The songwriter-turned-solo artist and musical powerhouse spills the “Liquid Truth” and stirs up all the feelings.
When I first met Harloe, I could literally feel her positive energy. Nevermind that our interview was cutting into the L.A.-based singer songwriter’s studio time—she was much more concerned with giving honest and considered answers than making it to her session on time. The next week I caught her very first show in the backyard of the bar No Vacancy, and as soon as she stepped to the mic, she brought. The house. Down. Literally–the speakeasy-style bar is housed in a 115-year-old Victorian. Harloe may be an up-and-coming solo artist, but she’s comfortable in her own skin, and it shows. This unyielding yet humble confidence comes in part from her years spent writing songs for the likes of JoJo and Charli xcx, weaving verse behind the scenes and translating other people’s stories into hard-hitting anthems. Now forging a path for herself, Harloe’s sharing her own story in the form of her upcoming EP, “Liquid Truth,” due out later this year. She opens up about making songs for herself, writing tipsy, and empowering women through music.
You started out as a songwriter, writing music for Charli xcx, Britney Spears, JoJo, and others. How did you get into that?
I always loved writing songs. Growing up, that was my cathartic time when I could try different things and just be creative. I’m a college dropout—I went to NYU, left after six months, and then came to L.A. I met these songwriters through friends, and they put me in a bunch of sessions and mentored me a little bit. I don’t know how I found myself in the room with these other artists but I did, and it’s been a journey ever since.
What were you going to NYU for?
For recorded music, actually. The songwriting element was one avenue, but I always thought it was really cool how an actual record comes together. I wanted to learn all of the techniques. After I dropped out, a lot of the producers I worked with—I would lean over their shoulder and ask them a bunch of questions, like, “How do you do that?” L.A. has been my school, I guess.
What drove you to strike out on your own? Are you still songwriting for other people?
I’m still songwriting. What really did it was this song I wrote called “All in My Feelings,” which is the first song we put out. When we write songs, if we’re not in with the artist, we go, “Who should we pitch this to?” But [with “All in My Feelings,”] I knew in my gut that I wanted to say those words. That was a diary entry kind of song. It was the first song I had written in a really long time that I felt connected to on a deeper level. I guess I owe it to that song.
How did writing for others prepare you for putting out your own music?
It prepared me immensely. When you work with other artists, it’s almost like a blind date because you want to make that connection, but you also want to come out with something so special to the other person. It took me out of my shell a little bit because I’m definitely introverted, and when I write—it used to be this really sacred, quiet place. [Writing for other artists] taught me how to connect to a really deep place because you’re almost like the therapist, the sister, the mother. You find these roles that bring out the best in the other artist, and I found that doing that prepared me to find out what role to play for myself. It definitely sharpens up your toolbox a little every time you try to grow and get better. It keeps you fresh.
It’s interesting to think about how getting deep into someone else’s emotions can help you do the same for yourself.
Yeah, that’s why they say therapists have to do therapy on themselves all the time. It really takes you to another place, and you have to get there pretty fast most of the time because you want to get the best out of the artist, and you might only have one day with them. You really want to make that honest connection, and it helps you do that with yourself too.
Where did you grow up? What was your childhood like?
I grew up in Queens, New York and moved to Long Island for high school. There were rough patches during my childhood, and I think everybody has their own family story, but overall I had a lot of fun. I have a couple of close friends that really kept me positive. When I think of my childhood, music was the thing that kept me driven. It was there through the good times, through the bad times, and through the times when I felt insecure or whatever. Music was always the glue. It sounds cliché but I associate songs with everything. I have a sister; she’s a piece of work, and I love her.
Older or younger?
One year older. She’s in music too. She’s totally on the other side of the spectrum; she’s an opera singer. She’s actually really goofy, but when she sings, she gets into this really serious, deep place. My songs are also kind of dark, but there’s a different quirk to them. We’re so different, but we both love music, so it keeps us, in a way, the same.
I imagine that would bring you closer.
Yeah, we would always sing together in high school. We used to do this song called “The Prayer” by opera singer Andrea Bocelli and Celine Dion. I’d be 12 years old trying to be Celine Dion, which are really big shoes to fill! But my sister would sing Andrea Bocelli’s part and, because it’s so low, she was able to really belt it out.
Where does the name “Liquid Truth” come from?
It was one of the last songs that I wrote for the EP, and it’s one of my favorites. When I wrote it, I just knew that it encompassed the whole idea of the project. It was the last statement I wanted to make. There are a lot of ups and downs on the EP—moments that are pretty sad and moments that are a little more hopeful—but “Liquid Truth” has a little bit of a gospel feel. It’s the uplifting moment, and I wanted that to frame what people take away from the project. Everyone can find their own meaning in it—you can take it in the literal form, the sexier form, the more emotional form—but for me it just means being really honest, which is sometimes hard to do. I feel like this EP was my trial in doing that.
You wrote and recorded “All in My Feelings” after coming home from a party, when you were missing your ex, and ended up keeping many of those original recordings. How does creating something raw and in-the-moment like that compare to creating something more deliberate? Do you have a preference?
They’re so different, but I feel like those moments—you don’t make them happen, they sort of happen through you. When an idea sparks, it could take 10 minutes to write because you just let it go. And because I was a little bit tipsy, I had no filter, and that little voice in our head that says, “This is not good enough” shut off. Sometimes you go into a studio, and it is a little bit harder, but fighting through that is also good because then you get to the finish line, and you’re like, “Shit, I made it.” I do prefer writing when I feel really sparked up. There’s no filter, and it feels so good afterwards. It’s a wonderful feeling when that happens. I loved writing “All in My Feelings.”
Wasn’t it Hemingway who said, “Write drunk, edit sober?”
Yes! I love that too. It’s so true.
I’ve been in that place too, where I’m a little tipsy and writing in my journal or something, and it’s like that editor inside of you—
Just shuts off. There’s this book that a friend of mine who’s also a songwriter recommended to me called “The Artists Way” by Julia Cameron. You do these morning journals, where you wake up and just freewrite for three pages. And you have to be literal about it. She says, if you’re thinking, my stomach’s grumbling, I’m hungry right now, you have to write that. You can’t filter yourself. It’s a really good practice because, as a writer, you too must go through that thing of always trying to self-edit. It’s been something I’m working on.
What do you want people to know about you?
I definitely have moments where I feel those normal human things, like insecure or too much of this or too little of that. I think what I want people to know about me, especially girls, is that anything you really want to see through, you can make happen. I find myself trying to live by that every day. As a female producer, I didn’t know any other female producers, and I would go into studios and be like, okay, today’s not the day I’m going to suggest that I can produce this. Then something clicked, and I was like, let’s be the people who inspire and who test the boundary a little bit and push and push and push. I just want people to know that I’m out there trying to do it too, and [I want all of us to] keep growing and pushing together.