Interview: Rising Star Hartley Talks Having Her Own Back, Dream Collabs & New EP
True talent.
Music 8m

Words by Amar Gera

Get ready Australia, 2020 is gonna be Hartley’s year…

We all have that one artist where as soon as you first hear their music, you feel like you’ve been listening to them for years, whilst being fully aware that you’ve never heard anyone quite like them. Brisbane singer/ songwriter/ producer/ trailblazer Hartley is that artist, bringing forth beautifully intimate lyrics and vocals across gorgeous beats. Her new self-titled EP is a one stop shop for all of the above, boasting four awesome tracks that seamlessly encompass drum and bass, pop and EDM.

Her latest single ‘How It Feels’ is stunningly haunting, with reflective lyrics about being apart from someone who used to be part of you, something we can all relate to. Her tracks have this raw and vulnerable aura to them that immediately draws you in, leaving you desperate for more. With quality songs, awesome energy and a sick personality, it seems not even the sky will be able to limit Hartley, and we can’t wait to see what she does next in 2020. 

We got to catch up with the Brisbane native over the phone for a really cool and refreshing chat, check it below!

Congrats on your EP! It’s a really dope body of work. I’m not gonna ask you how it feels to have it out because I’m sure many people already have. Rather, can you tell me what it means to you that your music has been resonating so strongly with people all across the country?

Oh, it’s so cool! It’s actually so surprising because I’ve had my music reach other countries a lot more this time as well, and it’s just so surreal and I can’t even imagine my friends listening to my music, let alone people I don’t even know. It’s so strange. But yeah, it’s really exciting.

Can you just take us through what a release day is like when you’re releasing new music into the world? I’m sure it must be a huge rush of thoughts and emotions.

Well the day before a release is probably when I’m most excited, and then the day of the release is always just the weirdest feeling because you’re not sure whether to celebrate, or just kind of wait to see other people’s reactions. So yeah, I think this release day I just kind of sat in my room for hours and contemplated life and then cooked myself a meal haha. It was pretty low key.

Oh mad. What’d you cook?

Oh, what did I cook? I think I cooked eggs on toast. I’m sorry. It’s not a very exciting answer.

No, don’t be sorry. That’s a great answer!

Aw thank you haha.

Love me some eggs and toast. Now I read that when you first released ‘Used To’ onto Unearthed, you had to psych yourself up for months before you finally put it out. Was it the same with the EP at all?

Oh, that’s some good research! Well with the EP, because I wrote it over a period of two years, I was so ready to get it out this time and I was way more relaxed about it. I really just wanted everyone to hear it.

Have you been able to stop and properly take everything in since it’s dropped? 

I haven’t really, I’m not very good at doing that. I probably should get better at it, but I think lots of artists are the same, where they just want to focus on what’s next rather than celebrating and looking back. I should get better at that though.

I’m really keen to get stuck into the music now. Was the EP always gonna be self-titled or were there any other potential names that were floating around?

I always knew it was going to be self-titled because my name was kind of new in the industry. It was even new for me to be seeing it on Spotify and on Instagram and stuff like that. And so, I didn’t want there to be any confusion. I kind of just wanted the name, Hartley, to be out there. 

And what’s the origin of the Hartley moniker?

Hartley is my mom’s maiden name. I always really liked it and I think I was originally going to be called Holy Hartley or some variation of that, but then I decided to just go with Hartley because it’s pretty simple and kind of just means a lot to me.

‘Used To’ is the beginning of the EP but was also the beginning of your career in a sense. What was it like when the first song you released on Triple J Unearthed led to you getting signed? I’m sure that was only something you could’ve only dreamed of when you first put it out.

I didn’t have any expectations when I put it onto Unearthed and I didn’t expect it to get played on Triple J, which it did, and that was so weird to me. It kind of just got way more attention than I thought. And then within a couple of weeks I got an email from my label, well my now label, and I thought it was a scam haha. But it turned out it was real!

And ‘Used To’ and ‘Mind’ have some dope drum and bass loops in the chorus’ that really transcend the songs, are you a fan of the drum and bass genre at all? 

I am a fan of it, yeah. And so, when I wrote them two years ago, Drum and Bass was really having a moment. So it was like Rudimental, Jack U, Emile Sande and stuff. So, I was really influenced by that because I didn’t really know many alternative pop songs that were doing that.

I just wanna switch gears for a second if that’s okay. You’ve talked about how you’ve felt at times being a female vocalist and producer in a male dominated industry and how that sort of led to the creation of ‘Own’, can you just expand on that a bit for us?

