Karen Harding has been dominating the world of dance music since 2014, and her music has continued to get even more impressive over the years. Harding’s chart-topping debut single, “Say Something,” reached 1 million sales in the UK and has amassed over 143 million streams on Spotify. Since making her entrance seven years ago, she’s released several other heart-pumping singles that deserve to be played on dancefloors all across the globe.
Harding recently dropped her debut EP, Sweet Vibrations, which features hit singles “Undo My Heart” and “You & I (All I Need).” Earlier this month, she also released her new single titled “Other Side of Love,” showcasing some of her most vulnerable and personal lyrical content to-date. The track acts as the first nod toward Harding releasing a debut album, which fans are hoping to see sometime this year.
Pop Crave spoke with Karen Harding about her musical inspirations, process of filming music videos, her latest single, “Other Side of Love,” and what she has in store for her debut album.
Hi Karen! First off, I thoroughly enjoy “Other Side of Love” and was wondering if you could explain what the overall meaning of the song is for you.
It’s definitely one of my most personal records. I had this incredible songwriter called Belle Sara Humble come around, and we worked on the lyrics together. We wanted it to be a bit more meaningful. It was actually titled “Diamond in the Rough,” and I have no idea where that came from. It was so random, and we wanted to change the lyrics. She was getting into a new relationship with somebody and wasn’t sure how much they were committed to it, and I’ve been with my partner for nine or ten years. I was like, there’s some really tough stuff in a relationship you’ve got to go through. In any strong, good relationship, there’s always the beginning in which you have to fend off all the rubbish, the drama, and everything. Once you get through all of that, you’re kind of out on the other side of it, so we called it “Other Side of Love.” It’s about getting onto the other side of all of the drama, basically. I feel like everybody has so much drama in the first couple of years, and it’s like, “Am I gonna stay? Am I gonna do this? I don’t know if this is what I want! Blah, blah, blah,” so if you can work through that, then I think they’re probably a keeper!
I have to talk to you about your live, at-home video performance you did of “Other Side of Love” on Instagram! I watched it probably a dozen times. Your live vocals are incredible, so it made me wonder where you initially discovered singing?
I mean, my parents kind of knew I was into singing at the age of seven. They bought me this karaoke machine that had, like, four songs on it. I just sang through all of them. There was “Careless Whisper” on there, “I Should Be So Lucky” by Kylie [Minogue], and I can’t remember the other one, but then there was Céline Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On.” I sang those back-to-back for a while until I got a videoke machine, which my dad got me, and I was kind of singing at parties. My mom’s from the Philippines, so we were doing a lot of, like, “Karen, do you want to get up and sing? Oh look, this is my daughter, Karen! She’s gonna sing!” It was that kind of thing at family gatherings and school shows. I didn’t really know that I had a really great voice or anything like that until maybe secondary school. I was maybe 13, and everyone was like, “Oh, Karen, you should sing! You should totally sing!” And I was like, “Oh, so people actually like the sound of what I’m making right now!” I guess that’s kind of how I realized that people enjoy listening to me sing, which obviously is a great compliment.
Your debut EP, Sweet Vibrations, released last year with eight amazing tracks. What pushed your decision that it was finally time to release a full body of work?
I mean, I’ve always wanted to kind of do it. I do also love doing the singles, because I feel like it’s a way to connect with people nowadays. With albums and EPs, it’s quite hard to get people listening, but I feel like by this point, I have a decent enough fanbase. My fans are really supportive, and I just wanted to give them something that was an entirety rather than just me featuring on someone else’s record and doing a little bit here and there. Also, it’s really nice to get a body of work together where I can really experiment and put stuff on there that I really, really love.
Do you have a favorite track from Sweet Vibrations that you’re most proud of?
I would probably say “Undo My Heart,” just because I loved that song when we wrote it. I felt something so special to it, and I loved it throughout us releasing it as a single and beforehand. Even though it’s a year or two years old now, it still goes off when performing. I still absolutely love performing it. Just the melody and things like that really resonate with me. It almost feels like it could’ve been a Céline Dion song to some extent, so yeah [laughs].
A lot of your music has that classic dance and house music sound. What do you think initially drew you into this genre of hard-hitting dance music?
My intention was not really to go down dance music. I really didn’t know what I was going to do. By this point, I had a lot of gigs, doing acoustic stuff, weddings, and that kind of thing. I was making money from music, and it was great, but I was singing all sorts of genres. To get into house music, it was actually because of the first single, “Say Something,” that I did with MNEK. It kind of got placed into that electronic dance world, and then a lot of DJs and producers in that world hit me up and were like, “Oh my God, Karen, your voice would sound sick on this,” and stuff, so it didn’t mean to be that way but just kind of happened. I’m super grateful that people really like the sound of my voice on house music… With dance music and electronic music, it’s so vast that you can kind of touch on all sorts of different elements of it.
