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Ed Harcourt

A Conversation with Ed Harcourt

Puremusic: Ed, good to talk with you today, you're our new favorite guy.

Ed Harcourt: Really? That's great, thanks.

PM: It's always great to find a new talent, but daunting when, by the time you get turned on to them, they've got 7 or 8 records out already, you know? After all you've already done, do you continue to get the daily impression that a lot of people are still finding their way to your music for the first time?

EH: Sure, all the time. And the back catalog that they will find keeps building, but that's just how it is, you know. And it's different kinds of material, through the years, kind of an eccentric back catalog. It just takes time for my kind of music to get into people's homes and hearts, if you will.

PM: Yeah, absolutely.

EH: I guess because I am prolific, it has to be diverse so it's not completely generic and it's sort of musically bipolar.

PM: [laughs]

EH: And in a way even the new album is kind of like that: it's quite schizophrenic because it's sort of half antisocial, half anthemic, as I've been heard to say before.

PM: [laughs] That's funny.

EH: Which kind of makes sense, really.

PM: Absolutely.

EH: Yeah. Are you calling me from Nashville?

PM: Calling from Nashville, yes. Is this a town you've spent any time in?

EH: I've been to Nashville. I played the Exit/In, is that what it's called?

PM: Yup.

EH: I did a show there with Sondre Lerche. We were on tour together and both gradually going mad. And I remember I think I stayed in the Holiday Inn down the road. I went to try to get something at a Taco Bell at 3:00 in the morning because I hadn't eaten and I was starving. It was a drive-thru. And I went up to the window, and sort of shouted through the little slot in the window. And I said, "Hi. Could I get a burrito?" And they answered, "No, you can't." And I asked, "Why?"

PM: [laughs]

EH: And she said to me that I had to be in a car in order to buy a burrito.

PM: Oh, my God!

EH: I was like, "What? Fuck you, you bureaucrat!"

PM: [laughs] You have to be in a car...

EH: I don't even drive!

PM: Who did you say you came through town with, Sondre Lerche?

EH: Yeah.

PM: Oh, wow. Tell us a little about him. I just saw that film Dan In Real Life, that featured his music. Have you seen that?

EH: I haven't seen the film, but I know he did the soundtrack. He's a very sweet guy, a lot younger than me--damn him--and better looking.

PM: Oh, I don't know.

EH: Well, yeah, I don't know. I'm just trying to be self-deprecating without being self-conscious. But he's a sweet guy, and talented to boot.

PM: Yeah, very nice songs.

EH: Yeah.

PM: As to your music, I first bought the very impressive compilation, Until Tomorrow, Then, on iTunes.

EH: Cool, all right, you bought it. Oh, wow. Great.

PM: Sure. And then I tried to get an interview with you through your myspace page. But of course, that's no way to reach anybody.

EH: Oh, sorry.

PM: But then when that didn't pan out, I was subsequently sent a copy of the U.S. release of The Beautiful Lie by a publicist friend, and said, "Well, yeah, I've been chasing this guy down, I'd love to interview him," because like I say, you're our new favorite guy. I think your music is great.

EH: Oh, thank you. The great thing as well about myspace is that I'm getting messages every day from people who've never heard of me, and they sort of stumble across the page, and they're saying, "Wow, I can't believe I've never heard this stuff." And that's really satisfying and gratifying. It is a good tool, I suppose. It's good and bad in equal measure, I imagine.

PM: Yeah. It's got its place. I don't think it's really been correctly harnessed yet. I mean, there's a way to galvanize those hits. But I think we're still reaching around for the way to do it.

EH: Yeah.

PM: Having been released in the UK in 2006, why did The Beautiful Lie take two years to reach our shores in numbers?

EH: What happened was that I was on EMI. I left EMI last year, I was there almost seven years. When you're on a major label, though you're signed to the umbrella label, it has to come out on the label that's owned by EMI. The two albums before that and my first album came out on Capitol; two other albums came out on Heavenly, and they were all part of EMI. The story goes on, but it begins like that. Anyhow, I was still on EMI, so I couldn't do anything about it. It has taken probably about a year to get the album off EMI and let Dovecote Records release it. So it's literally taken so long because of all the crap that's been going on with EMI, all the reshuffling, and the fact that it's sort of a sinking ship.

PM: Right, of course.

EH: So all the sort of red tape and all that kind of thing, it's just delayed the album coming out in America. But finally it's coming out. It's quite weird to me, because I made it three years ago.

PM: And for a guy as prolific as you, that's a long long time.

EH: Yeah, it's a long time ago. I mean, it was really funny, because we just came back from the U.S. We did South by Southwest, and did a show in L.A., and a few shows in New York. And it was really great. It was so successful, and I had such a good time. So I was on the way to L.A. on the plane. I was sitting there with my wife, and I was sort of refreshing my memory of the album.


EH: And I just turned to her like, in half horror, it was like, "This is actually a really weird album."


PM: Yeah, because you had to play the record, didn't you, at South-By and New York?

EH: I did. But it's been great. We had my friend Raife Burchell on drums, and then Gita is my wife, she plays violin, and a bit of guitar and piano and glockenspiel. And then I kind of flip between guitars and pianos and old mics. And then we have Ashley Dzerigian, an ex-Great Northern, she plays bass. So it's brilliant. We're a very good looking band, I must admit.

PM: And that's a big deal, as everybody knows.

EH: Yeah, it's very important, along with the substance, there must be style.

PM: Absolutely. I heard from several people that you really killed at SXSW. How was it for you?

EH: It was amazing. But it was so hectic, because we had no crew. We had our manager, Steve Nice, and then like some Gulf Coast guys helping us, hauling equipment around. We had no crew. So we rushed on to do a little show like the Yard Dog and set up and break down our own equipment. The sound guy would spill coffee on my sampler by mistake, things like that.

PM: [laughs]

EH: But somehow we managed to do it, and it was really successful.

PM: That would be a nightmare, just jumping from stage to stage at South-By with no roadies.

EH: We had a crazy time. We were trying to flag down a cab, and we ended up flagging down a guy in a hearse.

PM: [laughs]

EH: And he was called Bill. And we all thought he was maybe a cat burglar. And he's like, "Jump in!" And we called him Buffalo Bill. We jumped into the hearse and drove around with him. And he ended up like kind of carrying our equipment for a couple of shows. Which was amazing.

PM: Unbelievable. And then did he catch the show and realize that, "Holy shit, my ride is pretty good?"

EH: He didn't actually, because we gave him a free pass, and all he talked about was Roky Erickson. So I guess he wanted to go and see him, maybe, if Roky was playing. But yeah, he was shady. We'd be like, "Bill, can you pick us up?" And he'd be like [Ed does an impressive macho-gruffy America accent] "Yeah, I'll be there in a minute." And like two hours later, we're still waiting. We're like, "Oh, I don't think Bill is showing up."   continue

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