The next Have You Met? interview is with actress and singer/songwriter Jennifer Harding. Find out what life on the road is like and why she is one to watch in 2018!
WHAT’S YOUR NAME? WHERE DO YOU COME FROM AND WHERE DO YOU LIVE NOW?
My name is Jennifer Harding and I’m an actor and singer. I’m Canadian, but England has been home since 2012.
What did 5 year old Jennifer want to be?
I honestly wanted to be a rockstar. Or live in a in a tree house in the jungle. Either way, really.
Did you train in Canada or in England?
I trained in Canada in classical acting at George Brown College. I didn’t do any musical theatre while at college it was just classic text. I had always wanted to do the West End, my family are from the U.K. so It had always been a dream. I managed to get the ancestry visa and now England is my home.
What are the differences in the industry between the U.K. and to Canada?
I was getting put up for a lot of musicals back in Toronto and was getting to the end but because I trained in classical theatre and had no musical theatre on my C.V there was a fear I wouldn’t be able to sing 8-10 shows a week. People thought that because I didn’t have 3 years of training and conditioning I wouldn’t have the stamina…
My agent at the time said there is always cruise ships – I went on cruiseships to ‘cut my teeth’ and to learn how to do a bunch of different shows in a bunch of styles. After a few years of that I missed theatre and acting so decided to set up shop in the UK.
I didn’t realise at the time but coming from a different country my credentials wouldn’t mean the same thing here. My credits didn’t translate the same – I had gone to one of the best school is my country and spent all of my time and money on training to be recognised in North America and then moved to England and had to start again.
How was it at first transitioning from life at sea and traveling to life on land?
I was told that if I wanted to make a career in London I had to stay in London, I couldn’t keep going away. I had done cruise ships and some short tours but it was a hard decision to make. Quite often as a performer you make money by going away on jobs.
I finally made the decision to be unemployed and stay in London. You not only need money to live but you need money for the right headshots, to go to right workshops and for going to shows and getting to know people – everything costs money! I was good at putting money into different jars for everything I needed, putting pound for pound in different jars for headshots, rent, shows, travel to London and eventually I landed the lead female role of Lola in the tour Copacabana…
It must have been great finally landing what many would consider your ‘big break’?
It was my first lead on a national tour and the first time my name was on a poster around the UK. We went from being two months in with pretty solid reviews to the show closing and a writer contacting me about writing an article on me called ‘Her name was Lola, she was a show girl’…
Out of the casts control the show was cancelled over night because of financial issues. It was devastating but taught me a lot about the business. It honestly felt like a punch in the gut.
AGENT OR NO AGENT?
Representation is a funny business. It can be the best thing for you or quite damaging to your self-esteem. My first agent in the UK told me that because I wasn’t a new grad and didn’t train here that I was not marketable in the UK. So it was either chose to listen to the person who told me that there is no market for me or prove them wrong – those were my only two options! So either take to heart and believe that they know you better then yourself or grow a pair and start working, and that’s what I did.
The silver-lining from Copacabana is that I made some really good friends and they were kind enough to get in touch with Olivia Bell Management, who is my now agent. They basically said ‘there is a girl that needs your help and is willing to do the work but has been hung out to dry’. Then Ant Read called me out of the blue and said that they rarely get recommendation so I had to go in and meet them. Thankfully that meeting went well and it just made sense to me as soon as I walked in. I am so grateful for my management and the relationship we have.
How was it working on a brand new show The Clockmakers Daughter?
It is very unusual to read a script and know that right away you wanted to be part of it. Usually things grow on you but this hit home on the first read. After listening to the music I called my agent and said I had to be part of it and he said if you love it then do it.
You have performed in the shows Mamma Mia ( UK Tour ), Legally Blonde
( Kilworth House) and most recently on the UK tour of Funny Girl, how was it stepping into such an iconic show with the likes of Sheridan Smith and Natasha Barnes?
I was really fortune as I didn’t think it was going to happen, it was a mammoth deal in the West End and a brand spanking new U.K. tour and I was on tour at the time but I was able to leave Mamma Mia early. I left and they got behind me and supported the new job.
I walked in with an immediate respect for the leading ladies. Natasha and Sheridan are both amazing so you have to up your game to match them and also have a respect for them as they built the role before you.
Jennifer as Tanya in Mamma Mia Elle Woods in Legally Blonde Fanny Brice in Funny Girl
Do you have any quotes you live by?
‘You find out what you want every time you don’t get it’. In true Joni Mitchell style you don’t know what you got till its gone. If something doesn’t work I get that recognition that I don’t want that and I know going forward what I do want.
Can you tell us about your new album Sunday School Teacher?
It all just started as a little project to feed me creatively between jobs. I’ve always loved to write and sort of grew up in recording studios with my dad. This was just some heartfelt work that came about over a long weekend with one of my girlfriends who is a killer musician. It all sort of just snowballed! People heard it, responded really well, some producers were excited to get involved…. it’s a crazy little heart song project that sort of just clicked. I’m so grateful!
How did you find the process, recording in a studio as opposed to how you usually perform which is live on stage?
Being in studio is sort of like being at home for me. I love the work. And the hours are comparable to tech week in a theatre show: get in early, stay focused, lots of coffee and late night crazy. We spent about a month putting the EP together; it takes a bit longer when you are working without the backing of a big label! But the long hours solidify the bond everyone has with the work, and by the end the product is everyone’s baby, just like a show. I suppose the biggest difference was that, as a writer and creator, I had much more say in the process. There was so much respect from the Producers for what I wanted to create. Again, I’m so lucky.
Where can people listen and buy the album?
We are releasing to ITunes in early February, as well as Spotify and other online distributors including amazon. It’s a pretty darn exciting time! I’m blown away by the support so far, and hope to heck people like it!
You can also catch Jennifer playing the role of April in Company at the Aberdeen Performing Arts Centre until February 10th. Find out more here.