Secondcity, a.k.a. Rowan Harrington is a name synonymous with quality house productions. His two most well-known tracks, "I Wanna Feel" and "What Can I Do" featuring Ali Love, charted in the UK. His music taste is much reflective of his UK roots and Chicago upbringing. Since 2013, Secondcity has been moving his way through music scene dropping bangers like, "I Enter" (Dirtybird) and "Groove N' On" (DFTD). He has been supported by the likes of Route 94, Skream, Kenny Dope, MK, Nic Fancuilli and Annie Mac.
Though he is much more recognized commercially for his Nu Disco/House tracks, he is far from a one genre man. Secondcity has moved through house and techno productions and now with one of his newer tracks, "Feel It" (Saved Records), he can add groovy tech house to his list. His skill was recognized by Hot Since 82, Andrea Oliva, Guti and Stacey Pullen and he has remixed various tracks for Knee Deep In Sound.
Secondcity shares his deeper house side with us with a guest mix for Magnetic Mag's podcast via Soundcloud:
Secondcity also took the time to hang out with Magnetic Magazine and talk a little bit about his origins and how it has influenced his production style:
Magnetic: Thank you for taking the time to talk to me. Why don’t you tell me a little bit about the origins of SecondCity and your musical background?
Secondcity: So, I brought Secondcity to life about four years ago. Before that, I had been DJ'ing non-stop, but not at clubs, but just for myself. My friends and I used to throw a lot of parties when were kids. House parties and field raves, as we called them. At that time, I didn't produce or make my own music, I just DJ'd a lot. I had a pair turntables and boxes upon boxes of records. I had played house, hip hop, drum n bass and jungle for almost ten years.
When I was working in London, I worked in advertising. Before that, I was working as a broker, which was all fine at the time. However, I began to get to a point where I felt that I had to either invest in the music or not at all. Evidently, I quit my job in and went for it. I moved back into my mum's house in London and I set up a studio in my old bedroom, there. I started working on my production and making music every day for nine months.
I was working on music with four of my other friends and we eventually started sending our stuff out. At the time we knew Skream, Eats Everything, and Disclosure because they were all from the center area of the UK. We sent them some tracks and we began to get some small radio play here and there. People then started sending videos of them playing our records, and it was really cool. It was like, 'Wow, this is sick!' It was better than I could have imagined. It was amazing, people are playing my music!
I've read that your time in Chicago influenced you more popular track, 'I Wanna Feel'. How is that?
I had lived in Chicago for ten years and my mum, who was a fitness instructor in Chicago, used to listen to house music non-stop because in her classes she used to just play house music. I grew up listening to a lot of house, regardless, via Phil Humphrey's radio show, like Louie Vega and loads of old '90s house. I guess I felt it would be really cool to create a '90s record. Just something that was inspired by what I grew up listening to. Anyway, I made this record called, 'I Wanna Feel'.
Honestly, I didn't think much of it, and I sent it to Skream and he played it that night on the radio, and he was like, 'This record is massive. It's going to be #1!' I really thought completely nothing of it and then just every day the record just grew and grew. The people were so receptive to it, which was so amazing and nine months laters, it was #1 in the UK.
It's kind of a really strange rollercoaster because that happened within my first year of making music, which really doesn't happen for people. I was very, very lucky and I guess made it at the right time, right place. Especially, since I had quit my job.
So, it all worked out for the better?
It worked out for the better, yeah!
And then came SecondCity. Does that have anything to do with you or life kind of going back and forth?
Yeah, it’s kind of really about me having two homes, two places that felt like home. One was in Chicago and one was in the UK, so it kind of was about that, two cities that represented home to me.
Growing up in Chicago and growing up in the UK, you’re basically growing up in two power cities for house music. In your experience, how different were those two worlds, especially musically?
The thing is, it’s so hard because I was a kid when I grew up in Chicago, so I couldn’t go out, I couldn’t go to clubs. I couldn’t really appreciate it, so it wasn’t until years and years later when I was really getting into house music that I kind of, you know, I guess found out more about the scenes and the different areas. Like I said, the only real reason I was listening to house music when I was a kid was because it was just in front of me all the time because that’s what my mum was playing everywhere. So I didn’t really think about what was really going on in Chicago. I never really got to experience the club scene. It was a real shame, but yeah, I kind of am learning about it and going to places now.
