From the moment, London, England born Lauren Harris took her very first steps backstage at the world famous Budokan Arena in Tokyo, Japan, she was destined to be an entertainer. Eldest daughter of Steve Harris, the world famous, award winning bassist and founding member of legendary Iron Maiden, Lauren has literally grown up with music and entertainment constantly around her, and embodied with a world-travelled knowledge hewn from legendary rock music ancestry, it was not long before Lauren followed her natural instincts.
At the tender age of 17, Lauren quietly started singing at an early age in London pubs and one night she grabbed the attention of legendary British producer, artist and writer Russ Ballard (Roger Daltrey, Hot Chocolate, America, Elkie Brookes, John Waite). Ballard asked her to sing a demo for new material he was writing and this led Lauren to work with Multi-Grammy award winning writer/producer Tom McWilliams (Paulina Rubio, Gloria Estefan, Jon Secada), and within just a few months, Lauren was touring Europe, playing in front of 50,000 + people a night. After proving herself during an in intensive 12 months of touring, Lauren was presented her biggest and most daunting challenge yet – supporting Iron Maiden on their world tour. Taking on the challenge of being a female in a man’s world, she proved all the detractors and naysayers wrong, mesmerizing packed houses in the biggest stadiums around the world. During this tour, Lauren went down in history as the first ever woman ever to front a rock band at a major concert in India. In October of 2006, Lauren’s life came full circle as she walked out in front of 20,000 people at the Budokan Arena in Japan, the very same venue where she took her first ever steps. When the tour concluded, Lauren released her debut album entitled “Calm before the Storm”, which was mixed by the legendary Kevin Shirley (Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden), and continued to tour the UK and Europe in support of the release. In a short few years Lauren had gone from performing in pubs to playing to over a million people in over 50 countries, but rather than being the end of a success story, this was just the beginning of a what is turning into a true fairy tale.
Never happy to rest on her laurels, Lauren began working with legendary Vocal coach David Grant (Diana Ross, Linx, Rick Astley and Jaki Graham), who also worked with Will Young, Spice Girls, Charlotte Church and many others as vocal coach on the UK hit TV show Pop Idol. This lead her to opening the next chapter of her musical career by recording her next project “Six Hour Sundown”. With a contemporary style that further enhance Lauren’s vocal ability, the band spent 2011 and 2012 touring, again exposing Lauren to hundreds of thousands more fans around Europe and the UK.
Whilst all of this groundwork had given Lauren the experience, mentoring, and opportunities that most artists can only dream of, the tipping point in Lauren’s career came when spending time in Los Angeles in 2012, she met seasoned manager Andre Recke (Hilary Duff, R5, Nikka Costa), one of the few music managers that understands how to combine acting and musical careers. After discussing her plan to explore a more mainstream musical career, incorporating theatrical elements, whilst also pursuing acting roles, a definitive plan was put into place and Lauren relocated to Los Angeles in late 2012.
Since moving to the City of Angels, Lauren has been working non-stop, and the first product to see the light of day from the transatlantic migration is a new musical project named “Kingdom Of I”. With tunes written by prolific song writer and famed producer Dave Stewart (Eurhythmics, Platinum Weird), Kara DioGuardi (Britney Spears, Gwen Stefani, Christina Aguilera, Kelly Clarkson, Kylie Minogue) and American Idol judge for season 8 and 9, and John Shanks (Westlife, Take That, Bon Jovi), the irresistibly catchy tracks were recorded and produced by Alain Johannes (Queens of the Stone Age, Chris Cornell, Artic Monkeys). The first single and video from Kingdom Of I, is an up tempo song entitled “Crying at the Disco”, which fuses rock hooks, with dance and catchy pop — an irresistible introduction to the fantastical and theatrical experience that is Kingdom Of I.
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Lauren Harris to discuss her musical roots, the creation of Kingdom of I, the process of creating her forthcoming album and much more!
As many of our readers probably know, you are from a very musical family. I was curious to hear about some of your earliest musical memories and growing up as the daughter of a rock star.
I remember traveling a hell of a lot. We used to go out on the road with my Dad all the time! Every summer holiday or break we had from school, we were always out with him. We saw so many places as kids! Even when we would go back later on, my Dad would be like “Oh yeah, we went to that city but you were two years old and probably don’t remember it.” We got to see a lot. We used to travel by bus. My Dad had his own bus for his family. It was so much fun. I used to take my homework on the bus with me and watch movies. It was quite a big adventure when I was a kid!
What were some of musical influences that had an impact on you early on?
My Dad used to listen to a lot of classic rock, so he introduced me to bands like Heart, Free and Yes. That is where the classic rock interest came from. As I grew older, I started getting more and more into 80s stuff like Belinda Carlisle, Alisha’s Attic and some rock fare. I grew up listening to classic rock, got into the 80s stuff and my favorite bands now are Foo Fighters, Muse, Prince and Fleetwood Mac. I still love all the classics as well, such as Led Zeppelin. I could go on and on and on! [laughs]
What made you take the plunge and pursue music as a career and was being in the shadow of your famous father ever intimidating?
