TRACK REVIEW: Fiona Harte - White Picket Fence



Fiona Harte


White Picket Fence





The track, White Picket Fence, is available via:


Folk; Singer-Songwriter


Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland/New York, U.S.A.


10th September, 2018


ON this trip out…


I get to talk about Fiona Harte and what she is up to right now. I will look at her debut single but, before then, I will investigate songs that take something common and add new elements to it. I will look at influences and where some artists take guidance from; artists who move and take a chance somewhere big and new; those who can get into the heart and have that star quality; competing in a challenging business that is seeing a lot of turnover – I want to talk about Harte and where she might head next year. I have looked at Fiona Harte before and have featured her music on my site. It is good to do a proper review of her debut single and what she is doing right now. She is a songwriter that has worked hard to get where she is and it seems like her potential is boundless. What strikes me is how determined she is and what natural talent she possesses. It is quite hard differentiating between songwriters because many of them are talking about the same things and there is not a lot of distance between them. The impulse to talk about love is common and understandable but it seems like every songwriter out there is doing it. I normally would think twice about looking at songwriters who talk about love because it seems to be all anyone talks about. I know it is key to us all but I long for artists who tell stories and break away from the mould; go a bit further and study something more original. This might seem like a slight against Harte but there are a couple of reasons why her subject matter is needed. She is writing a debut single and has it out there now. You cannot really go into the market with something odd and unexpected as you need to bring audiences in and, essentially, write about what you know. Her music switches between Folk and Pop and these genres rely upon those artists who write from the heart and we can connect with. I know she is an intriguing and talented songwriter who will break away from love in future releases but now, on White Picket Fence, she is keeping it safe.


Again; there is nothing against that because you want to embrace artists who can strike a familiar chord and you can easily bond with. Look back at all the legends and they started their careers looking at relationships and matters of the soul. Harte is among the songwriting tradition but, rather than copy everyone else and create something dull and generic; she has penned a song with a more interesting bent and dynamic. The twenty-four-year-old has had her share of heartache and disappointment and wants to put this down onto the page - she does so in a colourful and intelligent way. One of the most shoulder-shrugging things would be if Fiona Harte were like much of the mainstream and wrote about love in a very stale and formulaic way. She, instead, has decided to use that song title as a sort of dream and curious enigma. Maybe it is that ideal of a white picket fence and settling down; perhaps it relates to something cliché and boring in love – being too settled or boring and not showing enough ambition. In any case, I shall look more into that when I come to the song but it is an interesting number indeed. Harte has written a song about someone who controls the mind and actions by doing very little and it can be rather unsettling. She has the hope new love will come along and there will be something good on the horizon. It is an interesting angle and one not many songwriters explore. I guess, as long as a musician can engage on a different level and do something new, love and its much-trodden themes are safe and fertile ground. Harte is not someone who can ever be caught writing in a very ordinary way or presenting what has already come before. I like her writing because you never know whether she is writing about her own life or taking it from a more fictional space. Her debut single leaves you wondering and the rich language throughout paints pictures and causes interpretation. I will move on now but allude to this point more in the conclusion.


It is always hard coming into the market and trying to carve out your own territory. I have encountered many songwriters who have come and not really burned that brightly. It is really tough getting attention and setting yourself aside with the first song. Maybe you compromise and do what everyone else is doing and risk taking a long time to get genuine credibility or you can release something fresh and run the risk of people not really getting it. Harte has penned something original and unexpected but there is that familiarity of love and trouble in relationships. It is a nice mix but her influences and sounds gets to me. Harte has been inspired by great artists like Joni Mitchell and Carole King and you can hear that coming through. They might seem like lofty names but so many new artists do not look that far back. It might be snobbish but I worry when young songwriters do not have a musical knowledge past this decade and list all their favourite albums as very recent ones. It is okay being inspired by the likes of Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift but there are so many young artists who only know new music and that is all that matters to them. They have not got that wider knowledge and all of their icons are from today. It is so limited and, as such, you have so many who sound alike and do not retain those icons and what they did. Harte is a more mature songwriter who has grown up around some great music and that has captured her heart. Whilst she does not take too heavily from King and Mitchell; you cannot help but to hear elements of them in her work. I love both of these artists but they have different styles. Mitchell is a more challenging artist in terms of her themes and can often be quite gritty, dark and emotive. She is someone who has enflamed imaginations with these bold stories and incredible albums.


