Ed Harcourt is a Sussex-born and North London-raised singer-songwriter. He went solo in 2008 after playing bass for Snug in the late 1990s.
Harcourt’s debut full album, 2001’s Here Be Monsters, was nominated for the prestigious UK Mercury Music Prize, garnering the enigmatic newbie (think a more hetero, Hemingway-esque Rufus Wainwright) a good deal of stimulated attention. His commercial peak was that album’s follow up, 2003’s From Every Sphere, reaching the top 40 album charts, and cementing Harcourt’s reputation as dark-gentleman-at-piano, English chamber pop troubadour.
About a year ago, Harcourt spoke to me in an interview for God Is In The TV, where I described his latest full-length, Back Into The Woods, as a disc ripe with “reflection and regret – but it’s rather the regret of a failed system than of a failed life – and it has an enormous humanistic hope between the words and the chords….An eloquent statement of where greed can lead us; and even if you can’t escape, at least there is an indication of what you may be able to do to remedy things, even if just for now.” He has since released a mini album, titled Time of Dust, in January 2014.
As his legendary, sold out show at Istanbul’s premiere Babylon venue in late 2010 testified, the solo artist is far from manacled to the piano. His scattershot imagination sends him scurrying around the stage from left-handed acoustic guitar, to trombone, to an exquisitely deployed loop pedal, turning all of his found sounds into some kind of organic, acoustic, hypnotic rave, by the end of his shows – complete with showman handclaps.
Seven original albums into his song-writing arc, Ed Harcourt proves with tenacious determination that the song is king, whether it be odes to his new family, reptiles, insects, or red wine. Suited, booted, and pocket-watched up for every show, the Wildean Brecht of North London, impresses, fascinates, and charms every time, in equal measure.
For an artist so interested in classicism, or at least some decent old school values (“I believe women should be protected – I don’t mind fighting for that. I think it should be done,” he told me during our God Is In The TV chat), Harcourt has done very well at embracing social media culture. His hands on, direct relationship with his international fan-base is open for all to see on Facebook, and as the man himself says, “f***the enigmatic artist – that’s gone.”
Long live the finely-wrought, attention to detailed, OCD-style precision of the Ed Harcourt production values, and the bon-viveurish, Leonine, Dionysian excesses of his reputation.
By Sean Bw Parker