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BGS 5+5: Native Harrow

Sep 10, 2020

BGS 5+5: Native Harrow

Artist: Native Harrow (Devin Tuel and Stephen Harms)
Hometown: Just outside of Philadelphia
Latest album: Closeness
Personal nicknames (or rejected band names): A good band name we didn’t use is “Tuel & Harms.” As for personal nicknames, well, those are secret and too embarrassing to share.

Answers provided by Devin Tuel

Which artist has influenced you the most … and how?

Though I could list about 50 artists, I feel the most honest answer is Neil Young. I used to listen to Live at Massey Hall while I rode the M1 bus up and down First Avenue from my college to the Lower East Side. Listening not just to the brilliant songs and guitar playing, but also to the way he held attention, to the way he tuned, to his grumbling, and his storytelling. I was transfixed by that record.

I grew up listening to Neil. My Dad is a huge fan. He took me to see him perform when I was young and I remember being on the edge of my seat the entire show, mouth agape. I felt so electric after seeing that. And thru the many years of my own career I have looked to him for inspiration, for guts when I can’t find mine, and for a “What would Neil do?” approach to difficult situations. He seems to have a reverence for nature that I share and I have always felt he could appreciate an open field just as I do.

What’s your favorite memory from being on stage?

This past year and much of 2019 we have been in the UK more than the States supporting our release of Happier Now with Loose. We have played in so many beautiful spaces and met many wonderful people. These are some of our favorite memories of touring to date. And in January we played a sold-out show at Paper Dress Vintage in London during the Americana UK Fest, and as I was singing the opening notes of our first song, “Can’t Go On Like This,” I realized there were people in the audience singing along with me. If any musician ever says they don’t care about that, they’re lying. It’s the most special, heartwarming, exciting thing ever. Someone loves your song enough that they want to sing with you. That’s the best.

What other art forms — literature, film, dance, painting, etc — inform your music?

I grew up dancing — I was a ballerina with a Pennsylvania-based ballet company for about 13 years. So since a very young age I have been exposed to theatre life and the world of the performing arts. I still find seeing ballet so moving I often end up in tears. The classical music I grew up dancing to feels deeply rooted in my muscles and bones. It is so evocative of human emotion and passion and can take your spirit on such a journey. I think that is something we are always trying to achieve with our albums. We want to take you on a journey where the listener is transported away for a while and when the last notes ring out, you are slightly changed by what you’ve just experienced.

Certainly poetry has long been an art form that I have drawn inspiration from. I am deeply connected to nature and thus very moved by the poetry of the natural world — Whitman, Wordsworth, Frost, Keats, etc.

Which elements of nature do you spend the most time with and how do those impact your work?

Stephen and I take two walks daily that wind up and down the rolling hills near our home, past fields of sweet grass and hay, dense forest, and old farm houses. Whether the sun is shining or grey clouds and rain accompany us, it’s so necessary to turn off and just be in nature. I am always making a reference to the weather, the season, or birds on several songs on each album we’ve made. The song “Turn Turn” on Closeness begins with “Turn, turn, watch the weeks go by, moving slowly ‘cross the field ‘til the grass is greener….”

I have written poetry for over a decade and almost all of it is nature-based! There is endless inspiration and it is ever-changing, full of life and full of mystery.

How often do you hide behind a character in a song or use “you” when it’s actually “me”?

Hardly ever! I am honest when it is about me. Which for better or for worse has kept our songs raw and truthful. The best material I have to draw from is that which is stirring in my own heart and before my own eyes. So I try to tell it honestly and rarely rely on fiction to save my face.

Photo credit: Parri Thomas

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BGS 5+5: Native Harrow
BGS 5+5: Native Harrow