for it and sat with that for a while so it really was a slow burning song that I’ve had floating around for a while.

On her writing process and whether it has varied with looking to be singing the songs herself:

The process for me has always been the same. I always start with the moment rather than the music or the melody. It’s almost like I’m into the movie of it, I’ve seen it, I know what happens and that’s my story, then once I’ve got that in my head I’m writing down as much as I can whilst I can visualise it and taste it. My next song that will come out is called “She Looks Like Me” and it’s very specific to running into an ex-boyfriends new girlfriend. There’s that moment where they’re stood together, thinking that’s the new girlfriend and I’ve been replaced. That sinking or sick feeling when you’re in those moments, I went home and instead of crying about it, I wrote down as much as I could. I realised I was more infatuated by her than I was about anything else. It was what was she wearing, what does she look like or what does she smell like. A bit like that “Girl Crush” song, where your absorbed by someone.

and finding country music as the right fit for her as an artist:

I would always write poems that took you into the details of the moment, where your senses and feeling know what that feels like. I learnt to play guitar and I was just writing that style, I don’t know what happened. I just started writing stories and I didn’t really know it was country that I was writing. I took my songs to a publisher about four or five years ago and it was the first time that I thought I had these songs that I really like that I wanted to show to someone. They were different in style to the club songs. So he listened and was actually we have got a writing camp in Nashville next week, I might be able to send you! All of a sudden, my body is like, I’m going to the real deal now. I’d always listened to country music at home but also obsessively watched Nashville the TV show so that was my real turning point. I’d written a few country sounding songs and within a week I was flying to Nashville on my own with my guitar. As soon as I landed, I felt that I had arrived at a scene that I really felt connected to.

On her first time experiencing Nashville, TN:

I had a funny time when I arrived, I had packed basically the part to go and look the part. I had pink tassel jacket, pink cowboy boots, guitar on my back, these long boho kimonos and a big hat then I get there and everyone is just in jeans, t-shirt and Converse. I was thinking Oh my God, but I just had to carry it off everyday, I just stayed really overdressed and was like well this is my look now!

and what it felt like to work with writers in music city:

In Nashville the talent is outrageous! It’s exceptionally high and everyone is so painfully impressive that it becomes so humble and low key. That’s actually what I fell in love with so much! I remember going to the studio to write with this guy and didn’t really look him up before, we just got set up and turned up at his studio and there’s like Grammy’s on the side! I’m looking and being Oh Wow! Awesome! Then he’s like, that’s so embarrassing, put that away. It’s all so low key out there, not only did I feel connected to the music but the people and the level of talent, it’s almost like feeling not worthy to be there.

On looking to be continually creative making music:

I’m writing all the time on Skype, I did two sessions on Saturday, one on Sunday. I just love writing! I love it! It’s so much fun, my time goes on writing and cooking. It just absorbs my time and it doesn’t matter who the song is for. I know my style has got a country feeling to it so whether that becomes a club song sang by a boy but has got a country sound to it, then fine or a romantic country song that I want to keep for myself or to a record label for someone else, it really doesn’t matter to me. It’s the making part for me!

On finding inspiration for songs particularly during lockdown:

I’ve realised the importance of rainy day ideas! The first six weeks, I couldn’t find a word, literally couldn’t find a word. My brain was just flat. This is why I released “Space” as the first one, because I didn’t want to release a sad song or write something depressing. I wanted to stay in this bubble of calm and relaxing. I was lighting candles, cleaning my flat and playing romantic music to my dog, just so I was staying calm. So I wanted to release that but I was pretty flat for a while. I think you can still find it, even in movies or documentaries where there are moments with an interesting relationship those people had and you can cast your mind to that space and write about them.

On virtual co-writing:

I love them! I hate travelling to studios and if it doesn’t work, you’re in a room with people and you don’t write a great song or it’s been awkward or been a struggle, sometimes that happens! If you then realise you have an hour and a half drive home afterwards that makes it even worse. So I love having four hour sessions from my flat and can go to the park straight after or have dinner, sometimes I like the distraction. A friend I’m writing with at the moment, I’m doing my cooking as I’m writing. Things like that really help me creatively more than being put in a new room staring at a wall unless I’m with people that I know and have that buzz with I don’t really need it.

and working in the industry through lockdown:

Everyone is on the internet! I’m on my phone getting the 80% up screen time, all the time! I think you can communicate a lot through the internet and I’m happy with that. At the moment I’m not trying to have empire dreams with my first song, I just want to write good songs that people like and this is just the beginning of the journey so we’ll see where it takes us. Would I like to be playing shows? Yes of course, but it’ll come!

Then finally what the plan is for further new music that is on the horizon:

Looking to the end of August for the next one. I didn’t really have a roll out plan, I was just a girl with a dream! I had 3 or 4 songs which I knew I loved so thought every few weeks would drop out a new one but I really thought this was going to sit on my mum and dads playlist at home. I didn’t think it would get such a great reaction, the level of fulfilment recording and releasing initially felt like I’d done it. Then once I realised and the song started doing well with people having really positive reactions to it, it was so much more than I thought would happen with these songs so definitely discussing plans at the moment.

HarleyMoon will be performing a virtual live show on Friday 7th August at 6pm BST (12 Noon Central) with Nashville Meets London on their Facebook page which you can watch HERE. Her debut single “Space” is out now which you can listen to HERE and you can follow Harleymoon Kemp on SPOTIFY INSTAGRAM TWITTER

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