Get To Know: Up And Coming Artist Pio Hartnett
So firstly, how would you describe your sound?
Hmm. I would say it's... a choir hijacked by a melancholic teenager. Ha!
I use a lot of harmonies. I find the voice to be a very fascinating and compelling thing. So I try and squeeze as much of it as I can into the songs I make. I find there's just something very dense about the information that can be contained within a recording of someone's voice, when they're singing. That, and I just try and tell the truth. Truth is a sort of cheat code. It connects us with other people in surprising ways. So I figure cool and weird things might find somewhere to hide in my songs, if I just try and be as honest and truthful as I can when I'm making them.
I also don't think good songs ever just belong to one person - if you've done it right, it should be bigger than you. So I'm aiming for a sound that's bigger than me. I know that's a big goal, but although you've got to start somewhere, you also might as well aim high. Life is short.
What’s a typical day in the studio like for you?
I wake up, and pray for a bit. Then I write for a little, with coffee of course. If it's a studio day, I usually cycle out to my friend Zak's house, in Strawberry Beds. I arrive late, almost always. I pop Zak a text to say I've arrived, and he pops out to let me in. I take a little last look around the trees before he comes to the door, in what must be the most country part of Dublin - there's a little river by the house and everything. He lets me in, helps me store my bike, shows me the latest song by a cool mixing engineer, like Matt Rad or Jon Castelli. Good inspiration, but it's also just fun to listen to great songs on studio speakers. We get cracking.
We usually have a plan already for what we'll work on. We'll load up and listen to a scratch track, and see what we think we should record first. Guitars. I'll sit on my little stool, and lay them down - then vocals, synth, and so on. We'll take little breaks as needed, maybe a little stroll out in the garden, some more nerdy music chats. Back to it, until it's done. Or at least the best that we can get for that day.
You have to feel it out. You have to be careful not to force it to come out, if it's just not there that day. You give it your best, you try to give an honest performance, and you trust.
I cycle home after we've recorded a song, or sometimes as many as three. I work my way back through Phoenix Park - it's a lovely big park in Dublin. It's beautiful going through it at night. I'll usually sing as I cycle, and if it's very good, it's a voice note - and maybe the next song for another day!
Do you have to be in a certain mood to write a song?
I love this question. I think songwriting is two things: it's a craft, but it's also something beyond our control. So I think there are good habits you can have - like writing a little, even just a little, every day, whether you feel like it or no. But in a way, when we do those things, I think at best, all we're doing is training our minds to be ready so that when inspiration comes, we can make the most of it. So no. But when those good moments do come, you have to seize them, because it won't always be like that.
Who are your three biggest musical inspirations?
Radiohead, Tyler, the Creator, and Little Simz. Their genres are all a bit different to the music I make, so I hesitate to say them. But I find something about each of their approaches to music making really inspiring. I think they have all been great at making sure to preserve their own natural 'weirdness'. Every (good) artist is weird, and the more they can allow that to shine in their art, the more powerful and resonant it is. The more vital it is.
Who is the best band you've ever seen play live?
That's hard. I saw Little Simz in November with my friends, and her band was unreal. Her energy, and confidence and presence on stage was really inspiring too. She's been doing this a while now, and I think it shows when you see her. She knows she has something to impart, and that power allows her to do her job as an artist so much better.
What’s the toughest part of the industry for you?
Maybe the loneliness. We all spend a lot of time alone, and especially nowadays, it's rare that we get moments to come together and celebrate this mad thing that we've all chosen to involve ourselves with, this bug we've allowed ourselves to be bitten by. And your thoughts start to go astray, and you can lose hope, when you're separated from the natural and healthy process of mutual encouragement. So that can be a bit tricky. Of course you just have to try to find ways to work around it, and make the best of the situation as it is. I try not to think about it too much.
What’s the most enjoyable part of the industry?
I feel so new to it that it's hard to answer! I love meeting new people, and they can be quite inspiring in the world of music. People who have chosen to spend their life pursuing something immaterial are interesting. Music inspires us for reasons that can't be adequately described in spreadsheets or in quarterly reviews. It usually involves sacrifice and personal strength, and a kind of belief, to choose to create art. So I enjoy meeting people like that. People who understand there is more to life than what we have learned to measure.
What’s in store for you for 2022?
I think of it like a sort of 'Season One' of the music of Pio Hartnett. I've taken enough time preparing - it's time to take a risk, and share where I'm at with my music. Good, bad, or indifferent, as my grandmother used to say - sometimes you just need to be brave, and share who you are with the world. As you are. So I'll be doing that! It's going to be several singles over the next few months, and an EP in the summer! My first, so I'm excited for that. I also have plans after that, but I want to keep them a surprise for right now. I'm hopeful about doing some live shows in 2022 as well!