It is hard to explain but Joni Mitchell is maybe harder to love in terms of her voice – it is quite divisive – but her lyrics are phenomenal. Carole King is a more appealing and popular vocalist and her songs are more traditionally romantic and accessible. The two are legends and have changed music but they are very different in many ways. I am interested to know where Harte came from and how she discovered these artists – you get to hear shades of each in her songs and it is a really interesting brew. I feel influences and idols are as important as anything. It is hard to be unique and every artist has taken from someone else. It is a hard thing to come into music and be completely alien and not be compared with anyone. Influences are important because they give you that guidance and root and it means you can start there and build outwards. Although one does not hear too much of Joni Mitchell and Carole King too heavily; I feel that style of music is most important and Harte prefers the more poetic, deep and classic style. Rather than do something mainstream and too ordinary; you get that clash of relatable heartache and poetic flourishes. Her songwriting has already caught minds and captured people and I think that is going to increase. I do wonder whether there is more material next year but now, with White Picket Fence, we have a song that marks a big talent who has a lot of potential. It is a brilliant and memorable introduction that sets the scene and will leave many people wanting more very soon. She is a Northern Irish artist but is based in New York right now. Some people might say that leap is quite big and scary but it seems like it is working very well for her.


One might say that is a bit of a strange move. Maybe the scene is not that great where she is from in Co. Tyrone but it is a bit of a trek to get somewhere where her music will resonate. I have never been to Northern Ireland but I wonder whether there is much of a scene beyond Belfast. I know there are a few good spots for music there but it is not a nation as active and well-known as the U.S. America is a nation that has always produced wonderful music and that dream of getting to somewhere like New York and making it big is still there. Songwriters want to settle in and make it soon; they want to get that attention and play alongside the biggest artists around. It is brave stepping outside of your home and safe territory and going somewhere daunting. I cannot imagine how unusual it was going there for the first time and how long it took for Harte to feel truly settled. It is impressive seeing her take this leap right from the start and knowing where she wants to go. You can detect an artist who wants to be a big success and not take years to get there. Her songwriting is already assured and brilliant and it might take years to flourish and be discovered in Northern Ireland. Harte wants to take her music to the masses and it seems New York is a perfect place for her. It is a packed and competitive area but it is possible to find collaborators and plenty of people to make the music shine and spread. More and more, artists are moving to cities and not finding opportunities in smaller towns. As more and more musicians come into the world; it is hard to set yourself aside and a lot of venues are closing. What worries me is how stressful the city can be and how expensive it is for musicians. Harte has gone to a part of the world that has its struggles and problems but, in terms of music, it is a hotbed of variation, innovation and wonder.


I have moved myself to get my work further and it is a tricky thing to master. You take that time to settle in and, once you have, you have to keep your ears and eyes open for any chance that comes along. It is different in terms of journalism but songwriters have the same issues. Fiona Harte is a young woman who knows what she wants but will still have to tackle the size and width of New York. I know she is making moves and turning heads but I feel next year will be a very big one for her. After bringing out White Picket Fence; the question is whether there will be more material and what happens next. New York is a perfect place to get fresh inspiration and collaborate; work with some top talent and get the music to a load of people. I am excited for her and know she will be a big success very soon. What impresses me is how hard she is working and how determined she is. The songwriter has moved away – I am not sure if it is a permanent thing or a temporary move – and shifted into a whole new world. Rather than feel overwhelmed and buckled by that task; Harte has taken to it very quickly and knuckled down. She is hard promoting her debut track and wants her name to get out there. Already, there are a lot of sources spreading the news and falling for what she does and it is all very positive. Harte is a songwriter that, as I said, is writing about something quite familiar and known but does so in a new way. Not only is she talking about heartache and relationship problems in an innovative manner but she is able to get into the head very quickly. It is hard to get your songs heard above everyone else and resonate but she has done that right away. I feel it is a mix of her personality and influences that make her music so strong.


