Liverpool-born Rachael Jean Harris has carved out a highly individual sound which melds prog, jazz and indie, taking inspiration from poetry, literature and inventive, thoughtful songwriters (PJ Harvey, Suzanne Vega, Esperanza Spalding).
Musically, she was a late starter. Early obsessions with academic and sporting success were undone by a “fearful and suffocating perfectionism” and, as she drifted into her twenties, attempts at graduate study faltered. To the surprise of many close to her, she responded by latching onto a compulsion to make music, emulating the expression of bands and songwriters she was growing to love. Self-taught, led by intuition, and encouraged by a few friends, she stuck with it, sought singing lessons and was encouraged by her teacher to study at The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. It was those three years at LIPA which put her on the songwriting path.
Since then, her creative intention has been clarified: “To respond faithfully to the inner compulsion to write songs that pinpoint the truth and beauty of human experience and invite moments of communion, affirmation and empathy.”
Recently, the vast majority of her songs have fallen into rich themes surrounding the lives of people on the raw edges of existence, real stories that have become areas for detailed thought and research and resulted in unexpected and poignant tales. Following the acoustic sounds of Just Like He Said (2007), her exuberant and visceral 2013 release, Dig, focused on women and children suffering on the raw edges of conflict zones and lesser reported corners of the world. By taking real events and accounts and extrapolating these into fully formed narratives, she placed the listener inside the story and presented them face to face with the freedom, longing, danger and defiance that her protagonists experienced. The result- a work that speaks of the tenacity of human dignity and the indomitable courage of women in the face of violence.
Rachael's 2019 release, Leaving Light, turned her attention to those living in confinement, particularly the day-to-day realities of Death Row inmates in the USA. After replying to an advert from an organisation which facilitated communication with prisoners, she started a pen friendship with one at Ely State Prison, Nevada. It was the development of this friendship, and the inspiration she found in the connections discovered, that compelled her to write a series of songs examining questions and ideas of longing, memory, and the power and potential of mercy. Inspiration came too from literature, including: The House of the Dead (Fyodor Dostoevsky), Poems from Prison (Etheridge Knight), and Just Mercy (Bryan Stevenson).
Rachael's current writing takes on more intentionally personal themes, intertwined with a growing interest in the lives of birds. In doing so, she is asking questions about our fundamental connectedness, loneliness, the importance of attention and affection for the lives we share our spaces with, and how her own journeys through loss, grief, past relationships and new freedoms find solace and reverberation within the natural world.
Rachael graduated with a first class degree from The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, and a distinction at Masters level from the Royal Northern College of Music. She is currently working on her third studio album, set for release in 2024.