Former Girls Aloud member, Sarah Harding, chats to Conor Behan about her first solo single, working without her girls and her stint on ITV’s Coronation Street.
It’s a rainy Friday evening in Dublin and Sarah Harding is gleefully chowing down on a packet of sweets. The Girls Aloud member turned solo star is winding up an exhausting day of Irish promotion for her debut solo release Threads and she’s happy for a quick sugar hit to help through the final push.
Despite a hectic schedule that had up her at 5am to visit Dublin, Harding is all chats when I meet her. She’s upbeat and energised but also at ease. Within a minute of meeting her she’s nattering away like someone you’ve known for years.
As she munches into a pack of Fruit Salad she chats about how she now lives away from the hustle and bustle of busy London.
“I did have a place in Camden, but I kind of grew out of that place,” she admitted. “I live 50 miles outside London now with my doggies and my cats”.
At this point, my Girls Aloud fandom kicks in and I joke if Live In The Country, a track on the band’s final album was about that. Harding admits that it kind of was and that it reflects the way Girls Aloud’s music was made.
“That’s the thing with Xenomania. They used to channel our personalities and write the songs about us. We didn’t really get much of a look in on the writing because we had no time to write,” she says. “We’d come in with the odd line here and there but we didn’t get actually to write fully like I have on my stuff.”
That solo stuff has been a few years in development. Harding explains that she worked with a number of people before selecting Threads as her debut single.
“I‘d already done a lot of stuff with the songwriting team, Xenomania, on our 3 year break with the girls for solo material,” she confides, which I tell her is something many a Girls Aloud fan would be excited to hear. “It never really came off in the end because I wanted to work with other people and they wanted me to work directly with them. So I just said ‘Look I want to test the waters, I’d love to work with you guys but I want to work with other people too’. So I had to branch out and I did.”
Harding took the brave step of, in her words, “scratching off” a couple years of solo material after feeling most of it wasn’t a good fit. She ended up working with Ben Cullum, brother of jazz star Jamie Cullum, and his songwriting partner Jools Thompson on a clutch of new songs including Threads.
Harding feels the mix of perspectives between the three and Cullum’s musical prowess made her feel at ease with writing from her own perspective.
“You have to be comfortable with who you’re writing with especially when it’s coming from your heart,” she says. “We chatted a lot, we listened to the track and they said ‘how do you feel when you listen to the track?’ I was like ‘it’s a really gritty track so it makes me want to write some gritty shit’ and I did!”
Threads is an uptempo cocktail of pop, rock and even some dubstep touches for a brash and kooky effort that is equal parts Girls Aloud and Gwen Stefani. In fact, it was Stefani that Harding ended up channeling for Threads’ slick, fashion-driven video.
“The video brings the song to life. It goes hand in hand definitely.” Harding points out, “I really wanted to channel Gwen Stefani in the early days of No Doubt. I just love her quirkiness and colorfulness now but I love the way she rocked out back in the day. So I wanted a cross a between the both. So you’ve got the stylised side and then the rock chick side.”
Not only that but Harding pours herself into a PVC catsuit for one of the video setups too, which by her estimation wasn’t an easy task
“There was a lot of lube involved! And not for those reasons” she cackles, “You really have to lube up to get into those PVC outfits I tell you. Once you manage to get them on it’s like a sauna in a suit. Forget going to the gym and hitting the sauna put on one of those bad boys for a day and you’ll be fine.”
Harding admits that the video “was hard but [she] loved it” and that they crammed three days worth of looks into a 24 hour shoot and even got to exercise her new found solo artist control when it came to how the clip came together.
“It took a long time. And a lot of me back and forth with the edit going ‘no, no, no, yeah yeah, no,no’ because I’m such a perfectionist.
“I was like, ‘I know there’s a better shot than that,'” Harding notes, also claiming that the kind of control she has now is different to what it was like in the band. “We didn’t get a lot of say. We did as a band but it was majority would rule. Now if you don’t like a shot you can say ‘can you change that shot please? I don’t like it’”.
Harding reckons that extends to how she made the music that makes up the EP release for Threads, and she’d gladly do an album if the chance arises.
“I’d love to do a full album but I just said if I didn’t get anything out this year than I never would. Because I have been working on solo material for so long now. So I just said let’s do an EP to start with and see how that goes. If it’s received well then I get back in the studio. Lord knows I’ve got lots to write about!”
Harding has been extending her talents into other avenues too, and landed a brief guest stint on Coronation Street – an experience she says was really enjoyable
“Oh God it was a fun experience but I’ve got a lot of respect for the actors on that program because it’s such a fast turn-around,” she notes. “But I had fun with it and it’s my favourite show and I’ve ticked the box. It’s bucket list for me.”
We chat briefly about her Irish roots too, with her mum hailing from Co. Meath and Harding meeting a bunch of her cousins on one of her early Irish visits with Girls Aloud. She admits she’s learned lots in her career, one that includes ten years in a highly successful girl group
“You got to have thick skin to be in this industry you really do. It can be very fickle,” she admits. “It was epic and I’ve got to say we were so lucky and I appreciated every moment of it. Ten years for a girl band is a long time. I wouldn’t change it for a thing but now it’s a new adventure.”
As we finish up Harding offers me a hug and a sigh of relief her busy day is over. She’s off to catch some sleep before some more Irish promo the following day. Regardless of where she ends up it seems Sarah Harding is definitely enjoying this new adventure.
Watch the video for ‘Threads’ by Sarah Harding.
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