"Oh, dear Harriet, music high school is only for talented pupils…"
Despite a teacher’s consternation and warning, a young Harriet Ohlsson didn’t listen; went on and was accepted into music high school and thankfully so as we are rewarded by her stunning debut album “Arena Rock” performing as OH, HARRY.
OH, HARRY’s music distils an extraordinarily independent life that Harriet has lived. A restless creative spirit possessing a magical voice and lyrical depth exposing the emotions of her Bohemian youth cultivating new relationships quite early, a teenage backward embrace of religion upon learning of her family’s heritage only to quickly reject it except for the musical soundtrack of it, University days of theatre and gender studies, working in far flung places such as India and America, only to land in a complete circle.
Born in Gothenburg to academic parents, Harriet was left mainly on her own to discover.
“My parents were working a lot on their different doctorate papers. Our home was a loving home, but way to quiet for me. So I learnt to stay out of the apartment and to create my own routines. They gave me a lot of tools to be independent quickly.”
As a fourteen year old Harriet Ohlsson realized she wanted to be a storyteller. Not exactly sure of how this would happen, she tried theatre, learnt to play the oboe, the flute, the double bass and for a long time the saxophone was her main instrument.
For several years she dallied in photography making art projects. “I went out to different punk scenes and took portraits of people and sometimes I dragged them to a squatted house and used it as my studio. I collected old windows and put my pictures in them and I had exhibitions in small coffee shops.” Restless as ever she grew weary of the photo lab atmosphere and music came calling.
“I lived one hour from school so I rode my bike every morning through Gothenburg City constantly making all these songs up. I had a couple of punk bands and I played the oboe (mostly because it was free lessons at the music academy and you got to eat dessert if you had done your homework.)
“Music always seemed to be just another way of expressing myself. I hated the oboe, but I didn’t know there were other instruments until I found out about this circus that was touring and came to Gothenburg. There I fell in love with the soprano saxophone and the cool woman playing it became my teacher and role model.”
Harriet joined and toured all over Sweden with the Klezmer band called Chutzpah, started a couple of different bands and ended up at the Academy of Music studying Balkan music. Outside of school she began to sing and eventually that turned out to be her greatest joy.
Until 2009, Harriet was the lead singer and one of the founders of highly acclaimed Hellsongs performing stripped down heavy metal classics as “lounge” in a unique special way. An epic rendition of Iron Maiden’s “Run To The Hills” launched them to the forefront of Swedish media while building upon an already impressive live reputation touring across Scandinavia.
In 2008, Hellsong’s full length debut "Hymns in the key of 666" entered the Swedish charts at #9 and has been released in the Scandinavia, UK, France, GSA, Benelux, Spain, Japan, Australia/NZ and Russia. The album was nominated for a German Critics Award as well as a Swedish Grammy Award, A hugely successful tour in the GSA countries followed.
After five years of releasing several EPs, the album and touring, Harriet decided it was time to start listening to her own voice and musical longings and left Hellsongs to work on her solo album
For the past year she has been dragging a baby carriage all around Gothenburg and Berlin filled with instruments and recording equipment, stubbornly convincing herself that she actually is making a solo album.
ARENA ROCK was born in the kitchen, on a jetty, in between tears, during cooking, laughing while in Berlin, on a bike, and always straight from the heart. The songs are about the pastimes of life with a direct poignancy formed in what can only be called OH, HARRY world. Emotional songs of dashed hopes “He Is Not The One”, resignation “Too Bad” “Shift Happens”, rebellion “I Reclaim My Streets” “Hey Mr”, remorse “Avoid Notes (That Make You Cry” and love “Stay In My Heart” a stunning cover of the O’Jays “Now That We Found Love”.
The title of the album originates from the guitar effect Arena Rock in GarageBand, which has been used as her recording tool. However it is also about the “big-time-once-in-a-life-time-arena-rock-heroes-and-heroines emotions” that the album is all about.
The name OH, HARRY stems from a period in her childhood when she used to call herself Harry and that ringing of a teacher’s words. Simple.
All songs are written by Harriet Ohlsson (except for “Now That We Found Love”, by The O´Jays).
Harriet sings, plays the piano and synthesizers, accordion, harmonica, saxophone, percussion and a bit of guitar and ukulele and a love of elephants.
Petter Eriksson provided postproduction and mixed the album at Studio Singh, Göteborg.