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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. While this may seem random to a new listener, there is also some purpose. “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.”
"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
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.
"Ambient folk songwriter Joel Harkin has one of the most recognisable voices in the scene today, his dry wit and forlorn stage presence the perfect foil for his melancholy world. Taking influence from Bright Eyes, Jeff Buckley and crying your eyes out, a Joel Harkin show promises so much more than just beautiful tunes. He’ll probably tell you about his day and throw in a few stories too." - Encore NI
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.