How Secondcity's Style of House Draws from Both Sides of the Pond

Jul 10, 2023

John Cameron

2 min read

House music has a long history as an intercontinental phenomenon. Although it originated in the Black, gay and Latino communities of Chicago, it exploded in popularity in the UK, where it fragmented into countless styles. 

Secondcity knows this all too well. He’s called both places home, having been born in Chicago and eventually relocating to the UK. Each setting’s influence resonates loudly and clearly through his ever-growing discography. It’s positioned him at a vantage point from which he can clearly see what appeals universally.

On his childhood in Chicago, Secondcity (real name Rowan Harrington) told Skiddle: “I grew up listening to house, as my mum would always play old records, stuff like 'Follow Me' by Aly Us (below), George Morel, Pete Heller, Soulsearcher, and King Unique. Even now, I still hear a lot of the older Defected and Strictly Rhythm stuff being played – it still sounds so good after all these years.”

Harrington would move to the UK, a house music hotspot in its own right. The change of scenery inevitably colored his palate, and by the time he released his first record on British DJ and producer Huxley’s Saints & Sonnets imprint, the country’s influence on his sound signature was palpable.

“The Story” appeared on Secondcity’s 2013 EP of its namesake. The single’s UK garage-reminiscent vocal is underscored by an elastic bass line the likes of which was popular in UK house at the time. The hallmarks of classic house were present, to be sure, but it spoke to a distinctly British sensibility.

For his breakthrough single, however, Harrington opted to lean on his Chicago heritage. “I Wanna Feel” was built around a sample from Toni Braxton’s 1996 hit “You’re Makin’ Me High,” but it shone for its rich piano melody and infectious rhythm.

Nearly a decade and countless records later, Secondcity’s pan-Atlantic influences shine brightly through his highly engaging output. Listen closely, and you might just hear bits and pieces of other places he’s gotten to visit along the way.

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