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A Conversation with Ed Harcourt (continued)

PM: So what about the New York venues? Where were those shows?

EH: We played the Union Hall in Brooklyn on Saint Patrick's Day, which was completely insane. We did a version of "Dirty Old Town" by The Pogues. And some of my Irish friends got up and sang. And then the next night it was the last day of the tour, so we were all so tired. And I was very nervous, actually. We did the Mercury Lounge.

PM: Oh, that's a good little club, I like that.

EH: It was great, totally packed. So it was great. Because I haven't really played with a band in America since R.E.M., which was 2003. But that was just like big arenas.

PM: But that had to win you a lot of fans in the States and sell records in the States, did it not?

EH: Yeah. I think that definitely helped. I mean, it was only like five or six gigs, but I think it definitely helped, for sure.

PM: But one gathers from the press, and whatnot, that especially R.E.M., but Wilco, too, were very supportive of you as an artist. Was there a good relationship with those guys?

EH: Well, R.E.M. has always been very supportive. And there are loads of people that I've made friends with, lesser-known, but well respected bands. And Neil Finn has taken me on tour a few times, and Sparklehorse.

PM: Right. Finn is a hell of a guy, right?

EH: Neil Finn yeah, he's amazing. He's such a nice guy. I haven't seen him for a while. But we did a lot of touring in 2002. And then since then... The other day I got offered to play with Matchbox Twenty.

PM: What?

EH: In like an arena tour in England. But they offered me like literally no money, and I just couldn't do it.

PM: What's up with that?

EH: I couldn't understand it. They offered me like literally nothing. And it's like, "How can I even get around on my own, let alone pay any musicians." It's kind of mad.

PM: Yeah, and you got to pass up something--

EH: Like they must be making millions, you know what I mean?

PM: Per show.

EH: Yeah.

PM: That's messed up. But you know it's the management. The bands never even know.

EH: Yeah, I know it's not them.

PM: It's just the usual crap.

EH: But I think it's a bit weird, the way the music industry is now, the way that artists like me probably can only make money at the moment if we do some gigs or if we sell merchandise. That's the only way we can sort of survive, really. That's why I've been recently doing a lot of co-writing with new artists. And I'm getting into production and writing, and thinking about the long-term future, because I want to have kids sometime.

PM: Wow, tell me about your co-writing. Because you don't seem like a co-writer kind of writer. Where are you co-writing? Are you co-writing in the UK or in the States?

EH: Yeah, I've been doing a lot of co-writing with mainly like these young people who just signed to deals.

PM: Oh, you're writing with newly signed artists.

EH: Newly signed, yeah, a lot of different acts. It's really interesting. I've got about like 20 to 30 songs now.

PM: Wow.

EH: And it's just like nonstop, really. I'm working this week and next week. And then I produced a guy called Mr. David Viner, who's a really great north London folky-bluesy act.

PM: Yeah, I've heard about this guy. [www.mrdavidviner.com]

EH: His single launches tomorrow night, actually, which is great. I'm working very hard these days, but most of the time there's no money involved. Not that that's my incentive, but because times are quite hard for musicians these days.

PM: Absolutely. Now, with Viner, did you just produce him or actually co-write as well?

EH: No, I just produced him. He doesn't need anyone to co-write with. I mean, he's an amazing songwriter.

PM: Yeah, well, neither do you, but you're doing it anyway just because it's time.

EH: Yeah, definitely.

PM: Are you doing any co-writing with cats in the States at all?

EH: I haven't done any, not that I can remember. I think I once wrote a song with Joseph Arthur. In fact, we did a painting together, it's hanging up on my wall. And then we wrote a song together, a couple of songs, which was fun.

PM: You did a painting together? [laughs]

EH: Yeah, we did a painting. Well, it's a sort of painting of the dead. It's called "Los Muertos."

PM: "Los Muertos." [The Dead.]

EH: In the Day of the Dead style, but me and Joe just did our own version. It's not exactly the grand masters of old, if you know what I mean. It's just literally just me and some acrylics and a canvas. It usually involves some weird sort of Island of Dr. Moreau spliced-animal-with-a-tree-behind-it or something.

PM: [laughs]    continue

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