Yeah, it was. I always sang as a kid. I loved to sing! I would drive my sisters and my brothers mad singing around the house but at the time, I never really thought of it as a career path to be honest. I started singing in pubs with a friend of mine when I was about seventeen. I got spotted in the pub by Russ Ballard. I went on to do a demo tape for him and that progressed to some other people finding out about me. That is where the producers became involved with my first album with Tommy McWilliams as a producer. So yeah, it was totally intimidating to follow in my father’s footsteps and have people look at negatives. It was a bit of a double edged sword to be honest. It is where I grew up and where I came from, so I just wanted to give it my best shot and enjoy it really!
What can you tell us about your musical progression from your earlier work to your latest project, Kingdom of I?
I think I have progressed quite a lot. It is something that happened pretty organically from just being around the guys in the guys in the band before. It went from a really, really classic rock feel, which is what I have always grown up with and has been one of my major influences, but it has progressed to a bit more of a current sound. I guess that is a result of me listening to more current pop music. Also, the guys around me in the band were really classic rock influenced as well. Like with Richie [Faulkner] for example, he is playing naturally suited that type of music. It was kind of organic in that sense. When those guys left and we started writing again, I just chose to go in more in the route that I wanted to which was to drop a bit of that sound and have it a bit more current.
As we mentioned, Kingdom of I is the name of your latest project. How did you go about choosing the name and what does it mean to you personally?
My manager, Andre Recke (Hilary Duff, R5, Nikka Costa), and I were sitting around talking about band names. For my last band, Six Hour Sundown, we took weeks and weeks going over names. We created long lists of names and whittled them and tested them with people to see which ones they liked. With this one, it came around pretty quickly because it was such a strong name. There were several elements involved like me being English, my heritage, the fact I have always been interested in fantasy stuff like ‘Game of Thrones’ and the monarchy with the kings and queens. We picked out words around that subject. Kingdom was such a strong word. Then we thought “Kingdom of… something!” Then we came up with Kingdom of I. I have had a lot of people, fans and industry people, saying a lot of things to me like “You should be this. You should be that.” I thought, “You know what? I am going to do what I want to do. This is going to be my Kingdom of I.” I think everybody should have a Kingdom of I. To me it means it is your thing. It is what you are interested in and what inspires you as a person. I hope that everyone who listens to the band or appreciates the name can have that connection to themselves.
Did you have any particular goals or expectations as you entered into the creative process for Kingdom of I?
The songs came about because I was speaking to my manager and I had a load of writing sessions with people over her in Los Angeles. It went really, really well but something was just o connecting for me. He said “Ok. What about these songs that I have?” There was an entire album of songs that had not been used by anybody. The songs had been written by Dave Stewart (Eurhythmics, Platinum Weird), Kara DioGuardi (Britney Spears, Gwen Stefani, Christina Aguilera, Kelly Clarkson, Kylie Minogue) and John Shanks (Westlife, Take That, Bon Jovi). I went through and listened to them. I knew I had to do these songs because I connected with them straight away! It was totally the sound I was thinking of and going for. When I got into the studio with Alain Johannes (Queens of the Stone Age, Chris Cornell, Arctic Monkeys, Jimmy Eat World, No Doubt), he rearranged some of the bits and pieces. It was a perfect match for me and he was so brilliant! I also worked in the studio with Tom Fletcher and he mixed a track as well, which was awesome! To work with those two people, it wasn’t too pushed. It wasn’t like “What sound we sound like? What should we do?” It just kind of happened and that is what came out. We loved doing it!
You have already released a single, “Crying at the Disco,” but where are you in the process of bringing the album to life?
We are still in the process of finishing some songs, writing and recording, which is really exciting. I am really looking forward to finishing it off. We are hopefully going to get some shows in there as well! I just want to get out and play, so badly! [laughs] I can’t wait to get out and play! It is all coming together and hopefully we will have a release date after the first of the new year.
What can people expect sonically from you with this release?
They can expect the same vibe as “Crying at the Disco.” It has that type of feel. There are some ballads on there and some high tempo stuff. It is really about me connecting to people and really wanting to tell stories. I like singing songs that actually mean something to me and that I feel people can relate to. That is why I loved “Crying at the Disco” because I think everybody has been in that position at one point or another during their lifetime. That for me is the main goal, to be able to connect with people so they can listen to the song and have it lift them up, help them through something or they can just have fun to it. That is what people can expect from the entire album.
Obviously, as we mentioned, you have worked with some great songwriting talent. I am sure you have picked up quite a few things from your time with them. Is there a particular process you use when it comes to creating your own songs?