Fiona Harte is someone who has put her heart on the line and committed herself but been messed around. She has given her all and faith and been let down. Rather than get too despondent and defeatist; she knows something good will come along and there is hope on the horizon. The worst thing a new artist can do is to take something as obvious as love and write in a very unengaging and simple way. She knows this but also knows relationship issues are a commodity we can all understand. It is the manner of her words and the way her voice elevates sentiments that gets under the skin and stays with you. As a songwriter; Harte mixes poetry and striking images with common strands and the result is a bold and brilliant bouquet. She is in an industry that is as brutal and unpredictable as anything and it can be easy to have hope and then be buried. That has happened with many different songwriters. They come into the business and have big ambitions but, unless they do their own thing and take risks, their music will never remain and people will go elsewhere. Fiona Harte is someone who has been looking around music and what is being put out. She is a fan of Pop I am sure but her music is much more indebted to classic Folk artists and iconic singer-songwriters. That is a breath of fresh air in an industry that is still putting too much focus on mainstream Pop and that kind of thing. There is so much turnover and choice in music and it can be startling covering great artists and those who have the potential to remain. It is great to hear Harte emerge and I have every hope she will remain for a very long time and there is a lot more material to come from her. Given the fact White Picket Fence is out there; it is probably wise I get down to it and offer my thoughts.


One gets relatable and classical tones from the opening strings. The acoustic guitar flows like water and tumbles. It is a fast and exciting rush that is pastoral but emotional. You get a little bit of Joni Mitchell at her finest and shades of modern artists like Billie Marten. I was engrossed from the off and compelled to imagine and conspire. Before Harte comes to the microphone and any words come forth; you are already struck and buckled by the beautiful tones. The guitar adds so much and you already start to get impressions of a relationship going through storms. The heroine approaches and asks to be wound up so someone can watch her choke. The calm manner in which she delivers the words makes them stand out and seem more shocking. Luscious, smoky and delicate; the vocal is delightful and potent and has so many different shades. It is a beautiful and divine sound but one that seems to carry hurt and burden around with it. You get feathers and smoke and there are all sort of vivid images being projected. Maybe we are seeing someone being pulled apart by the black horses of love and being torn to the wind. It is clear there has been some hard background and things are not going well. Perhaps Harte is stuck in a relationship where she is being controlled and hurt and there is that need to remain strong and deal with that comes her way. The hero looks at Harte and expresses more than words can; he is holding her and taking her breath. One wonders whether there is pure love coming through or whether those looks hold something a little unsettling and insincere. Maybe there is that coercive nature and something deceiving lingering. Harte has cracks on her back and it seems she has been carrying a lot of pain around for a while. The man is the reason she has left and if she wants her than she will be gone. Maybe he has been given too many chances and there is no more room left for him. Harte delivers her words with such clarity and beauty and you actually hear little tones of singers like Eva Cassidy. I am not deliberately trying to compare Harte to anyone else but you can picture her record collection and upbringing by the way she sings and how her voice mutates. White Picket Fence is an emotional and heartaching song that is honest, affecting but has that redemptive hope. One needs a few listens to get to grips with the song and really consider its meanings. You can have your views and interpretations but White Picket Fence is more complex than that. It is a marvellous and accomplished debut single from a songwriter, on this evidence, who has a long future ahead of her.


