Belfast, County Antrim
Joel Harkin calls himself an alternative, ambient folk singer. He writes songs about cherry blossoms and old churches, about lost friends and migrations and a fear of dying. He is a humourist, a poet and philosopher.
He has carried his music over the Irish north-west; from Convoy to Letterkenny and then Derry. Now he is embedded in the Belfast scene. His style is distinct and his songs meander is a strangely personal way. He announced his talent to the city with a song called ‘Charlie and Deirdre’. It dealt with love and separation anxiety and it name-checked his father and his girlfriend.
Joel is not especially coy about his family and his own inner life. On stage, the songs are often prefaced by stories and asides. The levity of these interludes contrasts with the depths plumbed in his lyrics. “At all points from when I’m on the stage,” he says, “to when I’m off the stage, there is some point of entertainment happening.”
He made his live debut at an uncle’s wedding, playing ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’ by Green Day. He made a tidy income as a busker in Letterkenny and studied Music Technology and Sonic Arts at Queen's University Belfast. He has a “secret album” of songs performed with synths and beats, but when his gear was stolen on the way to the Other Voices event in Dingle, he decided that his voice and electric guitar was enough.
Joel’s other weapon is a cheap reverb pedal. He turns the reverb to an excessively long setting and tweaks his amplifier to enhance the effect. The quiet moments are dream-like but harder playing causes everything to crunch up. Also, the little machine hums constantly. Altogether, it creates the Joel Harkin signature.
He’s been influenced by Modest Mouse, Phoebe Bridgers, Conor Oberst, Bjork and many others. He is glad that he didn’t follow his father’s advice and become a horse doctor. His ambition is happily unchecked.
"This is the sort of misery that I love" - BBC Radio 1
" A fast rising Belfast songwriter" - BBC Radio 6 Music
"An uncommon joy." - Dig With It Magazine
"Never Happy immediately became my personal soundtrack that is the background to this grey period in which emotions mix with each other and flatten like my immobile lips. It is the record that will make your day seem a little better than it was before. " - DLSO.IT
"It (Vada) is absolutely brilliant" - BBC Radio Ulster
"Bursts of melody twist and turn within the piece, with Joel Harkin patching his indie confessionals to pop lucidity." - Clash Magazine
"Despite this records title, somewhere in the debris Joel Harkin finds the contentment he's longing for. There's echoes of Oberst, Bridgers and Burnside, but the voice emerging from the gatefold vinyl is sincerely his own. A very important record." - Encore NI
"Vada grabbed our ears with its confident and lush arrangement." - Nialler9
"A deeply dreamlike release from Joel Harking, the hazy alt-folk of ‘Vada’ makes for an engrossing offering that plays with subtle sonic gestures and introspective songwriting. " - The Last Mixed Tape
"“Vada” is a delicate full-band effort marrying thoughts of rural home life with a 1991 coming-of-age classic" - The Line of Best Fit
"The track finds the Belfast-based singer-songwriter ruminating on family life and inequality, while he brings his lo-fi alternative folk sound to emotional new heights." - Hot Press Magazine
"You’d remember Joel Harkin if you ever saw him live. He talks plenty between songs, often spinning off into personal stories and revealing a bit too much information for tender ears.His debut album Never Happy contains keen observations about the Ormeau Road, Alicante, Kyoto and the Rocky mountains. Bonus points for writing a lovely goodbye to his adored dog, Memphis. " - Daily Mirror Northern Ireland
"The Donegal singer-songwriter’s craft brims at every turn with pathos and pure insight, and is rounded off with a melodic sensibility all his very own." - The Thin Air
“A love song like few others, Joel Harkin’s touching ode to a lost love reminisces on the little things across a bed of typically downcast guitar swirls and infrequent instrumentation that brings out the beautiful lyrics. Written for his dog Memphis, it’s a touching tribute that hits true while lapsteel and harmonies add warmth to the whole affair..” Chordblossom
Notable Live Shows:
● 2 Shows at Other Voices, Ballina - February 2020
● Output Conferance and Showcase - February 2020
● Junior Brother support slot The Palm House, Belfast - December 2019
● Joshua Burnside support slot Bennigans, Derry - October 2019
● Kitt Philippa support slot Upstairs at The Mac, Belfast - May 2019
● Courtney Marie Andrews support slot in The Black Box, Belfast - December 2018
● Rose Water Tour - November 2018
● New Year Tour - January to February 2018
Cool things that have happened:
● 'No Recycling' airplay on BBC Radio 6's BBC Introducing Mixtape with Tom Robinson 2020
● "Thought I'd Go Home" airplay on BBC Radio 1's Chillest show with Phil Taggart 2019
● Nominated for the Oh Yeah Contender Award at the Northern Ireland Music Prize 2019
●"Thought I'd Go Home" Number 12 on Chordblossom's Top 50 Northern Irish Songs of 2019
●"Thought I'd Go Home" Number 90 on The Thin Air's Top 100 Irish Tracks of 2019
●Oh Yeah Centre's Scratch My Progress Talent Development Program Participant Class of 2019/2020
●"Old Churches" Number 12 on Chordblossom's Top 50 Northern Irish Songs of 2018
●"Old Churches" Number 82 on the Thin Air's Top 100 Irish Releases of 2018
Photos by Carrie Davenport and Aaron Cunningham