Artist: Jason Hawk Harris
Hometown: Houston, Texas
Latest Album: Thin Places
Personal Nicknames (or rejected band names): “J,” “Jase”
What’s your favorite memory from being on stage?
I was playing at the Milk Bar in San Francisco with the Show Ponies once. The crowd was responsive to what we were playing in a way that I’ve never experienced before or since. We would get louder, and they would move like a wave of silk. We’d get quieter and they would be still as candles. It was a really wild moment that I’ll never forget. It’s a small, divey place, but even still, it’s like walking into a church for me these days, because I always remember that show.
What other art forms — literature, film, dance, painting, etc. — inform your music?
Lyrically, literature is a big influence on me. My favorite authors are those who write in the magic realism vein. Salman Rushdie, Gabriel García Márquez, Carmen Maria Machado, Haruki Murakami, and Charles Williams are some of my favorites. I like the genre (magic realism) because it seems to view the physical and spiritual plane of existence as one in the same. The world has always made more sense to me when I think of it in those terms. Empiricism holds no interest for me, personally. The nature of existence has always seemed bigger to me than what I can touch, taste, smell, hear, or see.
What was the first moment that you knew you wanted to be a musician?
I wish I had a more hip answer to this, but I don’t. When I heard Simba sing the song “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” in the Lion King, I knew I wanted to sing in front of people for the rest of my life. I was 6 when I first saw it and that song absolutely enthralled me. I think there were earlier moments than that while watching my parents sing in church, but that song was a very formative moment for me. I remember my parents having to ask me to sing something besides the one song from Lion King.
What’s the toughest time you ever had writing a song?
“Jordan and the Nile” legitimately took me five years, from first spark to final mix. The refrain came to me in about 10 seconds, but everything else came at a crawl. I wrote around 40 verses and they all seemed wrong in one way or another. Then, when I’d finally finished the verses and felt good about them, I started arranging. It’s usually the lyrics that take me a while. The music almost always comes easy. Not the case with “Jordan.” I must’ve trashed everything and started over on this song at least five times. It was labor, but I’ve never been happier with a final product than I am with that song.
If you had to write a mission statement for your career, what would it be?
Don’t let the cynicism of the streaming age inform the music you write. This is, and has been, my mantra for a while now. I think in this day and age, musicians are under constant pressure to write music that people “like” instead of writing something that we think is good. The temptation is stronger than ever. Being placed on a Spotify sponsored playlist can make you thousands of dollars in a way that other avenues of income won’t. I have personal experience with this. The Show Ponies, the band I was a part of for seven years, were placed on a playlist back in 2013. We still receive monthly checks and we haven’t played a show in over four years. It’s powerful, but I don’t want a tech company deciding what music I make is or isn’t worthwhile.
Photo Credit: Daley Hake