A multi-talented singer-songwriter, Karen Harding has captivated the ears of millions. A high-demand topliner in the global dance music landscape, Harding has worked with artists like Purple Disco Machine, Paul Woolford, and the Father of Disco himself, Giorgio Moroder. She transforms worlds with her timeless voice giving high-energy electronic productions a classical touch.
A proven dance-pop powerhouse, Karen Harding recently released her 7-track EP Sweet Vibrations featuring collaborations with Digital Farm Animals, Future Kings, L’Tric, Illyus & Barrientos, and Shift K3Y. At the heels of this power-pop, dance-floor-ready triumph, Karen Harding gives Casablanca Sunset a deep dive on what being a dance music singer is all about.
Casablanca Sunset: As a singer with a voice as powerful and versatile as yours, you could sing over any style of instrumentals. What draws you to dance music specifically?
Karen Harding: Thank you! Well I didn’t really aim to be in dance music when I was younger, I mean, I was inspired by a lot of it but never imagined myself in dance music. I used to sing all genres and I always wondered how I would find my sound, so thankfully, I seemed to find it with MNEK when we wrote ‘Say Something‘ and I guess it all just worked out from there. A lot of dance artists and producers got in touch with me once that song came out and I felt like I was really a part of the scene which was nice! What I love most about dance music is playing it to an audience and feeding off their energy, it’s incredible.
Casablanca Sunset: How does songwriting for dance music differ from more classical styles of music?
Karen: What I like about writing for dance music is that you could write a whole song and then it could be heard by a producer and they use only one part. I always like how music can be interpreted by someone entirely differently. For me, I love working on dance instrumentals. I don’t listen to the instrumental until I’m up in my studio, I press record on the microphone and just let myself loose with the melody. I really enjoy being introduced to it for the first time and being able to adlib freely over it. Sometimes I even dance around with the speakers on (pretty loud!) to imagine what the lyric and melody would feel like in a club.
Casablanca Sunset: Explain what a Karen Harding show looks like to someone who has never had the privilege of seeing you perform live.
Karen: Performing is one of my favourite parts of being an artist. I’ve been gigging professionally since I was around 16, in different bars in the North East of England and I feel like it always just gets better and better. So, a show is usually opened up with a fave of mine “Undo My Heart” and is pretty energetic throughout. I like to build my set around the more emotive dance records then head into the harder stuff as we go on. I love bouncing about and feeding off the energy from the crowd. I also love to add my own spin and make my own bootlegs and perform songs that have inspired me, that I love, and songs that I can hear the crowd singing at full volume!
Casablanca Sunset: What are some unfair stereotypes about dance music?
Karen: I feel like women especially in dance music are slowly but surely overcoming the stereotypes in music. I feel like female DJs/managers have it hard as they are sometimes mistaken for the ‘girlfriend’ when in fact they are the artist! I think people are beginning to make less assumptions. It’s important not to assume anything about anybody – just because you’re a singer, doesn’t mean you don’t know how to produce or make music…
Casablanca Sunset: What are some challenges you faced while creating your latest EP Sweet Vibrations?
Karen: Due to lockdowns I wasn’t able to promote it as much as I wanted to. Normally, I like to put unreleased music in my sets to try it out so didn’t really get that chance. Everything was done remotely as well, whereas with this being my first body of work, I think I would have loved to have been able to meet up with the team earlier and brainstorm ideas throughout the release. I mean, it’s fine because we were able to get everything done thankfully! Choosing the songs was really hard for me, I’ve been working on so much music over the last few years and wish I could put every tune out that I love but that wouldn’t make sense. I’ve held back some more of my favourites for the album to be future releases, so I guess the EP is a good starting point!
Casablanca Sunset: Do you experience writer’s block? How do you deal with overcoming it?
Karen: Oh yes! I usually go for weeks with non-stop writing and recording and then would just have a few days off without any music just to completely refresh. I like to have a night out as well, and get to let my hair down. This helps with inspiration because you’re listening to so many different songs and styles.
Casablanca Sunset: How did you end up working with the Father of Disco, Giorgio Moroder? What feelings did it evoke, and what did you learn from the collaboration?
Karen: Giorgio is such a lovely guy. We had a lovely time in the studio and he also asked me to perform a medley of his songs at the famous Italian Music Festival in San Remo, which was an absolute honour. Giorgio really focused on the performance of the vocal. He talked about Donna Summer and how getting the room to the right vibe to record is really important and he said it can really impact the performance, so we worked on that a little bit before recording, getting the lights right and adding in a few rugs so I was comfy! I feel like I learned a lot from Giorgio but mostly that he has been as successful as he is because he always goes with the feel. You can see it in his eyes that he loves the music.
Casablanca Sunset: What are some cliches you want to avoid in your career? Are there any you want to embrace?
Karen: I feel like you can’t really be a cliche. Everyone’s music is different, some people might like it, some people might not, so you’ve just gotta go with the flow, and enjoy what you’re doing no matter what anyone thinks. I dunno, maybe that’s a cliche within itself, haha!
Casablanca Sunset: What do you hope listeners take away from Sweet Vibrations?
Karen: I hope that it takes listeners on their own journey. Although it’s predominantly dance music, I feel the messages in my songs can be interpreted in so many ways. I hope that after all this time, that listeners can get a better idea of who ‘Karen Harding’ is…
Thanks, Karen! Listen to Karen Harding’s captivating EP, Sweet Vibrations, below: