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Imogen Harper – Growing Up On Sydney Stages

Written by Vidette Moore on May 19, 2011

At just twenty one, Imogen Harper has already established herself as a talented performer in both the indie scene and singer-songwriter circuit in Sydney, yet she really is just at the beginning of a promising career. Imogen is a member of Sydney group Guineafowl and has just released her solo debut Charcoal Heart, an EP of understated sweet and innocent pop songs.

Music Feeds: I was at my most self conscience and awkward stage when I was 15, which is the same age that you started gigging; was it tough? How did you find venues and audiences reactions?

Imogen Harper: I was petrified! But all the adrenalin and fear made it more rewarding. At my very first gig I covered the song Kissing You by Desree, which is a strange choice for a 15 year old in retrospect as I don’t think I’d even kissed a boy yet! Because I was underage, the Excelsior and El Rocco’s were the only venues I could play at – usually to my friends, family and my over emotional mum. (Who doesn’t cry anymore, thank goodness.)

What’s been your favourite gig that you’ve played at to date?

IH: My EP launch at Raval in Sydney was very special and intimate – such a lovely, attentive and positive crowd! With Guineafowl, definately the Spotted Cow in Toowoomba. The home made spaghetti bolognese by the pub-owners wife  was really the icing on the cake.

MF: Your solo stuff is very sort of classical jazz singing, but you also play in the Indie Pop outfit Guineafowl. Who are your biggest influences from both the Jazz and Indie world? And how did they influence your style?

IH: I love the  contemporary Jazz singers Diana Krall and Norah Jones and their style of singing and I drew a lot of inspiration from this style. But being more exposed to the indie world through Guineafowl, I’ve definitely starting experimenting with slightly different, more upbeat and less organic sounds! I love listening to The National and Gotye at the moment.

MF: What has been the best thing out of joining outfit Guineafowl? Are there any pitfalls to being the only girl on tour with a group of boys?

IH: The best thing has definitely been my five new brothers! We’re like a little family, all smiles on stage, and we look after each other really well. I periodically zone out on our long journeys, put the big dorky headphones on to block out all the boy talk, and that is how I survive. There are moments I want to kill them though, of course.

MF: As someone who started out playing open mic nights at the Excelsior during your student days, how do you feel about it being closed down by Justin Hermmes to make way for a mexican restaurant?

IH: Very sad!! I love the Excelsior and have always been back and forth to the mic nights over a period of four years. There is a nice little crowd of very talented songwriters there, but I’m sure it will continue at another venue. The Mexican better be good.

You sold out your EP launch at Raval; where to next for Imogen Harper?

IH: The Vanguard on May 26th. I’m mixing it up this time, playing with a few extremely talented musicians, which always makes it more fun. Hopefully they will crack some jokes on stage and save everyone from my sense of humour. There may even be a Fleetwood Mac cover.

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