“White Horses” is one of my favorite recent tracks of yours. It’s so much fun! How did the song come about?
For that one, I wrote it in lockdown with a friend and producer called Jen Jis. It was super, super rough, and we wanted to write a song with an image of the white horses. It’s basically about a really, really intense feeling, and it’s what it feels like when it stampedes through your body and things. We gave it to Toby [Romeo] and Noel [Holler], and they fell in love with it and wanted to work on it. They took it and made it super hard and drop really hard, and it just feels so good. When you get a good sub bass speaker, it’s just perfection!
“Undo My Heart” with Digital Farm Animals and “You & I (All I Need)” both have really great music videos! How fun is the music video/visualizer aspect of being a music artist?
To be honest, with the visualizing and whole idea for a music video, I wouldn’t say I’m not that great at that, but I prefer to create the music and be in the studio. I like recording the vocals, producing the vocals, and all that kind of stuff. When it comes to the creative visuals, I always like to rely on a team to come up with something out of the box, a bit strange, that I would never come up with in a million years. For “Undo My Heart,” we were in and out of lockdown at that point, and there was only so much that we could do. These guys got in touch with me and said, “We’d love to do a music video for this! It’s gonna have to be super low key, barely any people on it,” and everything like that, and we just had fun! We drove around and went to loads of different places to film.
For “You & I,” I got Kassandra Powell to direct it. She also did the music video for my single, “Morning,” with Shift K3Y. I wanted that continuation, because she was just amazing on “Morning” and then smashed it with “You & I.” With the whole warmth of the video and the editing afterward, it’s just all super cool. I love doing a music video! I love turning up looking like I’ve literally just rolled out of bed, which I have, and then within two hours or an hour and a half, my hair and my makeup’s done. I’m in my outfit and I’m like, “Hey, I’m here, and I’m here to rock this!”
You are absolutely fantastic at songwriting! What are some favorite lyrics of yours from your more recent tracks?
I mean, I feel like the older I get, the more sincere my lyrics become. I have so many favorite lyrics, but because “Other Side of Love” is super personal for me… It doesn’t really say much and isn’t metaphorical or anything like that, but the beginning couple of lines: “We’re stood outside, I feel the cold, I’m here shaking in my bones, So warm me up and take me home.” That whole section there is basically the moment I got together with my husband. It was actually snowing and freezing cold, but I just wanted to stay out, and I just wanted to know that we were going to be together by the end of the walk. To me, every time I sing it and say the words, it just feels so special to me.
Who are some music artists currently inspiring you, and is there anyone you’d like to collaborate with in the future?
Someone inspiring me right now… Oh my gosh, there’s so many amazing artists out there at the minute. I’m absolutely loving what Becky Hill’s doing, and with the UK house scene, there’s a lot of female artists like Alex Mills and Kelli-Leigh who are all smashing it. It’s really inspiring to see them all doing so well. I also love Belters Only, who are a duo from Ireland. They’re amazing!
I’m also absolutely in love with vocalists like Yebba and Jazmine Sullivan. I listen to their albums and completely melt. I watch all the NPRs and everything! To me, that’s part of who I am. I do house music, and there’s a lot of producers and all that, but to me, the vocal performance is still my favorite thing to do. Hearing Yebba and Jazmine just absolutely slaying on the vocals, it just inspires me to want us to be better. If you don’t love Yebba or Jazmine, then there’s definitely something wrong with you [laughs]! Obviously incredible vocals, but most recently with Yebba’s album, Dawn, I’m totally there. I’ve been watching all these live YouTube videos, and it’s just so incredible. I cried at one of them! To me, that’s really hard to get across in a YouTube video. For me to watch it, cry, and be so overwhelmed by the sincerity in her voice, it’s amazing! I’m a super, super big fan of Yebba.
You just performed at the Sandbanks Festival in Poole! How was that experience, and what other upcoming shows are you most excited for?
I’ve been doing a lot of university gigs and a few earlier festivals, but I’ve got Ibiza Rocks on Monday. I’m super excited for that! It’s always nice to fly out to Ibiza. I’ve also got Northern Pride in the UK, which is a big pride festival. I’m super, super excited for that because I’m also from the north of England. I feel like I’m going back to home turf, and to celebrate pride is just amazing always!
Is there anything exciting you can share with your fans about your debut album and other upcoming projects?
There’s a lot of stuff in the pipeline at the moment. I feel like there always is, so I can’t really say anything too much. In terms of the album, there’s some stuff I’ve been sitting on for years and years that I’ve always loved and wanted to put out, but it’s never sonically been in the right place. It’s so good to finally get everything together, and then we’re going to be able to put this record out. I’m going to be able to show everyone what I’ve been sitting on for so long, and people can understand why I keep circling back to these records. I hope that when it finally comes out, it will be a nice and special treat for everybody.
Karen Harding’s new song, “Other Side of Love,” is out now.