When you released your second track, “What Can I Do,” it was received very well. What was the foundation or inspiration for that track? Was it the same as “I Wanna Feel”?
Yeah, it was a collaborative project, so, it was just me and Ali Love from Hot Natured. We kind of just wanted to make something cool and disco-y. We spent time in the studio and we were working on it, and again it was more for us really.
Today, with Nu Disco and Nu House and all of these homages to the old style, how strongly do you feel that it’s going to bring back that sort of “feel good” house that lost its popularity over the years?
I don't now. I don't feel like it can properly because what was created back then is something like … I can’t even create what really I feel is old house music because there was so much soul in it, there was so much realness. The problem is now, we’re all copying what was made back then and was there already. What I’m trying to recreate is that energy that you got from listening to those records, and that’s what so hard because I think for them, the way they produced the music back then, which is that you would hit record in the studio and would record loads of stuff, drums live, bass guitar and piano, whatever it may be, and it was just a completely live session. You would get that live vibe of almost like a live show or a completely live feel. What was made back then was made back then, and it’s like we’re making a new wave of house music which is coming around now and it’s great, but it’s a representation of the ‘90s or the late ‘80s and stuff, but it's never going to feel or sound the same ever … it just can’t. I wish it could, but it can’t.
When you created your guest set for Magnetic, because I’m so used to you playing such fun and feel-good house, it was a nice surprise to hear you play this deep house, kind of like a melodic version of what you usually play, which is upbeat. What were you trying to convey?
The thing is I made two records that were my biggest records in terms of the fact that they were so well known and what I'm kind of known for it. Which was always difficult because it kind of hid away everything I’ve made before that. So, I try to bring forward all the aspects of what SecondCity was about and what we made music for. So I played a lot of stuff that I make on a day-to-day basis, that maybe people don’t hear because maybe I haven’t released it yet or it goes under the radar. It’s really just a representation of all the music that I love, all the house music that I love, what I’ve enjoyed to make and listen to.
What would be a dream collaboration?
Ah, that’s hard. Dream collaboration … probably someone like Paul Johnson, someone like Paul Johnson or Louie Vega. Definitely those two, one hundred percent.
Speaking of someone who had a fiscal, financial day job, and then you just dropped everything and became a DJ and started touring, what was your first memorable tour experience?
Oh wow, well I didn’t tour properly until, I guess, I started everything in 2013, so I didn’t actually tour until maybe 2015. My first tour, which was like a UK tour, was just sick, it was so amazing. I remember just even now I still absolutely am taken with it, you now especially touring America. That’s the biggest thing for me, to be honest. Every time I tour now, I absolutely love it. I remember on my first tour, I did like 12 dates in the UK, so it’s very different than America, but it’s just an unreal feeling. I was like what the hell, I can’t believe this happened in this period of time. It was just so weird, it was nice. I had all my best friends come with me when I was kind of building up my career and we played back to back at certain gigs so it was really cool, unreal, yeah.
As someone who was the average Joe and became a DJ, what would be your advice to any up-and-coming producer or DJ who’s trying to support himself through their music?
Don’t do it unless you really, really want it, unless it’s literally your biggest passion, you can’t think of anything you’d rather do, because it’s not all just touring and having a lovely time. It’s tough, it’s hard, it’s draining emotionally. It’s really hard, it has to be literally your #1 priority. It has to be more important than your friends, your girlfriend, and your life … anything, really, because that’s what it takes to kind of really do it. You have to put everything into it, and it’s so, so hard, so draining.
But if it’s the most important thing you want to do in the world, and it’s your biggest dream, then you should just never stop, regardless of what happens. You should just go for it constantly. I think the hardest thing for anyone is sending music out to DJs, that’s the hardest thing. It’s something I always remembered, that I was blessed that I knew a couple of big DJs when I was younger, and I think that’s what it takes. If you can just get close to one person, and you can send your music to one DJ, that’s what’s so important.