Durham Songbird Jo Harrop to Tour in Support of Acclaimed Debut Album
by Geoff Ford
“THESE SONGS FEEL TIMELESS, BUT THEY ALSO REFLECT WHERE WE ARE HERE AND NOW”
Durham-born Jo Harrop has made quite an impression in jazz circles with her deliciously cool and sophisticated voice and will be playing a series of live shows to support the recent release of her critically acclaimed solo debut album, The Heart Wants.
Written and recorded over the last year when the world came to a sudden standstill in the wake of the pandemic, The Heart Wants is an album about love and life, about losing and then finding oneself in the silence after the applause has faded away.
Although she has built a reputation as an intuitive interpreter of other people’s songs, Jo Harrop would be the first to admit that she always lacked the confidence to reveal her own songs to the world. With no shows in her diary, she started working on what would eventually turn out to be her first album of original material with producers Hannah Vasanth (known for her work with everyone from Stormzy to JP Cooper) and Jamie McCredie alongside a guest list of world-class musicians including Christian McBride, Jason Rebello and Troy Miller.
“In an unexpected moment of stillness, when the world came to a sudden stop and confusion, frustration and fear seemed to sweep across the earth, I finally began to work on the album that I had longed to make for many years,” Harrop explains. “Ideas that I had talked over with Hannah and Jamie began to unfold, and emotions that I’d always pushed aside began to spill onto the page.
“We wrote and recorded the songs for The Heart Wants before we had a chance for people to hear them live, which is the ultimate litmus test, Songs don’t really come alive until you play them to an audience, so I’m incredibly excited to finally be able to bring them to life on stage for the first time. Music has always had the power to transport me and to move me deep inside, and I want to create the same emotional connection with people who hear my songs.”
From the sublime chamber pop of If I Knew to the Muscle Shoals soul of Hold On, The Heart Wants will no doubt come as quite a surprise to anyone who thought Jo Harrop was only capable of singing jazz ballads.
“I sent my first lyrics to Paul Edis and we wrote If I Knew, which became the key that unlocked the door to creating this album. ‘The heart wants what the heart wants’ was something that Hannah had said to me late one night after a show, and somehow it just stuck inside my head. Each song is a true story about the dreams and desires, doubts and regrets and trials and tribulations of the human heart.”
Born in Durham, and raised on a heady musical diet of Nina Simone, Billie Holiday and Aretha Franklin, Jo Harrop cut her teeth as a session singer, working with a host of iconic artists including Neil Diamond, Rod Stewart, Enrique Iglesias and Gloria Gaynor. Moving to London, she quickly established herself as one of the most unmistakable voices in British jazz, performing everywhere from the Royal Albert Hall to the Sunset Sunside Jazz Club in Paris.
Having signed to London-based jazz label, Lateralize Records, she received a raft of rapturous reviews for Weathering The Storm, her debut with guitarist, Jamie McCredie. The Guardian dubbed it ‘a little gem of an album: simple, modest and perfect,’ whilst BBC 6 Music’s Iggy Pop fell in love with her voice, calling her “a very fine jazz singer.”
“When I was a teenager, my dad took me to see Tony Bennett live in Newcastle,” she recalls. “I was so moved and so inspired, I realised that I needed to sing. I wanted to be able to touch people with my music in the same way. The loss of dear loved ones in recent years has opened my heart and given me more reason to sing and to write than ever before, which is why I felt the time was right to record my first album of original songs. I pour all of the sad stuff into my music and it somehow comes out in the way that I sing and write, so it really is a form of catharsis for me.
“These songs feel timeless, but they also reflect where we are here and now, caught up in life’s bittersweet journey. Music has been my whole world for as long as I can remember; it has always had the power to transport me and to move me deep inside, and I want to create the same emotional connection with people who hear my songs.”
The Heart Wants was released through Lateralize Records on Limited Edition heavyweight vinyl and CD late in 2021.
Thursday 12 May, Newcastle, Hoochie Coochie
Thursday 19 May, Manchester, Matt & Phreds Jazz Club
Tickets are available from Jo Harrop’s official website – https://www.joharrop.com/shows