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Digital Subscriptions > MusicTech > Oct 2019 > ED HARCOURT

ED HARCOURT

With a multi-faceted career as journeyman songwriter, composer, producer, live performer and highly regarded Mercury Music Prizenominated artist in his own right, the prolific Ed Harcourt’s perspective on the music-industry landscape of the 21st century is invaluable. We take a trip to Wolf Cabin – Ed’s home studio and writing space in Oxfordshire – to glean insight from a man with seemingly limitless creative energy
The central hub of Wolf Cabin is this Chilton QM3 desk, complete with mood-setting inspiration such as skulls and stuffed crows

When embarking on a career as a musician and particularly as a songwriter, there will inevitably be difficult and challenging periods; the real-world pressures of maintaining an income, the slog of dealing with an often unsupportive industry and of course, simply keeping creatively stimulated and feeling that inspiration to write worthy work.

Ed Harcourt has faced all these challenges – and more besides – head on and has still emerged at the end of the decade as a songwriter who commands a huge amount of respect from his peers.

“My career has had a lot of peaks and troughs,” Ed tells us. “I think that’s pretty normal for a lot of people. A lot of people get a degree of success and they just work hard to maintain that. I think for my work, I want people to either really love it, or really hate it – that’s a good thing. It’s better than people just being indifferent – following your whim and not trying to please everyone is something to strive toward. That’s really the only way to survive, creatively, I think.” We’re speaking to Ed Harcourt in his Wolf Cabin studio, based at his home near Oxford. It’s a treasure trove of gear, instruments, memorabilia, art and style.

Within minutes, we’re soaked in the creatively stimulating vibe of this Aladdin’s cave. We’re visiting Ed to talk mainly about songwriting and the compositional process, Ed is more well versed (no pun intended) than most, having also written with a plethora of high-profile, chart-topping artists, including Paloma Faith, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, James Bay, Marianne Faithfull and many more. But, of course, we can’t help but indulge in a short tour of the space. “This studio was built here in my garden so I could literally turn things around incredibly quickly,” Ed says. “It’s really for writing, but I have been recording in here, too. The desk here at the centre is a Chilton QM3, which I actually acquired through eBay.”

TOO MUCH ENERGY

Ed Harcourt first appeared on the radar with his debut record Here Be Monsters, which was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize in 2001. But his wasn’t an overnight success story. Prior to this, Ed had already experienced his fair share of setbacks. Ed takes us back to the beginning: “Well, it was my mum who was the first to notice that I was quite musical.

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About MusicTech

The art of writing songs is something that is all too often ascribed to some mythical gift that manifests itself within people at a certain age, with little thought given to the long periods of trial and error, dedication to the craft and persistence to forge a career in the industry that mark out many successful songwriters. In this issue, we have a thorough exploration of the topic, featuring a dissection of the building blocks of every hit song, as well as industry insight from a range of experts who illuminate the professional songwriting world of 2019. We discuss maintaining a career balancing writing with being an artist in your own right with Ed Harcourt and learn from Bernard Butler, Paul Statham and others about their approaches to educating the next generation of hit-makers. Elsewhere in the issue, we continue our journey through the world of synthesis. This time, we focus on wavetable and vector synthesis as well as a foray into the birth of drum machines and their intrinsic relationship with the synth world. We also put several of our go-to budget small-diaphragm condensers to the test in our very first microphone shootout. In our review section this month, we get rhythmic with IK Multimedia’s UNO Drum and wallow in the sonic delights of the Dreadbox Nyx V2 among many other new pieces of kit. Of course, we also have a range of tutorials and tips, too. I hope you enjoy the issue.