Ed Harcourt - Biography
BY Marcus Kagler
In an age dominated by indie guitar rock, Ed Harcourt is one of the lone throwbacks to the bygone piano-pop era of the mid-70’s. At only 30 years of age, Harcourt has almost effortlessly crafted 4 flawlessly gorgeous albums (and countless B-sides) of eclectic and highly melodic pop songs. A self-described manic personality, Harcourt is a one-man song factory who claims to have written over 300 songs by the age of 23. At the rate he churns out albums it’s probably true. After a nomination for the prestigious Mercury Prize in 2001, Harcourt has slipped quietly out of mainstream consciousness but maintains a rabid worldwide following of fans and critics alike. His live shows are usually highlighted by Harcourt’s comedic witty banter that’s almost more entertaining than the passionate renditions he gives of not only his own material, but also cover songs requested by the audience.
Harcourt turned to a solo career after spending a short stint as bass player for the rock band Snug in his native town of Lewes, East Sussex, England. Having spent a large portion of his late teens recording self-penned composition on 4-track, Harcourt recorded a demo at his Grandmother’s house. Heavenly Records was so impressed with the six song collection that they released it as-is in 2000 under the title Maplewood (Heavenly). Harcourt already had enough songs for another album and immediately began recording with producer Gil Norton (Pixies) later that year. Here Be Monsters (2001 Heavenly) was released in 2001 to huge critical praise and spawned the classic singles “Apple of My Eye” and “She Fell Into My Arms.” His enthusiastic solo performances soon garnered Harcourt a devout fan base and later that year Here Be Monsters was nominated for the Mercury Prize as Album of the Year. Harcourt returned in 2003 with his sophomore full length, From Every Sphere (Heavenly). Produced by Tchad Blake (Crowded House), the album expanded Harcourt’s sound toward more pop driven songs while still incorporating his macabre Tom Waits-influenced piano songs.
The following year Harcourt released his third full length, Strangers (2004 Heavenly), this time injecting a heavier psychedelic rock sound as heard on tracks such as “The Storm Is Coming” and “Let Love Not Weight Me Down.” The album continued typical themes of love and loss, only this time the overall tone was much more positive, as most of the album was inspired by his recent marriage. That same year Harcourt released the download only B-Sides collection, Elephants Graveyard (Astralwerks), consisting of an impressive 24 tracks in various states of completion. On his fourth proper full length, The Beautiful Lie (2006-EMI), the young piano man culminated all of his past sounds and influences into his most accessible album to date. The greatest hits compilation, Until Tomorrow Then: The Best of Ed Harcourt (2007 Heavenly/EMI) was released the following year and featured alternate takes of classic songs along with two new tracks, previously unreleased. He may not be the most well known artist, but Harcourt remains one of the most prolific musicians in Britain today.