Q&A: Sinéad Harnett morphs into pandemic ‘Quarantine Queen’

Sinead Harnett, Sinéad Harnett

Sinéad Harnett, Courtesy.

After her debut album, Lessons In Love, brought her into the global spotlight in 2019, north London R&B and soul singer Sinéad Harnett looks forward to releasing her latest album later this year. The coronavirus pandemic left her at a bit of a standstill, like most artists now. She is hoping that when normalcy returns, the world will be better because of it, and people will learn from the situation. She was inspired by this when she wrote “Quarantine Queen.”

Harnett took a moment to answer some questions for us about her experience, as well as the new music that was born from pandemic inspiration.

RIFF: As people around the world deal with the struggles from the coronavirus pandemic, how has it specifically affected you and your music career?

Sinéad Harnett: This time has provoked a lot of conflicting feelings within myself and the people around me. I feel the line between tragedy and comedy has never felt more severe. One minute you want to cry, and the next you are laughing at a TikTok or a meme. It’s been equally as overwhelming in fear and sadness, as it has been in feelings of gratitude and euphoria. Whilst I am finding the simple and small things so incredible, my heart also just sinks for the people suffering right now.

Careerwise, at first I felt like doing nothing. But, as time passed I realized that not fulfilling what I feel is my main purpose in life would not be good at all. So through being with myself for this long stretch of time I’ve actually felt more inspired than ever.

How have you spent your time during quarantine? Have you picked up any new hobbies or gotten the chance to do activities you didn’t have time for before?

Having time to relax and be by myself is a luxury I’ve not had before, at least not for this extended bit of time, so I’ve enjoyed finding more of a healthy balance. I’m sleeping properly and eating healthily, for the most part. Practicing piano and guitar has been super fun and helped bring a sense of productivity to the day.

Your latest song, “Quarantine Queen,” was inspired by the pandemic. What message does this song convey, and what do you hope fans and listeners take from it?

While the chorus essentially hits the existential worries about whether I’ve utilized myself fully enough during this life, and that I really hope I don’t die alone, the deeper meaning in the song was aimed at us as a human race. The way we’ve been living has been crazy. Our carbon footprint, our need to rush around and keep busy, the way in which our governments are handling us, et cetera. There’s a real sense of hoping that when normality resumes, we learn from this for the better. I’ve never written a song about the world before, so it was pretty cool to explore. My good friend Linden Jay helped produce this.

How long did it take you to write the song? How did you first come up with the idea, and what were you feeling as you wrote it?

I was trying to sleep, and these chords were going ’round in my head. The chorus sort of wrote itself, then I used the Acapella app to bring it together with harmonies. It was like my gut needed me to let it out. Then people’s responses were so warm and positive, which spurred me on to write the rest of the song.

How would you say the quarantine is shaping you as a person and an artist? What is it giving you time to reflect on?

It’s taught me how to look after myself. I don’t like disappointing anyone, so often would take on more than I should have. Now that we can’t do work meetings or meet up, I now have the time to cook for myself, sleep for eight hours, read my books and heal myself from the things I think we’re all guilty of running away from when we are busy.

What’s next for you?

Just so, so, so excited to keep putting more music out! I’m working on album No. 2, so that’s keeping me busy at the moment.

What is the first thing you want to do when the pandemic is over?

Cuddle my entire family, spend some time with them and then get back to music!

Follow writer Amelia Parreira at Twitter.com/AmeliaParreira.