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Aldous Harding

Aldous Harding

Interviewed by
Danielle Street
Thursday 8th May, 2014 10:25AM

Folk musician Aldous Harding has just completed an extensive tour of the country following the release of her breathtaking self-titled debut album. Seeming to come out of almost nowhere to impress audiences coast-to-coast, a story arose that the young singer-songwriter was discovered by Anika Moa while she was busking on the street. But before all that, she had been hanging around the port town of Lyttelton and playing with The Eastern under her birthname Hannah Harding, where she was quickly singled out for her stunning voice by country music linchpins Ben Edwards and Delaney Davidson, who helped the 23-year-old usher her fantastic "gothic fairytales" to tape.

We managed steal a few minutes with Harding while she was on the road wrapping up the last of leg of her tour, where she spoke about her friendship with Moa and about the beautifully haunting video for ‘Hunter’ that stars her ex-boyfriend, who also plays a part in a new video the singer-songwriter is poised to release.

UTR: Hey Hannah, how are you doing?

Hannah Harding: Oh I’m alright, I’m at a friend’s place in Wellington and the sun’s out...

First of all I want to ask you about a story that I read about Anika Moa discovering you while you were busking, can you tell me a bit about that…

I was down in Geraldine at my Mum’s and I wanted something to do that night and I saw that Anika was playing, but I couldn’t afford a ticket. So, I was busking outside the bakery and she came past and put heaps of coins in, and I didn’t really notice it was her. And then I looked up and said “oh cool, I’ll see you tonight” and she was like, “I love your sound, why don’t you open?” So yeah.

It’s a great story really…

It’s nice aye. But I just don’t want people to get confused and think that’s how it all started, because I had already been planning to make a record with Ben Edwards and stuff, and I want to make sure that they don’t get lost, because Ben and Delaney [Davidson] were really the ones who “discovered” me if you will. They were the ones who were like, “shit we should probably record this girl,” and Anika offered to do it for free, and it was nice to have a female role model and we are still really close friends. And as for the music, we didn’t end up using any of the stuff we recorded, but we are still really close.

So you were already getting an album together when you met Anika?

Yea, that’s the thing when I saw the National Radio piece, that Anika could be credited with discovering me, it’s not the case. She offered me a recording space free for a week and I agreed to it. But, it was more of a learning process.

It’s a bit of a kerfuffle, which is why I don’t want to talk about it a lot. And I don’t want to hurt Anika’s feelings not that I would because she’s tough and she doesn’t give a shit, but it was really Delaney, Marlon and Ben who were like “we would like to do something with you”. And we’d started recording, but then the earthquake happened and everything kind of got slowed down.

How did you end up friends with those guys?

Well, we are all from Lyttelton, and I’d recorded with Ben before when I was in The Eastern. We’re just good music friends and we’ve been singing for awhile. And then when I started doing my own stuff we decided that we wanted to record it together in Lyttelton. Yep.

It sounds like you are pretty busy these days with your album coming out, do you still find time to go busking?

No, no, the thing is I actually hated busking. I found it very terrifying, but for a long time it was the only way I could make my quick money. When I was in Christchurch I didn’t have a job, and that was my job. I just kind of started playing the guitar, so I think people pitied me more than anything and gave me money. But yea, now that I have other means, not that I’m above it or anything like that, but I find the whole process of standing out in front of people and asking them for money on the street a bit daunting now.

And when did you start going by the name Aldous?

Umm, that would have been just before I started recording, but it didn’t really catch on until recently. I was known as Hannah Harding in The Eastern and a lot of people found that hard to let go of, but it’s kind of catching on, which is good.

It’s a name most people would relate to the author Aldous Huxley, why did you choose it?

I just think it’s a really nice name and it looks nice written down. I dunno, for me it sounded a bit like a manly Alice and I just like the way it sounds.

Your mother is a folk singer and your father is a blues singer, when did music become a passion for you?

I’ve always loved singing ever since I was really young. It was always fun shit, like 'Edelweiss' and Christmas carols and things like that. It wasn’t until I moved to Dunedin and started singing with my friend Nadia and going to music class. I think I wrote my first song when I was 15 but I couldn't really play the guitar. Then I realised I quite like to write songs. It was all very easy you know, it all came very naturally and I didn’t really think about it too much, nor do I think about it much now.

You said you wrote your first song when you were 15, where do the songs come from, are they built up from experiences?

Yea, a lot of them are. A lot of them are just stories. Just stories in my head. Kind of gothic fairy tales a lot of them. I mean a lot of them do have meaning, but that’s up to the individual really.

Some of your songs on the record are really emotionally effective. How did you feel when you went back and listened to the songs on the record after it was all done?

It was great. When I listen to them I’m proud, I think it’s a good body of work, but I’ve kind of lost a bit of perspective because I see it as a something that I’ve built with these people and I’m just detached emotionally I guess. That was one of the things that made it easy to mix, was just having this detachment from the songs, and just thinking about what I would want to hear as a listener. And me and Ben sat down and filtered them and sorted them out and I think we found a really nice balance. But, I had no idea most of songs were over five minutes long, I thought that was like a standard folk song. I think that ‘Hunter’ has got quite a luscious folk sound, but the rest of them, that’s how they were written and that’s just how they should stay. And that’s what we did.

'Hunter' is an incredibly potent song paired with an incredibly potent video, where did the video concept come from?

Oh, it’s just another story, the same as the song. It’s pretty easy, when I think of something like that and it’s got a beginning and an end, and I can visualise it, we just basically try to articulate it with actors and surroundings. I wrote out a screenplay, like a concept and a script, that I took on the day to a place that we scoped out. And my ex-boyfriend Daniel, who is the boy in it, he did really well, but I knew he would be perfect for it because that’s what he does anyway, he just sits there and smokes and stares at ya. And he’s actually in the new video for ‘No Peace At All’, which we are waiting to release because we don’t want to throw everything out there at once.

Yeah, I was going to ask who he was, because you do have an amazing on screen dynamic. Also you have such a haunting look in your eyes, how did you manage to pull that out?

Oh, we didn’t really have to try to be honest. It just sort of happened.

What do you plan to do now you’ve wrapped up the tour?

Probably find a job and then… yea. Just find a job and see what happens. Maybe start writing another album. I’m not sure.

Last question, what’s your favourite thing to do when you’re not playing music?

I like to come at dogs on the street and ask them there their names. I really like animals so I might go and get a degree in zoology now, I dunno I just really like animals.

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