UK-born, L.A.-based singer-songwriter Sinéad Harnett thinks we all deserve free therapy


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UK-born, L.A.-based singer-songwriter Sinéad Harnett thinks we all deserve free therapy

Born in Finchley, North London to a Thai mother and an Irish father, Sinéad Harnett studied acting before becoming the R&B singer-songwriter we know her as today. Since featuring on tracks by the likes of Disclosure, Harnett’s developed her own distinctive catalog of work marked for it’s emotional depth and exploration of personal issues. For example, her debut album, ‘Lessons in Love’, told the story of learning about her flaws and patterns and figuring out how not to repeat them. Harnett’s is digging deep yet again in ‘Boundaries’, a new album inspired by her recent experiences with therapy and how she’s learnt to care for her inner child.

Six years since performing her now classic rendition of ‘Body’ on COLORS, Harnett recently returned to our stage to share a sneak peak of ‘Boundaries’ in the form of ‘Burn’, a downtempo, honest track that “encapsulates the biggest challenge I’m facing right now in my path to healing.” In line with the show, we sat down with Harnett for an in depth interview about the positives of being an independent artist, the difficulty of accepting healthy love, and why being perfect isn’t what being a human is all about.

You first performed on COLORS back in 2018 with your track ‘Body’. What do you remember about this experience? 

When I recorded the show, I hadn’t sung ‘Body’ live in front of anyone yet. It was quite nerve racking, because there wasn’t many people on set and I find it difficult to perform in front of small audiences. I did three takes—by the third one I was just trying to forget that anyone else was there.

I cried when I received the preview of the show. I’d watched so many other artists’ COLORS’ performances before and been so impressed by them. It made me worry that mine wasn’t good enough in comparison. As artists, we have such high expectations of ourselves, but it’s impossible to judge yourself objectively when you watch your work back on your own. When the show came out I was so relieved. My friends and fans obviously loved it. I learnt that being perfect isn’t what being a human or an artist is about. That was a really nice lesson.

What does the song ‘Body’ mean to you today? 

So many people discovered me through ‘Body’. When I sing it at gigs now and I see the crowd responding so positively, I know that they’ve followed me on my journey from the beginning. It’s meaningful and joyous.

How do you feel you’ve developed as an artist since 2018?

Back then, I was a lot less healed of a human than I am now. I was trying to run away from my own self discovery and I wasn’t aware of the work that I needed to do on myself. Now, I’ve really had to do that work. I’ve done two years of therapy, moved to U.S., and become so much more self aware as a result.

Can you tell us about ‘Burn’, the song you performed for your latest A COLORS SHOW? It’s a track from your upcoming album ‘Boundaries’, which has a lot to do with the process of healing you’ve just spoken about.  

It was very difficult to decide which song to perform on COLORS this time around. I’m a Libra, so I find decision making very tricky! In the end I chose ‘Burn’ because it really encapsulates the biggest challenge I’m facing right now in my path to healing, which is to understand that I deserve healthy love. In the song I basically say to myself: “I’ve done all this work and I know that I mustn’t keep chasing people that don’t actually care about me. It’s okay to accept the type of love that will nurture you instead of leave you, even though self sabotage can feel easier.”

“I learnt that being perfect isn’t what being a human or an artist is about.”

Do you have a favorite lyric?

“The truth is, we don’t even know where we’re going, and most of us wish we knew why, I’ve done the same thing and I am afraid to admit I’ve been wrong many times, but at least I tried. But at least I tried.” That lyric is from the intro that I sing before the rest of ‘Burn’ comes in. I’m reflecting on us as humans and how we try and fail. I’m thinking out loud. I’ve not always found it easy to do that in my music. 

How does ‘Burn’ fit into the rest of ‘Boundaries’? As we mentioned before, it focuses on the concept of caring for your inner child. What were some of the personal experiences that inspired you to address these themes musically?

In 2021 I walked away from a very verbally abusive relationship. It was the final catalyst for me to seek therapy. Through working with my therapist, I learnt that the way you learn to love as a child dictates how you love as an adult. Telling her all of my experiences outloud felt like being de-gaslit. She validated that many of the things that had happened to me were extremely challenging. She also happened to be an addiction specialist. I didn’t think I needed help with that, but she told me that I had a love addiction—I used love as a way to escape my dark reality.

At first I didn’t know the album was going to be about these experiences. I don’t normally choose what I’m going to write about, I just go into the studio and see what happens. About halfway through writing the album, I noticed that there was a new energy coming through my songs. I had a zero tolerance attitude to bullshit. By the end of the process, I realized that the album is a reflection of everything I’ve learned through my journey with therapy and healing.

There’s a really beautiful trailer for ‘Boundaries’ on YouTube. Can you explain some of the visuals you chose to include?

One night I had a dream where I saw me now and my inner child on a flight of white stairs putting my heart back together. I told my filmmaker friend about it. She and her team put together a budget and came up with a way for us to realize it all—the white stairs and this fairytale aesthetic I wanted. I think it really paints a picture of what the albums all about: finding, nurturing, and re-parenting your inner child, and showing them what boundaries are.

If you could speak to your inner child or younger self today, what you would you want to say? 

“I’m going to protect you. I’m going to take you out of that situation and everything’s going to be okay.” I think I did even say this one time during my therapy sessions.

I think that we all deserve therapy. Wherever your trauma comes from, it will find you. We need to give ourselves the space to work on it and own it so we can let it go. The route of most problems is the fact that most people are unhealed. They act out because of anger, pain, or hurt. It’s awful that therapy isn’t a free thing for everyone.

What’s bringing you joy at the moment? 

There’s so much that’s wrong with the world that’s in our hands and on our screens to see straight away. Social media just feels like this angry playground. I don’t blame anyone for feeling sad, or needing an outlet. Obviously I don’t agree with trolling or being horrible, but I know there is so much universal pain. I think the only way to help the world right now is to spread love. As tedious and miniscule as it feels, it’s the only way.

“Wherever your trauma comes from, it will find you. We need to give ourselves the space to work on it and own it so we can let it go.”

After ten years, you’re still an independent artist. What are the positives and challenges of working independently as opposed to being signed to a label?

There are so many ways in which having a machine behind you is amazing and can get you more visibility, but there’s a beauty in seeing where you get to on your own. I love manking my own rules. I can choose my own singles and release when I want to. There’s no middle man to go through. That freedom is amazing.

What are your ambitions for the future? 

I’d love to get to a point in my career where I can impact on the world in a positive way. I really admire the Global Citizen festival that uses music to raise awareness about poverty, the climate emergency, gender inequality, and the global hunger crisis. I’d love to be a part of more philanthropic efforts like that and for my voice—not just my singing voice—to really make a difference.

Sinead Harnett is a London-born, L.A.-based artist whose second A COLORS SHOW was released on the 25th March 2024. You can watch the full performance on our YouTube channel.

Text: Emily May
Photography: Relvyn Lopez and Rosie Matheson


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