Curtis Harding got his start as Cee Lo Green’s backing singer and went on to emerge as modern Soul’s sleeper threat with his debut solo album ‘Soul Power.’ The 2014 release on influential Burger Records in America and Anti for the rest of the world was pivotal in introducing a new era of musician who would not be pigeonholed in to just one discipline or style. On his new album ‘Face Your Fear,’ he’s joined in the studio by master auteur Dangermouse aka Brian Burton and Sam Cohen; the secret weapon behind his contemporary Benjamin Booker’s 2017 standout ‘Witness.’
CA: Congratulations on a great album and a big step for your career. Does ‘facing your fear’ have anything to do with sharing the reins with another producer? Do your and Sam’s visions differ much and how much did you test each other to get the best out of each other?
CH: ‘Thank you. No, though there can be some uneasiness walking into a new recording situation this particular one was arranged by Brian (Danger Mouse). I have a lot of trust in Brian and after the first day of working with them both any reservations I had were gone. Sam, Danger, and I have the same taste in music. We all discussed what elements we thought should be implemented. Another comfort I had walking into sessions is that we were all on the same page. If there was something one of us didn’t like we were very open about it. Most of the time the other person was already thinking the same thing. That’s how you know something good is happening.’
CA: I was so thrilled to hear you guys were working together because I loved that ‘Resistance Radio’ album (the compilation of 60s songs produced by Dangerous for Amazon’s Show ‘The Man In The High Castle’ that features everyone in the producer’s rolodex such as Beck, Norah Jones, Kelis and Karen O). Did your decision to work on a full length come before or after your contribution to the soundtrack ‘Lead Me On?’
CH: ‘It was way before. We’d already been in the thick of things by that time.’
CA: There’s some really big sounds and arrangements on the record. ‘Soul Power’ had plenty of trimmings but this is next level! Was it hard to show restraint when you had access to so much talent?
CH: ‘No. My philosophy is you do what’s best for the song.’
CA: What sort of journey have you been on since ‘Soul Power?’ So much has happened in such a few short years.
CH: ‘A lot of touring. I’ve pretty much been around the world with the exception of a few places. I’ve just been practicing as much as possible, and writing. Always working on getting better.’
CA: ‘Keep On Shining’ (the breakthrough single from 2014’s ‘Soul Power’) is still an absolute anthem - are we going to hear as many big club songs on the ‘Face Your Fear?’ ‘Need Your Love’ is quite a burner!
CH: ‘I didn’t know I made big club songs haha! There is definitely enough fun to be had on this record. I’m all about a equal balance of emotional content. You can’t be serious all the time. Have a little fun.’
CA: We hear you stretching out to some cool psychedelic shit on ‘Wednesday Morning Atonement’ - what are some of your favourite psych bands/artists/producer?
CH: ‘To be honest my psych influences come from the well of Soul music I grew up on like Curtis Mayfield. His record (CURTIS) especially. Isaac Hayes, Hendrix, and the Supremes “Reflections” record produced by Brian Holland and Lamont Dozier also introduced me to exploration. It wasn’t until later I recognized it as psychedelic elements. Then I happened upon bands like CAN, and LOVE and was like ‘oh, ok that’s cool.’ I think in those days psychedelic was less about a particular sound and more about the experience it self. People who were tripping listened to Folk, blues, jazz etc. today I think we’re really caught up on labels.’
CA: ‘Soul music seems to be having another swing at the moment. I always felt like journalism and music would be the only thing that might flourish under Trump but no one really seems to be making overtly political statements besides Tribe Called Quest and Run The Jewels - do you think it will be a couple more years before every song is a protest?’
CH: ‘Good music has always been a reflection of the times, people, and places it’s made. Whether artist choose to use their platform for a political statement or entertainment. Some people want and need to be informed and some want and need to escape, you know? Just make sure it’s good.’
CA: Are we going to see you tour Australia next year?
CH: ‘I hope so! We’re working on it for sure.’
CA: Given your record is coming out near halloween can you tell us three things that scare the shit out of you?
CH: ‘Mother Nature’s Wrath’
Face Your Fear is out now on Anti - get it here.