‘Forget Me Not’, out 14th October, is the debut album from Harleighblu, a truly distinctive 21-year-old singer who signed to Tru Thoughts earlier this year and is attracting a mass of tastemaker love, and a spiralling fanbase, for her deep and edgy hip hop-infused soul music. Major crossover support, alongside her confirmation as Echoes Magazine’s October cover star (following the likes of Laura Mvula and Omar) clarifies her status as the hottest new voice on the scene.
The first taste of the ‘Forget Me Not’ LP was upfront track “Enough Now” which was picked up by MistaJam as his 1Xtra ‘Jam Hot’ Track of the Week, alongside a live on air interview. Official first single “Play Me” (29th July) then made its way on to Trevor Nelson’s BBC 1Xtra Daytime ‘Free Play’ List for regular and continuing spins. Widespread support has also included BBC Introducing, Don Letts (6Music), Nemone (6Music), Huey Morgan (6Music), Ras Kwame (Choice FM), Craig Charles (6Music) and DJ Mag; and her videos have gained over 45,000 YouTube hits. In August, Harleighblu was featured in a Jaguar promotional film alongside MistaJam; and also recorded radio sessions including The Selector and John Kennedy on XFM (also to be featured on XFM Presents in conjunction with Spotify and NME.com), to air soon.
Amid all this, Harleighblu features on Rodney P’s current single, “Success”, which was recently awarded unanimously positive reviews on Steve Lamacq’s Roundtable; she has also received a slew of collaboration requests from Shy FX, Eats Everything, 16bit (Chase & Status’s MTA Records) and others who cannot yet be revealed.
Nottingham resident Harleighblu is possessed of a rich, classic voice with a charismatic and versatile delivery, as well as a natural openness and emotional generosity as a songwriter. A gifted live performer, she has followed in the footsteps of peers including Jake Bugg, Liam Bailey and Natalie Duncan to rise through the thriving grass-roots scene onto the national stage. Inspired from childhood by the treasure trove of soul, jazz and rare grooves in her Mum’s beloved vinyl collection, Harleighblu’s tastes and idols were always a way out of left field compared to her school friends’, and her determination singled her out further. She started writing at a local studio aged seven, and at 12 began working with producers; providing backing vocals for Grammy nominated Musical Youth was an inspirational early taste of the life she sought. At 17, Harleighblu resolved to find the producer with whom she could develop her own true sound, and that affinity materialised with revered hip hop man Joe Buhdha, leading swiftly to this album.
‘Forget Me Not’ is a collection of songs about love and life through the eyes of a young artist with, in her own words, an “old soul”. The incredible tonal range and depth in Harleighblu’s voice is out there from the spine-tingling groove of opener “Enough Now”; shades of Amy Winehouse’s influence show through in the bitter-sweet vocal tone of “Casanova”. The wide-eyed youthful idealism of “I Believe” could melt the most cynical old heart; while a cover of Eurythmics’ “Who’s That Girl” â€“ which recently received its first airplay on Jo Whiley’s BBC Radio 2 show – highlights the maturity and class in Harleighblu’s armoury, as she flips this classic into a loping and funky, dub-tinged cut, galvanising the emotional suspense of the original in a truly singular vocal turn. Shimmering like the first flush of romance, “This Way” brings acrobatic harmonies, tinkling piano keys and heavenly strings, creating a head-in-the-clouds epic feel on the second half of the LP; “Sittin’ By The Window” is reminiscent of a young Lauryn Hill in the ambitious self-mythologising and boom bap beats paired with a gritty, energetic vocal flow.
Tru Thoughts A&R Robert Luis likens the buzz of discovering Harleighblu to the way he felt on signing Bonobo, Quantic and Alice Russell. He recalls, “Rodney P tipped me off that Joe was working with an amazing singer. On hearing the demos, I was so excited… It had the hallmarks of a classic soul album, with added influences of hip hop and artists like Jill Scott and Erykah Badu, but then filtered through a distinctive singer who has this fresh, intense spark.”