If you had ears in 2015, then you definitely would have heard Karen Harding‘s megahit “Say Something”. A delectable slice of house-pop, the MNEK produced gem ushered in a wave of copycat tracks in the UK while catapulting Harding to the Top 10 – instantly captivating fans with the rich timbre of her husky, dancefloor-ready vocals.
Fast forward nine years, and “Say Something” finally finds a home on the triumphant release of Harding’s debut album, Take Me Somewhere. A record that’s finally out today after a decade in the making , Harding celebrates the album release alongside retro visuals for the DnB tinged “Wild Wild Water”.
With Take Me Somewhere taking shape as a brilliant spectrum of Harding’s career to date as one of the dance music scene’s most saught after vocalists, we caught up with Karen Harding to chat about her new record, reflections on her decade-long career as well as her feelings on the evolving dance music scene.
SheBOPS: Is there a quote you consider to be your life motto?
Karen Harding: Go with your gut. There’s been a few times in my life when I wish I had followed these 4 words but I guess you gotta get things wrong to get them right!
What role did music play in your life when you were growing up?
Music was always on in the house and in the car. My mam would always be found dancing in the kitchen to whatever was on the radio; I always loved the way she would break out in dance without a care in the world. My mam and dad had very different music tastes and I would happily enjoy it all, whether it be Meatloaf or Lisa Stansfield.
There’s a lot of time spent on your own and on the road; travelling can be fun, but also lonely sometimes.
I have so many! I’ve worked with some incredible people and I’m grateful for that. I’m proud that I have been able to achieve my childhood dream of being an artist and being successful at it.
Is there anything in your career that you feel like you are still learning?
Everything, all the time! Everything is changing all the time and it’s good to keep up with the changes by learning new things, whether that’s learning a new adlib, learning about a new vocal plugin or meeting new people who you can learn from.
For sure, I think all creatives have probably had these doubtful feelings – but it’s what makes it all worth it when something good happens! I always say that things happen in threes. I feel like I usually get three bad things in a row; then, when I’m feeling down and frustrated about it all, three amazing things happen and I reckon it’s because I’ve worked through the tough bits and persevered.
I feel like the only pressure I feel is from myself. I want to release music that I like and hopefully that other people like and to do a good job when I perform… I like the pressure sometimes though; it can sometimes push you out of your comfort zone.
I want people to get lost in the songs, I hope that it takes listeners to different places that they can relate to. I hope it can transport them to where they need to be, and the lyrics and melody can take them on that journey.
Do you feel you learnt any valuable lessons during the process of making the record?
Over the last few years there have always been certain songs that stuck out to me, and these are the songs I’ve chosen to put on the record. Sometimes with songs it’s about releasing them at the right time, and I feel like it’s good to be patient sometimes; these songs wouldn’t have sounded like they do if I’d released them years ago. I had them reproduced by some incredible producers and they have brought magic to them that wouldn’t have been possible years ago when they were originally written.
If Take Me Somewhere were a living person, what kind of person would they be?
A bit like me!?
What inspired the decision to include your breakout 2014 hit “Say Something” on the record?
I couldn’t leave my first song out; I also hope that people who are fans of “Say Something” are able to discover me as an artist and my style.
I love the lyric “you’ve got to stop listening when they tell you the dream is over” from “Wild Wild Water” – what are some of your favourite lyrics from the record?
I also love that lyric! I love the message in “Wild Wild Water”. I think the chorus of “Wild Wild Water” is my favourite as it’s so empowering and it came from a doubtful moment in my career, where I wasn’t sure what I wanted next and felt like I just needed to go with the flow and see where it took me!
What are some new sounds you experimented with on this album?
I haven’t released my own drum and bass record. I’ve always collaborated with other d’n’b artists, so I’m excited to have that style on the album and there was no other way to produce the record so I was excited when we went there.
How do you feel about the representation and portrayal of women in music in 2023? Is there anything that you’d like to change?
Since starting to release music, I have noticed a change in the inclusion of women in different spaces of the music industry. Without meaning to, I have always had women in my team, whether that be A&R at the label, management and even my publisher. I feel honoured to be around these women and I think it motivates me in different ways without even realising it. I would like to see more women in these roles, but I’m glad to see awareness is on the rise!
Is there anything about the music industry that frustrates you from a woman’s perspective? On the flip side, what are some elements about it that you love and celebrate?
We can’t assume what everyone does when you walk into the room. It frustrates me when it’s assumed that I don’t know how to work equipment or programs, but the males in the room aren’t questioned about it and they’re just assumed to know how everything works. This is definitely on the decrease and it happens a lot less than it did when I first started. I love that because of the increased awareness, I’ve been invited on to girls-only writing camps and met so many amazing females who I continue to work with now!
What have been your experiences with staying true to your identity in a male-dominated industry?
This is something that I’ve never struggled with if I’m honest. Because I am a vocalist, I’ve always had a strong identity and I feel like when people hear my voice, they know it’s me!
How do you feel the dance music scene has evolved over the years, especially for women and what advice would you give to other women in music, especially those who are newer to the industry?
I’ve been able to share stages, work in the studio, and perform alongside some incredible female artists. We are all so supportive of each other and big each other up and I think that’s important! Support each other and don’t let anybody stop you!
What do you think the world of music is missing at the moment?
There’s an abundance of amazing music! Share it with people so that everyone can discover new things that they may never have heard! I also think as creatives we all need to make sure we big up other creatives and show them love when we love it!
Take Me Somewhere is out now via Ultra Records and can be streamed on all platforms here.