I have a lyric book and I tend to write down a lot of ideas in that. I carry that around with me most places. I usually write with someone. Before, when Richie was in the band, I wrote with him. He would write the music, as I can’t play guitar very well. We would work together to flesh out the melodies and lyrics. It is a similar process with the newer stuff as well. I have ideas and I sit down and work with someone. We go back and forth. It is really important when you write with somebody that you have a good rapport with them and a good relationship, otherwise it doesn’t work. I have been really lucky to have worked with really good people who I have a great connection with.
I am sure working with another creative person can right bring a song to a whole new level!
Totally! Their creativity really rubs off on you and hopefully you rub off on them in a positive way as well. It is a great process to be a part of.
How has the transition of moving to Los Angeles impacted you as an artist?
I just love LA! I think it is full of inspiration and amazing people. I love England too, don’t get me wrong. There is such openness here where in my home country I get a lot of the whole nepotism thing. Over here it is not such a big deal with my father being who he is. Even using that and being on tours with him and such is not viewed as such a negative here. People are really interested and think it is a really amazing thing which I’ve done. In England, and it doesn’t apply to everyone, but a lot of people don’t like the fact that I did that and have said negative things about it. That is find but I find people are more open over here and that has been really, really nice. I just love this city. I think it is full of inspiration and is full of so many people who love music and being creative. It is really nice to be around those people.
The process of putting together an album can be very intense at times. What do you feel you have learned about yourself as a result?
I think I have really learned to let go of other people’s opinions and really focus on what I love and what I want to create. That has been the main thing for me. In the past, as I’ve said, there were a lot of comments made with negativity and nepotism. There was a period when it really did get me down. I looked at it a couple of times and thought “This is horrible! People can be so nasty! Why do they write these things?” After that moment, I swore to myself I would never look at that stuff again because it is just not good for you. It is not good for how I feel and it takes me out of what I love as well. Everyone has got an opinion but the main person you have to listen to is yourself. I think I have really started to do that and started to trust myself. I also try to surround myself with people who don’t think in a negative way. It is all about being positive.
Absolutely. Anything I find to be very inspiring about you is that you aren’t limiting yourself to only music. I had read you were pursuing acting studies as well. What can you tell us about that aspect of your career?
Yeah! I studied theater in school when I was younger. It was something I was always interested in. Being over here in Los Angeles, which is the acting capital of the world, I thought I would go along and take some acting classes. Originally, I was just doing it to make some friends in the area because I didn’t know a lot of people here other than my manager and producer. They are busy 24/7, so the main thing was to meet people and have a bit of fun. I went to study with Howard Fine and I just feel in love with it. I totally love this and it is something I could do in addition to music. It really felt like a new life, if you’d like. I would love to both and there are a lot of people who do so hopefully, one day! [laughs] I do have some prospects but I don’t know how much I am aloud to say about them at the moment. There is a cinematographer in England named Robert Dowling and there are a couple of things in line with him. However, that is all I am allowed to saw at the minute.
What do you consider the biggest milestone in your career to date?
One of the toughest things for me was playing in front of my family for the first time. That was at a really, really small gig in my home town at a place called The Square. That was probably one of the scariest performances I have ever done. I think it is easier to play to a crowd when you don’t know anybody but when you have your friends and family there watching you it is ten million times harder! I actually find playing small gigs harder as well because it is more intimate. I don’t know if that is the right way around! I just kind of got thrown into playing on a big stage and it is how I learned all my tricks and skills.
Growing up the way you did, I am sure you had the opportunity to rub elbows with many knowledgeable people in the industry. What is the best piece of advice someone has given you along the way in regard to your career?
That is a really good question. The best advice probably from my Dad to be honest. He watched me play every single night and would always be a really positive person in the room as well. There were times when I would get really down about things because we were a bit of a rock/pop band or a classic rock band that was playing to a metal audience. At that time, I felt it was extremely difficult. I just wanted people to like me but I got loads of middle fingers and shouting out things. I mean, we had amazing performances as well but I just felt like it wasn’t the best fit at the time. He told me to completely ignore everybody else. He would say “Maiden got slagged off in the early days.” There was this one writer who absolutely hated them. My Dad said “You can’t focus on all the crap. It is just rubbish. Just believe in yourself.” Like I said earlier, that is the most important thing — belief in yourself.
Anything you would like to say to the people before I let you go?
I hope people will check out Kingdom of I and like the track, “Crying at the Disco,” as well. We are going to do a video and hopefully it will be done before Christmas.
We will keep spreading the word for you, Lauren. Thanks so much for all of your time today!
Thanks so much, Jason. It is really nice to talk to you!
Keep up on all the latest news and dates for Lauren Harris and Kingdom of I, visit her official Facebook page at facebook.com/LaurenHarrisOfficial. Connect with her on Twitter at twitter.com/koirockband.