Dubbed “an artist to watch” by Rolling Stone, New Zealand born soul vocalist Jess Harlen has been paving a way with her hypnotic groove and made “an exceptional contribution to Australia’s musical identity” -Time Off. You may have seen her at some point over the last 5yrs touring the world as a member of Blue King Brown, supporting the likes of Macy Gray, Ziggy Marley, and sharing festival bills with Jay-Z, Stevie Wonder and many more. You may also recognize her from Muph & Plutonic hits Don’t Worry ’bout Nothing and Beautiful Ugly, however, it’s within her solo venture where Harlen really takes flight.
Signing to hip hop label Obese records in 2010, Harlen teamed up with producer Plutonic Lab to release her debut album Neon Heartache, which was welcomed as “one of the year’s best releases” -Herald Sun, for which she was awarded Best Female Artist at prestigious The Age EG Awards. The album also featured NGAIIRE and Natalie Pa’apa’a of Blue King Brown.
Breaking open 2012 with ‘a combination of relaxed cool and obvious care’ (Rave Magazine), her sophomore album Park Yard Slang is currently receiving wide critical acclaim in Australia. The album features Hauie (triple j) and RuCL and is also produced by Plutonic Lab. Rolling Stone are included in the list of rave reviews whom gave it a generous 3/4 stars.
Her signature style has also been described as ‘strong and delicate, soulful and streetwise, with traces of Lauryn Hill, MIA and Florence and the Machine’ (Canberra Times) and ‘speckled with Motown and hip hop influences but retaining it’s own uniqueness’ (3D World).
Harlen is of Ngapuhi and Ngati Porou descent and has supported Nesian Mystik, Hollie Smith, Che Fu, and other high profile NZ acts in Australia, holding it down for her iwi wherever she goes. Aptly described as “A strong soul singing sister, continuing a long tradition of Mana Wahine songstresses from Aotearoa… taking it to the world” by Che Fu, Harlen is a proud representation of young Maori people achieving dreams through difficult circumstance.
Looking to expand her horizons, Harlen is now Boston based working on writing new material for new projects and will be releasing her latest album Park Yard Slang worldwide July 20. Harlen is sure to be missed, but will be back to Australia and NZ to hit the summer touring circuit 2013 so stay tuned.