Harrison Country - 10 Questions Music Interview
The W.A M. Awards celebrate the year’s most outstanding independent artists from around the world in multiple genres and categories. "Best Song" and "Best Album" nominations were based on Artistry, Musicianship, Originality, Professionalism, Diversity, and Excellence. W.A.M. stands for "We Are the Music Makers.' Harrison Country's song, "Men in the House" was the 2020 W.A.M. Award Winner for Country song. Was there something (an experience) or someone in your life that was the "catalyst" for you to start writing music? Tell us about it.
For many years, I’ve been involved in Crosse Over Lacrosse, a lacrosse exchange program for 13-15 year old girls with the lacrosse community in the Manchester area of England. One year we send a team from Annapolis over there to play and stay with English families, and the next year they do the same. In 2007 I decided to make a video of the girls’ adventures. I had some pics of the girls in goofy crowns at Warwick Castle and trying on clothes in boutiques, so I rewrote the lyrics to Sharp Dressed Man, made it Sharp Dressed Girls, had Amy and Jennie sing it, and used it for the soundtrack to that segment. Everyone in the family has some type of singing background – garage bands, competitions, musical theatre, a cappella groups – and we all got into the act as I wrote lyrics for many subsequent videos. Eventually I got the itch to start writing my own music with lyrics that would have more universal appeal. I gave myself a music-composition crash course, and learned to left-hand my way around a keyboard well enough to get the writing job done. We’re surely the only music group in history started on a lacrosse field by a guy who can’t play an instrument!
Let's get this out of the way. What is the CRAZIEST thing that has ever happened to you in your music career? The creation of Harrison Country itself is a crazy story. The lacrosse catalyst was ridiculously improbable, but the rest of the journey that brought the Harrison family together with Bryan and Lexi is even more unlikely, filled with more six-degrees-of-separation connections and chance events than I can count. In Chuck Berry’s words, “you never can tell.”
What has been the high point of your music path?
The feedback we have received from fans. A popular song in any genre should do some combination of these 5 things – make you laugh, cry, think, get the groove and sing along. It’s been very encouraging to receive enthusiastic responses like “that hook is money” or “I can’t stop humming the melody.” A woman wrote me that she was in a public place when she first heard When the Geese Fly, and had to turn it off because she started to cry and didn’t want to embarrass herself. That was heartwarming for me, to know that something we had written held that much meaning for a stranger
So, how do you approach songwriting or what is your creative process like?
I might start with a phrase, a character or an experience of mine. "Men in the House" was inspired by an mc at an awards banquet yelling “Is there a doctor in the house?” when an attendee had a medical issue. At the same time, I was reading Leonard Sax’s book Boys Adrift. "Laugh Again" came from a simple thought: laughter can initiate and sustain a relationship. "When the Fat Lady Sings" started with "coffee black, whiskey straight," a phrase that popped into my head when I was listening to a completely unrelated song that I could barely hear at a concert. My father always thought the way geese formed themselves into a V when they migrated in the fall was magical. "When the Geese Fly" is a song that had been living inside of me for years, because I always think of him when I hear the geese overhead. All of my songs are mini short stories, filled with people, places, dialogue and “stuff.”
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Indie Artists today? Or, if you could ask the music industry to change one thing, what would it be?
The lack of financial control that artists have over their creations. I’m a business owner, and I’m appalled by the antiquated music royalty system and how billion-dollar businesses have been built on the backs of pitifully compensated creators. Would Spotify exist in its present form if creators had the freedom to say “if you want my recorded music, you have to pay for it?” Government’s first responsibility is to protect its citizens from theft, violence and coercion, and it has failed miserably when it comes to music piracy. I hope that the upcoming Supreme Court case, Google vs. Oracle, though it concerns software theft, will open the door for a leveling of the playing field between music creators and tech giants.
If you could share the stage with one other artist or band, who would it be and why?
I would load the group into Mr. Peabody’s WABAC Machine, and travel back to Thanksgiving Day,1976, to the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, where we’d perform with The Band, do an ensemble version of Ophelia. I still remember how the hair on the back of my neck stood up when I first heard Levon Helm’s voice through six-transistor radio earplugs, listening at midnight to Kirby Scott’s Underground Hour on Baltimore’s WCAO, covers pulled over my head so my parents couldn’t hear. Though there are no conscious homage pieces to The Band on Climate Change, I’m constantly discovering chord progressions and “bits” that were inspired by them. There would be no “oo la la” in When the Fat Lady Sings if the people hadn’t been singing “la la la la na na” on The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down." I only have a few regrets, and one of them is that I never took the time to journey to Woodstock to attend one of Levon Helm's Midnight Rambles before he passed away.
Who are your favorite current artists, and who are your least favorite?
I like the great story tellers: Brandy Clark, Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton, Luke Combs, Parker McCollum, Adam Wakefield. Adam's album "Gods and Ghosts" is absolutely superb, and tragically underappreciated and unrecognized. I don't like to criticize anyone else's music, but what I find today in much of pop, rock and country, is a torrent of ungrounded emotion. Someone is in pain, but there is no who, what, when, where or how, just a torrent of anger or misery. I can't connect to that sort of thing. There is also almost no humor or lightheartedness in contemporary music.
Pick one song that was your greatest challenge to write. Tell us about it! "Montana," from our upcoming album "Keeper of the Past." Chronologically, it's a pretty simple story: girl leaves boy and their hometown for a "wished-for world" in Montana, 20 years later he books a fishing trip to Montana, a few weeks before he leaves he passes her on their hometown's Main St., he then goes fishing in Montana. But the story opens with him passing her on the street, then flashes back and ends in the present. It goes Middle-Beginning--Middle-Beginning-End. It's also an emotionally rich song that is about much more than heartache, so I needed every word and image to carry extra weight as it moved the plot along. It was not easy to pack everything into 4 minutes!
What's coming up in the future?
A new album, "Keeper of the Past." All the tunes are written, and we've just started recording. It's a wide ranging journey in space, time and subject matter, and carries the listener from the religious struggles of 17th century England, to the battlefields of the Civil War, up through the steamboat and railroad era in the U.S. and prohibition in Maryland, to the cheerful optimism of postwar America and the lost souls of the 1970's. The songs that don't take place in the past feature a "stranger-in-a-strange-land" character trying to cope with a bewildering present, or a younger person who comes to realize that the old verities they learned on their grandmother's knee can see them through all sorts of current tribulations. Though there is fornication, betrayal, addiction, and oppression, there is also redemption, perseverance and triumph, and as always with Harrison Country, a lot of laughter and good times along the way.
Tell us where fans can access your music?
Also available on Spotify and Apple Music.