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Cariad Harmon
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"Who wouldn't love to make records and play for a living?" asks Cariad Harmon, when discussing her hopes for the future. A classically pretty singer-songwriter from across the pond, with a disarming smile and contagious laugh, Cariad has been building momentum in her adopted hometown of New York City since she moved there in 2004. There is no grandiose plan here, no pretension in her approach. She is simply a girl from London who has come a long way and made a beautiful record. Four Letters, Cariad's debut album on Mowo!, Inc. is an effortlessly well rounded outing full of gentle lilting-melodies, simple, relatable stories, beautifully hypnotizing string arrangements and warm airy production.
"Sometimes it just seems like this huge gift landed in my lap," says Harmon. "Working with such great musicians who love what I do." But it hasn't been an easy journey for this self-described "West London girl." Born and raised in London, Cariad caught the travel bug and broke away at an early age. She first picked up the guitar while traveling in Australia. "I had been living out of a car, traveling around and picking up work when I found this youth hostel that offered free accommodations to the winner of a talent show they held." Cariad won the first night singing an original tune, "Rolling." She won the next night and the night after that. "Eventually,"she laughs "they wouldn't let me play anymore."
Shortly thereafter Cariad returned to the UK with her guitar and a new love: songwriting. She got a small flat in the coastal town of Brighton and immediately began playing the area's busy pub circuit. At the same time she picked up a job at a popular hotel so she could play in it's restaurant. "It was a great place to live and there were a lot of musicians playing in bands, but I wanted to do more and I missed the city." Cariad knew it was time to take a big step.
When Cariad moved to the US in 2001 her first stop was Boston, Massachusetts. "My father was from Los Angeles originally and I grew up going out there to visit, so moving to the states didn't seem like that big of a leap." Upon arrival Cariad found breaking into the Boston music scene more difficult than she had imagined and retreated from the live music circuit to write, despite her trepidation she built some strong relationships with musicians in the area. One, fellow Londoner, pianist-singer-songwriter Oli Rockberger would play a significant roll in her musical future.
In 2004 she moved to New York City, determined to find work in the music industry. "I wanted to be near music and involved, even if I no longer considered performing professionally," reveals Cariad. After 6 months of searching Cariad landed an interview with a high profile artist management company. Much of her busy day was spent catering to the personal lives of high maintenance clients and managers and it was here that Cariad met Adam Dorn, known on record as Mocean Worker. Her new position and friendships in NYC had exposed her to a lot of new music and Cariad was anxious to get her feet wet again.
With a renewed excitement, Cariad went about trying to put together an album of her original songs. The first attempt was with producer L eni Stern (wife of jazz legend Mike Stern), whom she had at one point interned with. But Leni was also busy releasing a record of her own at the time and the project soon dissolved. Around that time her friend from the management company, Adam Dorn, offered to produce a demo for her. But shortly after they began work, Dorn's father, legendary producer Joel Dorn, passed away and Dorn stepped away from the music business for a time.
With her album plans seemingly sidelined Cariad interviewed for a position at Dubway Studios, where some of the artists from the management company recorded. The job at Dubway turned out to be a stroke of fate for Cariad who became fast friends with one of the studios top engineers, Chris Abell. When Abell heard one of Cariad's new songs, "Goodbye," which she had written about a recent relationship gone sour, he invited her into the studio to record it. It was also at this time that Cariad was asked to write a piece of music for the end credits to the Julian Goldberger film The Hawk Is Dying, staring Paul Giomati . It was an opportunity that had arisen from her earlier work with Leni Stern. The director's brother Jonathan was working on the score. He heard Cariad's music and decided to send her some simple guitar and string arrangements to see what she could come up with. Both the Goldbergers and Cariad loved the music but decided it wasn't quite right for the movie and subsequently Goldberger and Cariad wrote another piece for use in the film. What Cariad was left with was a melancholy yet hopeful song which would become the song "Four Letters."
Soon realizing that she had the beginnings of the record she had wanted to make, she and Chris Abell began setting up recording sessions during the studio's off hours. For the first sessions she called her old friend from Boston, Oli Rockberger, who was also now living in New York. "Oli has this beautiful sound and he's also a songwriter himself so he's got a real appreciation for a well written lyric. On top of that he's also got the technical ability to communicate my ideas to the musicians involved," explains Cariad. "I brought him in as a player but also a session producer." Abell, Cariad and Rockberger clicked and the three went out to dinner after the session and soon found themselves talking about recording more. "It was a total love fest," says Cariad. "We all just got on like a house on fire and it was so great to be working with people who were as excited about the project as I was. The album sort of grew with our friendships and we each brought something different to the table."
It was natural and organic and Four Letters, the album, began to grow song by song with Chris Abell and Oli Rockberger sharing the production chair, each bringing in additional musicians from their personal circles. When Adam Dorn who had recently launched his own label Mowo!, Inc., heard the first mixes of "Goodbye," he said, "If the rest of the album sounds this good I'll help promote it." Well, he did more than that. When the recording was done, Dorn not only added additional production to the album, but signed Cariad to his label. The 10 tracks on Four Letters speak to the ups and downs of love. But they tell so much more about the artist. There is a sweet optimism in Cariad's music, the keen and sometimes biting British wit, the strong yet simple melodies honed trying to connect with uninterested pub patrons back in Brighton, but above all there is passion and excitement in her voice and that of her backing band. Four Letters was indeed a labor of L-O-V-E and is sure to resonate with fans of all backgrounds and ages. With a sound that has drawn comparisons to fellow countryman Nick Drake and fellow New Yorker Norah Jones and is brushed with hints of Joni Mitchell and Ray LaMontagne, there is a timeless quality and sense of romance to Harmon's songs that transcends the album's top-notch production and is sure to sound as good in 20 years as it does today. "Who wouldn't love to make records and play for a living?" she asks. Well if Four Letters is a sign of things to come, Cariad Harmon is sure to be doing a lot of both and we're sure to be in for a treat.

Cariad Harmon
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