Sinead Harnett
Photo: Rosie Matheson

Sinéad Harnett — Ready Is Always Too Late

As far as British talent goes, Sinéad Harnett is a soulful little gem that deserves all the flowers in the world.

Just over a year after releasing her 2019 debut album, Lessons In Love, Harnett was ready to give the world more of her truth. Even though the original plan wasn’t to make an album, she started to write in January of 2020 after meeting her new team in LA. Just months later, the global coronavirus pandemic shut everything down, inspiring Harnett to create her sophomore release. “We decided in March last year to do another album. Why not? What’s going on at the moment? There’s nothing to do but listen to music, wear pajamas every day, and feel like a teenage dirtbag,” she tells EUPHORIA. while visiting family in New Mexico.

That album took over a year to complete and would become Ready Is Always Too Late, an 11-track body of work that not only shows off Harnett’s growth as an artist but as a human being. The 30-year-old singer, who debuted onto the music scene 10 years ago in 2011, hopes fans who have followed her journey from the start will be proud of her newfound confidence while recognizing the love she now has for herself. In return, she wants listeners to feel the same way about themselves.

Harnett is more confident than ever and it’s super refreshing to witness. Describing her new album as “iconic,” she admits that tooting her own horn never came naturally to her. “I feel like we adopt negative voices,” she says, adding, “I started to let that go with this album. We cannot be defined by our success, we have to be defined by our passion and our heart.”

The Ready Is Always Too Late era was kicked off with the 2020 single “Stickin’,” a song Harnett has said felt like summer to her. Since then, fans have been treated to a flawless run of songs — the dreamy “Take Me Away,” the celebratory “Last Love,” and the heartfelt piano ballad “Hard 4 Me 2 Love You.” Judging by these tracks alone, it is clear that the London-born star is at her creative peak. During my first listen of the album in full, I was impressed by how much each song has its own strong identity while managing to stay cohesive throughout. The LP contains more real instrumentation than her previous work and is a reminder as to why Harnett should be praised just as much as her contemporaries — Jhene Aiko and Jessie Ware.

Harnett insists the record sounds very romantic, even though not every song is about love. Track two, “Stay,” is quite frankly the most perfect, blissful R&B song and is what stan Twitter would describe as “god tier.” One of Harnett’s personal favorites, “Like This,” makes her feel empowered and sonically pays homage to one of her influences, Erykah Badu. The song is a celebration of her self-worth and lyrically hears her singing about how the other person in the relationship should feel lucky to be with her. “I feel like I’ve never done that before on a song. I’d always been the one that was like ‘please love me,'” she reveals. Another standout is “Obvious,” a straight-up bop from the jump.

The album contains organic collaborations with EARTHGANG, Lucky Daye, Masego, and VanJess, all of whom complement the songs rather than overpower them. Harnett admits that the pandemic helped her get over her fear of asking artists to work with her. “Before the pandemic, I didn’t have the guts to approach people that I love. I would always think ‘oh no, I couldn’t.’ I was too scared of rejection,” she explains. “In the pandemic, I kinda felt like, what do I have to lose? The world might be ending and who cares! There’s nothing else to do. Pre-pandemic, I wouldn’t really run into people in the studio and if I did, I’d be too starstruck and too shy. So, it worked in my favor. I met so many people because we were all online.”

Harnett and her new team have definitely stepped it up a notch with the visuals this era. From the cinematic videos to the promotional images, they aren’t messing around. The music video for “Last Love” was directed by Ricky Alvarez and captured on film. The duo worked one-on-one to come up with the ideas for the video in her flat and the results were stunning. For Harnett, she always envisioned a running track as she references a marathon and running around to distract yourself from the person you loved in the lyrics. However, her ideas for visuals don’t usually come to her when creating in the studio. Instead, she seems to come up with “stupid dance routines,” that she jokingly compared to S Club 7.

It’s clear that Harnett has found her feet with this album but it’s certainly been a bit of a journey to get to the place she’s at now. Starting off as a featured artist for the likes of Disclosure and Rudimental, she felt scared to embark on a solo career and questioned who she would be without being supported by big hitmakers. Throughout the years, Harnett was told to work with certain writers solely based on their accolades and started to lose her identity. She reminisces over the time she took a break and was almost willing to give up singing completely. It wasn’t until she wrote her most successful song to date, “If You Let Me,” when she realized she was capable of delivering powerful songs by herself. “When I wrote “If You Let Me,” I think I was like, ‘Oh, you don’t need anyone, you just need your truth.’ It was just me and GRADES in a room and I was just pouring out my heart over this shit situation,” she recalls.

They say the second album is always the difficult one to make. With that being said, Harnett didn’t feel much pressure going into it. “I don’t think I’ve ever been in a worrying machine. I’ve always done what my gut said. In that sense, I don’t feel like I’ve ever had this demand,” she explains, adding, “Now that I’m coming into the lead-up to the album, I’m definitely feeling a bit more nervous than I was with the first one.”

Like most artists, Harnett’s goal is to perform the new material when the world allows her to. Harnett wants to be discovered by more listeners and is manifesting “big moments” for this album. “I’ve got to a point where I’ve worked so hard that I know I deserve it now, I don’t just feel it, I know I’ll have my moment, like Martine McCutcheon,” she laughs. Streaming numbers are not the driving force for Harnett, but she wouldn’t mind having a song reach 100 million plays on Spotify.

In a world where artists feel the need to drop music every two months, Harnett has always been about quality rather than quantity. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that her first body of work in nearly two years is solid from start to finish. Ready Is Always Too Late has the potential to take Harnett’s career to new heights and is certainly a contender for album of the year.