Ren Harvieu played a set at Sound City Ipswich in October and she is back in the region on her ‘Revel in The Drama’ Tour visiting The Portland Arms in Cambridge. I talked to her about how life has changed since COVID and how being more confident means taking more risks.
HC: I was working at Sound City Ipswich last month, when I saw your set and totally loved it. How would you describe your style, as it’s unique?
RH: Thank you I’m glad you enjoyed the show. I recently heard my sound described as gothic jazz and I think that’s a pretty fair description, with a touch of kitchen sink glamour thrown in.
HC: Do you play any instruments?
RH: I play the guitar and I can get a tune out of most instruments if I give them my attention. But mostly I make up the melodies in my head and decide which instrument I want for that melody. I build the tracks with my voice.
HC: COVID messed everyone’s plans up, however, did you embrace the online side of life, and if so, how did you find it?
RH: My album came out in lockdown so I wanted to try and stay as connected to my audience as I could so I did a few weeks of Instagram lives which were very fun and chaotic. I’d be having kittens right before going live which I know seems silly but I’d be so nervous, running about with a wig dangling off my head and hurriedly learning tin whistle solos. Romeo Stodart often joined me, we’d sometimes end up bickering on the live, in like capes and matching eye makeup, which must have looked funny. But they were fun and I got quite close with everyone who would tune in every week.
HC: Has the ‘Year of the COVID’ changed your direction/thoughts in life with regards to your music?
RH: It’s changed everything, I feel like COVID turned me inside out and now I’ve started again from scratch. I meditated every day for months on end and felt a peace I don’t think I’ve ever felt before. After a while of nothing, just being at home with myself I started to understand that I didn’t need to torture myself with the music anymore. I had equated my worth as a person with my success or lack of and lived in a state of self-loathing. And so much other negative crap that was attached. But it disappeared after a while and I saw with new eyes how blissful and beautiful it is to get to do this with my life. I just want to be happy and make people happy with my music, it’s that simple. I already have everything I’ll ever need anything else now is just a nice bonus.
HC: You released your album ‘Revel in the Drama’ April 2020, right at the start of the first lockdown, how does it feel to be able to now tour it?
RH: I feel many things touring this album. Mostly I feel profoundly touched and inspired by the people who are coming out to my shows, after all this time and the atmosphere has been so alive and electric. It’s taken me a few shows to really hit my stride but now I’m loving it and I have the most amazing band with me which makes the whole thing even more magical.
HC: How would you describe the album and what inspired you?
RH: ‘Revel In The Drama’ is an intense album. It’s quite dark and sad and angry but there is humour and hope in there too. I wasn’t in the best place for a long time and I was suffering more than I let on and it was a bit scary for a while, especially after I was first dropped and dealing with all these new injuries and had to move back to Salford. My voice was monotone for a few years and I was just traumatised really. So I inspired myself I suppose, I had to make the album because if I didn’t make something beautiful out of all this pain what was the point of it all? I wanted to be there for myself. And none of it would have been possible without the guardian angel Romeo Stodart swooping in and telling me at every turn not to give up and that I was a superstar that the world needed to hear. He believed in me so much that I started to believe it to.
HC: The ‘Revel in the Drama’ Tour is visiting towns around the UK, any new venues you are excited to play?
RH: I’m excited to play all of them, as every gig and venue is different. Every crowd is different and you can never predict how it’s going to be, you just have to be armed and ready for any situation.
HC: Apart from tracks from the album, what can we expect from the tour?
RH: I’ll be playing some sneaky new ones I wrote in lockdown and I’ll be telling some stories and jokes.
HC: What would you say to encourage people who have not heard your music, to attend a gig?
RH: I would say come along to a show if you want to see someone who gives it everything they’ve got, raw honest unfiltered emotion. I want connection to the audience and I want you to feel something, I want you to leave my show inspired and with your head held high.
HC: What’s your song writing process?
RH: I write everywhere. I get a lot of ideas riding my bike, cleaning. I have voice notes titled things like ‘Idea in Sainsbury’s toilet’ ‘the mop song’ and ‘bored on the bus melody’ Action makes me write.
HC: How would you describe the evolution of your sound now you are back on the scene?
RH: I am the most confident I’ve ever been and so I’m taking more and more risks. Pushing myself as a writer and singer and producer. At the beginning I inherently thought everybody else’s ideas were better than mine, because what was I but a little deer in the headlights who got lucky, what did I know? I don’t feel like that now. Other people don’t get to dictate my worth. As Eleanor Roosevelt stated ‘No one can make you feel inferior without your consent’
HC: What types of music do you enjoy listening to when you are hanging out?
RH: My friends and I get together to listen to music frequently. I find it really useful and we all like similar stuff but have varied tastes. Gospel, prog, rnb, freak folk it all depends on how much lead we’ve got that day. I’ve been listening to Peggy Seeger a lot, her writing to that melody ‘Lady, what do you do all day’ blew my mind. She’s an icon.