So even now people don’t expect that I’m a producer. I think because I’m female and I don’t look like I would be one, I don’t really fit the bill. And that was really obvious to me at the time when I was releasing ‘Used To’ and I was independent. At the time I just didn’t know my place in the industry or even in life. And so, I just had this realization where I was like “it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, I’m going to have to do this for myself”. And that’s part of the reason why I had no expectations going into it, because I decided to just kind of have my own back, rather than being supported by anyone else. That’s essentially what ‘Own’ is about.

‘How It Feels’ is the fourth and final track of the project, which you’ve said is a “summary of the Hartley EP” and sort of sums up the feeling of being without a person that felt like a part of you. In writing that track, did you get any closure at all regarding the heartache that inspired it?

The weird thing about ‘How It Feels’ is that I feel like there’s no closure in it and it’s just a song about being sad and heartbroken and closure is something that I kind of find in my head in my own time. But what’s good about song writing is that it just captures a moment and it’s okay to not have a solution. So, I think that’s sort of my only song where I’m just kind of giving in and it’s just emotional.

The EP definitely captures a lot of the highs and lows you’ve gone through yourself personally as well as in your relationship. Would you change anything about it all or take any of it back?

I suppose two years of experience is a lot, but I don’t have any regrets in life because I just always have faith that everything I do is for the right reasons, and that the universe has a plan for me. So no, I have no regrets even though some of those things are hard to think about now. But yeah, I’m glad that I was able to write about them.

I wanna talk about Hartley the producer for a second. You’ve demonstrated real production skills when discussing your music, specifically on ‘Own’ and how you used space between kicks to create an ‘eerie silence’. Did the production side of songwriting come easy to you when you first started making music? Or was that something that took a lot of work and time?

I’m always learning production. I think it’s one of those things where you’re never quite done learning. And I don’t think any producer feels like they’re an incredible producer. I think they all doubt themselves because they know how far they can go. But for me, when I was starting the EP, I was definitely in the beginning stages of production. And even now, I still feel like I’m a beginner. So even though I write the production of my songs first before the lyrics, yeah, it’s always… It doesn’t come as naturally as the lyric writing.

And you’ve made numerous mentions to artists like Banks and Matt Healy from the 1975 in past interviews, and the influence they’ve had on you as an artist. Can you give us a little insight as to how so? One’s sort of dark R&B, the other’s Indie Rock. It’s a really cool mix.

So Banks was the first female artist I saw who was really dark and she just didn’t care. I think there were a lot of male artists who were a bit spooky and weird, but Banks had this way of doing it through performance and production that really inspired me.

And then Matty Healy is just incredible in every single way. I saw him perform with the 1975 in November, I think. And that’s the kind of thing that just… That just keeps me wanting to stay in the music industry, because he’s so inspiring to see perform live. He’s so carefree and artistic. And he was wearing a skirt on stage, which I just love. And lyrically he’s really inspiring. He thinks of lyrics and subject matter in such an interesting way that I would never even consider as part of the songs. So yeah, they’re both big inspirations to me as an artist.

Are there any other up and coming artists in the Brisbane music scene, or just in Australia in general, that you’ve been digging at the moment? Any you’d be down to collaborate with?

Oh, I would love to collaborate with Cosmo’s Midnight or Hayden James! But recently I’ve been doing sessions with Ninajirachi. She’s so amazing. I’m a fan, she’s my friend, but I’m still her fan you know haha.

Now that the EP is out, what’s your plan for 2020? Can fans expect live shows any time soon?

Yeah! I’m just setting up my live show right now because I’ve started looking into booking tours and stuff like that. I also have quite a few songs lined up that may or may not be released as well.

And this one’s a bit of a special one. If you could go back in time, what would you say to the younger Hartley that had just uploaded her first song to Unearthed? Would you give her any advice?

Oh my God. I would say, “Even though it doesn’t feel like it, everything is going to be amazing.” And I’d say, “I know you don’t care about anything right now, but that’s the right way to be. Good job.” That’s what I would say.

I’ve got one more question. I just really wanna know, what are you trying to bring to the music game, and what do you think you already bring?

Oooh, such a big question. Interesting. And you phrased it perfectly. But it is a big question. I’d say… Well I just love that I’m making way for female producers and I hope that as time goes by, other people, other females feel like they can do it as well. And I also just love that I’m making songs that people can relate to. I think a lot of musicians can relate to that, but I just feel like I have a lot to say and a lot of emotion to express, and I just hope that I can build a community with that. That would be awesome.

Words by Amar Gera February 14, 2020
Editors Pick