“I just got back from the West Coast so I’m a little bit jet-lagged.” Laughs Harlea, having subconsciously spun the most glamorous sentence on which to have started a chat.
A modern chick with a classic heart; the Birmingham-born, London-based, and LA jetsetter is quickly gaining a hyped reputation of disappearing as quickly as she appears. Her signature smoky vocal singes moody instrumentals, both build sultry and confident.
“My love for singing started… well I guess as soon as I could talk!” she explains, giddy with nostalgia. “But then I actually found my voice, well it took me a while to find my sound. I found it about two years ago, after a very long journey, so it feels very good to have gotten to the place where I’m at.”
The music acts as an extension of the twenty two year old; she’s fiercely independent, wonderfully confident and deeply passionate to her craft.
“I’m not frightened to take risks.” she says, “it definitely shows that I’m a strong character and that I’m doing it for me.”
Last September she dropped her debut single Miss Me; a thunderous glam-rock track exploring the dangers of the intense pleasure from a dangerous relationship. “I have lots of female friends. We talk, we have problems, I pull things from them…” she says cheekily. Immortalising the consequence, and making destruction sound tempting with dark, hypnotic bass. Miss Me showcases a dramatic force of a vocal, thriving in empowerment.
“It’s basically how I know people feel and how I’ve felt, I think you can feel that in the music, it just gets you going!”
Turning the radio on, there’d be nothing that excited Harlea, and nothing that she wanted to hear. This acted as “a sign of what my taste was and that really helped me to focus on what sound I wanted to get out of myself.” Breathing sighs of relief and contentment when talking about her own sound, there’s a love and a protection in her voice of where it came from.
The soul of blues, the freedom of jazz, the rawness of rock and the movement of R&B. There’s excitement when she says, “I wanted to create music that wasn’t trendy or wasn’t of this time, it was just forever, and it’s as simple as just using a real band and old school method and here we are.
“Everybody who wants to listen to good music has to go back in time and listen to the classics, so I thought why is nobody doing the classics, today? If it’s classic, it’s classic, it lasts forever!”
A woman in control, Harlea wears her low-key presence like the best fitting leather jacket. She teases in her tracks and leaves a trail of unanswered questions. Harlea decides when the music is made, how, and when we hear it.
“I don’t want to feel like I’m losing control over essentially my baby.” She explains, even steering clear of social media. “For me it’s all about the music and it’s taken me so long to get here so it’s not about anything else, it’s purely about the music and my sound and my songs. That for me is my number one priority.”
Discussing how the classroom in her all-girls school made her feel “very caged in”, claustrophobic and eager to escape, Harlea had to break the mould. “I just knew that I wasn’t going to go down the path of doing my A Levels, going to university and getting a 9 – 5 job, it just wasn’t who I was.
“My mind doesn’t work that way.”
Breaking away to move to London and then LA, the real world enlightened the then-teen with independence and freedom.
“I think that everybody’s different and the problem with society is that they try and treat everybody the same, but we’re not the same.
“But if you’re a passionate person and you know in your heart and your soul that something isn’t for you, then you have to follow what’s best for you.”
Where some may think that the secret is out about Harlea, as her tracks reign in their dominance, but somehow there’s always going to be a trick up her sleeve.
With a knowing laugh, the future isn’t even known to her.
“I’m definitely unpredictable and I even surprise myself sometimes, so I guess we’ll find out!”
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Words by Tanyel Gumushan