home listen a- z back
Ed Harcourt walks on down the hall

A Conversation with Ed Harcourt (continued)

PM: So on top of being a super writer and a multi-instrumentalist, you happen, first of all, to be an excellent pianist. For guitarists like myself that are attempting to teach themselves a little piano, do you have any advice on how best to go at that, or proceed with that?

EH: It really depends what sort of piano you want to play. I mean, if you want to play classical, then you've got to do all the boring stuff like scales and arpeggios, and chromatic scales. The best thing to do if you want to teach yourself, buy a book that you can gradually just sort of plow through.

PM: I don't want to learn music theory or classical at all. I just want to play songs.

EH: Oh. Well, to do that, you just need to kind of--I would just sit down and--

PM: Just play.

EH: Just play. In a way, that's the best way. Because sometimes I find myself having to unlearn in order to approach an instrument in a kind of fresh way. So I would say you're lucky because you can just approach it in a completely new naive way--naive in a positive sense.

PM: It's true. Sometimes when you only know a little about something you can do your best stuff.

EH: Oh, very much so. It all goes back to King Lear, and stuff like that, sort of nothing comes from nothing, that kind of thing.

PM: Right. I'm always happy to hear that people are happily married, as you seem to be. Maybe you'd tell us a little about your wife.

EH: Yeah. We're very happily married, and there's not really much tell.


PM: Oh, that's sounds good. I like that. There's not really much to tell.

EH: Apart from, we play on stage together, and that's just sort of as public as it's going to get.

PM: Right.

EH: But other than that, we just lead normal lives like everyone else, and have fun, have a good time.

PM: And playing on stage has got to be a great joy, to be able to share that with your wife. Very few guys get to do that.

EH: Yeah, also, we're not very good at being apart from each other, so it kind of makes sense. She was on tour a lot last year because she was singing with KT Tunstall as a backing singer.

PM: Oh, wow.

EH: She plays violin, mainly, but she also does backup singing. Actually, one of the projects I've been working on is: her and her two sisters have formed a band called the Langley Sisters. They're actually on myspace. And we're literally just working on songs at the moment. It's sort of a The Andrews Sisters met the Chiffons or the Shangri-Las in a back alley of a New Orleans jazz club or something and had a fight with some rockabillys and some gypsy jazz people. I don't know.

PM: I'm going there straightaway. We're going to check the Langley Sisters out. [myspace.com/thelangleysisters]

EH: Yeah, we're still working on it. There's a great song on there called "Sing For My Supper." It's a lovely song.

PM: [laughs] That's a great title.

EH: And then there's two other songs that I wrote called "I Saw the Devil" and "Sweet Depravity." We're just working on another one called "Queen Bee." Yeah, we're working constantly on it.

PM: Wow. Since we came upon his music through yours and are pursuing some music from him for review, maybe you'd say something about Leo Abrahams.

EH: Oh, yeah, Leo. What can I say? He's a genius, an amazing musician. I'm lucky to have worked with him. We'll work together again. He's just always--like myself, he's always busy as well. But he's a lovely, lovely friend.

PM: Wow.

EH: A lovely bloke.

PM: Are you in any way what you might call a spiritual person?

EH: I'm spiritual, but I'm not religious.

PM: Right. They're almost antithetical, to my mind.

EH: Yeah, I would say so--I would hope so. Sorry, I dropped my phone--the body of evidence that has amassed over the thousands of years could be said to suggest that organized religion has screwed up the world considerably.

PM: Truly. Are you spiritual in one way or another, are you more Buddhist than Christian or anything like that?

EH: No, I'm not anything. I don't belong to any type of religion. I mean, I was brought up--I went to church twice a week. I had like communion and was christened and had all that kind of thing. I got married in Protestant church. But if people want to use it as something that helps them through the day, then that's fine. It's just when they use it in negative means, negative terms, as a tool of fear, all that bullshit rhetoric and propaganda. I know I'm probably preaching to the converted.

PM: Truly.

EH: I would say yeah I'm definitely spiritual, but things that make me feel spiritual are like when I go for a walk in the countryside, and I'm up on a hill, and it's raining really hard. Something that's kind of more evocative of nature rather than a book written by madmen.


PM: I hear you there. I've read you describe yourself as a self-educator. Is reading still a big thing with you?

EH: Oh, yeah, definitely. This is the thing, because I never went to university. I had a place, but I kind of didn't go. I guess I didn't want to be trapped or confined. And as a result I've just kind of been definitely making an effort to read as much as possible.

PM: Anything that turned you on lately?

EH: Well, actually, last year I read pretty much my favorite book that I've ever read, which was The Master and Margarita, by Bulgakov. Well, I mean it could be about God and the devil. It's all set in Russia. It was actually banned when it came out, I think, for being subversive, because I think the Russian government thought that it was being sort of critical of the regime, so it didn't come out until--I don't know, maybe the '80s. Probably when it was written might be in the '60s, I'm not sure, maybe earlier. It's a great book, fantastic. I recommend it.

PM: Well, Ed, we're grateful to have some of your time today, and grateful to have come upon your music. We're really amazed by it, and we hope this interview in Puremusic brings more eyes and ears to your deserving music.

EH: Thank you very, very much. It's been a pleasure.

PM: Thank you, Ed. I hope to run into in the great outdoors somewhere.

EH: Yeah, me too, Frank. I hope to come on tour again. So maybe our paths will cross.

listen to clips
print interview (pdf)


his myspace
Steve Gullick
Juliana Plotkin (ink tank)
Steve Nice
puremusic home