Harkin interview: Leeds singer-songwriter to release new album penned in her one-bedroom flat during lockdown

Harkin's second solo album was penned in her one-bedroom flat in the depths of lockdown.

By Abbey Maclure
Tuesday, 5th April 2022, 4:45 am

Navigating working on her 13" laptop screen, without access to a studio, the album has taken on the nuances of life during the pandemic - as Harkin describes it, "a ship in a bottle of that time."

Harkin, first name Katie, is a multi-instrumentalist from Leeds who shot to fame with her band Sky Larkin in the noughties.

Set to be released in June, her new album Honeymoon Suite was recorded in the same room that Katie and her wife, the poet Kate Leah Hewett, ate all their meals and even held their virtual wedding reception.

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Katie Harkin, 35, is a multi-instrumentalist from Leeds who shot to fame with her band Sky Larkin in the mid-noughties (Photo: Kate Hewett)

While Kate was working a remote call centre job, Katie was mixing and programming her album using headphones - waiting for snatches of time where she could record her vocals and guitar.

“We got into a strange rhythm, like anyone who was cohabiting or sharing spaces in lockdown," Katie, 35, told the Yorkshire Evening Post.

"It definitely influenced the sound of the record. I couldn’t go to a practice room and get 10 guitar amps out, so it naturally became a lot more interior and electronic.

“I’ve felt vulnerable in a completely unique way.

Honeymoon Suite was penned in Katie's one-bedroom flat during lockdown, which she shared with her wife - the poet Kate Leah Hewett (Photo: India Hobson)

"While in many ways I hope I never have to make a record on a 13” laptop screen again, I learnt a lot - and there are things I won’t relinquish, even if I’m working with other people next time.”

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Katie has enjoyed a glittering career built around collaboration, from her success with Sky Larkin to touring with American rock band Sleater-Kinney and performing backing vocals for pop star Dua Lipa.

One of her highlights was when Sky Larkin performed an acoustic gig at the Leeds First Direct Arena before it officially opened, a moment of history for the Leeds music scene.

The first single of the album, Body Clock, is out now - accompanied by an animated video created by Leeds artist Pastel Castle (Photo: Kate Hewett)

“I love the massive learning opportunities you get from being in a band," Katie said.

"When you start as a band you start your own little family and your own ways of doing things.

"It feels like cross-pollinating, there’s so many ways to be inspired - from an overarching creative philosophy to something as practical as how you coil a guitar cable."

In April 2020, after founding record label Hand Mirror with her wife, Katie released her self-titled debut album to the backdrop of the unfolding pandemic.

The pair had been living in New York, where Katie’s wife was working as a live music promoter, and had to make the frenzied return home.

“It was a big and very sudden life change, but we feel very lucky that we had friends and family to come back to," Katie added.

"It felt really special to put something out into the world on our own label and I’ve had so many people tell me it was their lockdown soundtrack.

"That’s not something I could ever have imagined, but when I also couldn’t go anywhere it was really moving to know that my music could.

“I did an interview on New York public radio directly after an address from the mayor. It couldn’t have felt more jarring and surreal - it was unlike any album promotion I’ve ever done before."

Honeymoon Suite takes its title from the couple’s affectionate nickname for the one-bedroom flat they were living in on their return to the UK, after having a lockdown wedding with their bubbled family and friends.

Listeners can expect a blend of love, grief, anxiety, resilience, danger, heartbreak and hope in the album, released on June 17.

The first single, Body Clock, is out now - accompanied by an animated video created by Leeds artist Pastel Castle in their tiny home studio.

"I was a big fan of Pastel Castle's work and felt like this song would be a perfect fit," Katie added.

"My brother loaned me a Nintendo Switch [during lockdown] and I found solace in games with large maps to explore.

"Songwriting and gameplay can both have the power to transport and the video Pastel Castle has created takes me on a beautiful and perilous quest."

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