DiscoverThe Art of LongevityThe Art of Longevity Season 9, Episode 2: Ed Harcourt
The Art of Longevity Season 9, Episode 2: Ed Harcourt

The Art of Longevity Season 9, Episode 2: Ed Harcourt

Update: 2024-03-20
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After 25 years in the music business, both as a major label priority artist and as a jobbing musician, Ed Harcourt still has big ambitions. 

“My greatest achievement would be to write a song I would never get bored of singing”.

Cards on the table, Ed Harcourt’s two instrumental albums made between 2018 and 2020 (Beyond the End and Monochrome to Colour) got me through the pandemic. Well, they certainly helped. But Ed didn’t sing on either, so it comes as something of a relief to have Ed Harcourt back in the world of songs. Not only that, but his best batch of songs for a while - held together on a cracker of a new album El Magnifico. It is quite possibly the best album he has ever made. The question is, will enough people get to hear it?

Harcourt was first signed to Heavenly Records, which was subsumed into the EMI empire of old, where he was a priority UK artist for a while - thrust into the eye of the needle. But the chart positions never came, the pressure mounted, and, inevitably, Harcourt moved on into the second phase of his career as an independent artist. These days, his view of ‘the industry’ is understandably jaded.

“I went a bit mad. I had been institutionalised. I felt done. It still feels like a rollercoaster, but I can’t do anything else”.

His solo albums as an independent artist have impressed critics and fans - especially Furnaces (2016) - but commercial success has been elusive, and Furnaces left him burnt out and in need of a change (hence the ‘neo classical phase’ that followed).

Harcourt remains an active collaborator, however, producing albums for Kathryn Williams and Sophie Ellis Bexter, whom with Ed co-wrote on her last three albums. He is now working with emerging artist Roxanne De Bastion. In many ways, it is surprising he is not more in demand as a producer, although by his own admission, he will never be motivated to do anything within a million miles of what you might call a trend. Meanwhile, he tours with cult Ohio indie band The Afghan Whigs and is waiting for some film score projects to drop. But, for an ambitious artist, is that success?

“Success is working. Just making music all the time. I am proud but dismissive. Something will come, but I just don’t know what, yet…”

Harcourt now makes music with the battle scars of an artist who has been through the mangle. He rode the hype cycle - signing a five album deal to a major, experiencing the fallout from that, and steadily rebuilding to a place where he can always make music for himself.  

In particular on El Magnifico, there is a bouncy, upbeat ‘single’ in Strange Beauty, while Deathless is a throwback to the classic days of album songs - a centrepiece if you will. Broken Keys is reminiscent of Elvis Costello during his 70s heyday, while Into The Loving Arms Of Your Enemy may well be Harcourt’s best song so far. 

In fact, it might be the song Ed Harcourt never gets bored of singing. 

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The Art of Longevity Season 9, Episode 2: Ed Harcourt

The Art of Longevity Season 9, Episode 2: Ed Harcourt

The Song Sommelier