Perhaps there was affection and safety before but the tide has turned and there is that desire to find something purer and less strained. The song looks at brighter horizons and how things can get better but it is clear how much has already been taken from her. I was following the words and painting all sorts of scenes! Harte’s voice is that ever-striking thing that has immense beauty and variations. You get sweetness and seductiveness but gravitas and command come through. It is a colourful and complex sound that makes the words resonate and gives them so much potency. She is not willing to be controlled and does not want the aggression in her life. I am not sure what has caused this split and why things have turned this way but the heroine is keeping her head. As opposed wallow and document a break-up in a very staid and comfortable way; Harte uses language as a way of writing this fascinating and poetic drama. One feels the force of images and metaphors; a songwriter who is challenging tough days into something beautiful and wise. You want things to work out for the best but you cannot get away from the struggles and chains that are haunting her. Harte wants to be the one who “got away” and you wonder whether that relates to her escaping his clutches or a pure sweetheart who the man did not realise – someone who was special and he messed things up. The building backing vocals produces this choral affect and, alongside the persistent tumble of acoustic guitar, it is a highly charged and gorgeous thing. I detect a nod to artists like Laura Veirs and Neko Case – check out the album case/lang/veirs and songs like Behind the Armory – and it is a very pleasing mix. Harte still sees white picket fences and green grass growing; she has that romantic ideal and feels that potential. I wonder whether that image is a romantic dream or a symbol of safety and somewhere calm. Again; Harte splits the mind and you wonder what the real truth is. In any case…you cannot get away from that desire to break from a rather troubled space and find something idyllic and comforting. She also knows new love will come through or things can improve.


I have talked a lot about Harte and what she is writing about. The Northern Ireland-born artist has grown up around some wonderful musicians and has been struck by their genius. You can hear shades and spirits of Joni Mitchell and Carole King but it would be unfair to solely mention them. Above all else, Harte is her own writer and takes from her own experiences. She is a wonderful writer who can pen poetic expressions but there is so much working away. A wonderful artist who seems to tick all the boxes; I wonder where her music will go and what she has coming in 2019. Today is National Album Day and it is a chance for us all to reminisce and talk about our favourite albums. Not only that but we get to underline the relevance of albums today and argue, against some people’s opinions, that albums are dead. I feel they are burning bright and people still have an appetite for them. I am not sure whether Fiona Harte, today, will be listening to something like Blue (Joni Mitchell) or Tapestry (Carole King) – and whether she is aware of the day – but I know she loves albums and all they offer. The reason I bring this topic to mind is the way Harte writes and where she wants to head. One feels White Picket Fence is the start of a story that could continue and blossom very soon. I know there will be more material coming and I feel an E.P. or album might not be that far away! There is so much she can talk about given the fact she has moved to the U.S. and changed her life quite a bit. It would be easy to fall back on relationships and exploring them every way possible. Rather than repeat herself and be too predictable; Harte, I assume, will be talking about all manner of things and having that mix of personal and poetic.


She is a writer who can take from the heart but has the ability to transcend that and step into other worlds. I cannot wait to see where she steps next and I imagine there will be tour dates soon enough. Having moved to New York; things will take a little longer to truly settle and she is getting to grips with everything there. Maybe it will take a while before she can command a big tour but I know there will be U.S. demands and people back here will want to see her play. Make sure you throw your support behind her and do not let her music pass you by. It is hard to survive in modern music and, unless you have all the bases covered, you can get swallowed and overlooked. Fiona Harte will have no such issues and I feel she has a lot to say. Her debut single is a brilliant moment that is as strong as anything out there and does a hard thing: looks at love and common subjects but does something new and exciting. I was drawn to the lyrics and they sort of took me by surprise. Her voice is gorgeous and the composition, whilst quite simple, is highly engaging, affecting and emotional. Here is a rounded and complete songwriter who has a natural charm, sense of the mysterious but is relatable and easily likeable. Harte will round the year off by getting White Picket Fence out there and planning her next moves. Maybe there will be a few smaller gigs or she may already be percolating with ideas for others songs. Whatever is in her mind; let’s hope she gets time to rest and reflect on how far she has come. The striking and stunning songwriter will have a lot of demand come her way and it could be easy to take that all on and burn out. Rather than run too fast, she will want to carefully consider what is coming and what she wants to achieve with her music. The future is hers and I feel she can go anywhere she wants. Ensure you support Fiona Harte and listen to White Picket Fence; follow her next steps and watch a talented and bright songwriter…


SLOWLY seduce the world.


Follow Fiona Harte