Harrison Country is an Annapolis, Md. based group consisting of vocalists Don and Karen Harrison, daughters Amy Harrison and Jennie Harrison Young, and Lexi White. On their acclaimed debut album, Climate Change, they are backed by Maryland legends Bryan Ewald (guitars, bass, mandolin, keyboards) and Annapolis area talents Josh Chapman (bass), Brandon Bartlett (drums), Brad Kimes (drums), Larry Byrne (keyboards, bass, sax) and Aidan Ewald (drums). Climate Change is “Americana” in the broadest sense, a collection of story songs that draws on a host of different American music traditions: Nashville, Chicago, Motown, Laurel Canyon, Memphis, Bourbon St., Big Pink and Broadway.
What got you into music? Probably my genes. My maternal grandfather sang and danced in variety shows, and there was an old mandolin and guitar in the house that he and my grandmother had played before I was born. Though I never really learned to play, I used to sit for hours and pick riffs and listen to the emotional movement in the notes.
What is your favorite part about being an artist or band? Songwriting, performing, recording, etc.? Tell us why. Definitely songwriting. Every song is a puzzle, and I get a rush when the melody, harmony and lyrics all come together. Snap, crackle and pop! Jennie is the dancer in the family, but I’ve been known to kick up my heels when it all seems just right. The icing on the cake in the process is then listening to Bryan work his magic with the instrumentation and arrangement.
Can you tell us what being in the recording studio is like for you? it’s excruciating. I write not only the lyrics and melody, but most of the chords, and Lexi and I work out the harmony parts together. So once we get into the studio, I feel responsible for everything vocal in each song, and we’ve got five singers! I’m a perfectionist, and when we’re finished I hear nothing but the flaws.
As an artist or musician, are there any obstacles you have had to overcome or obstacles that you are facing right now in your career? I’m a “get ‘er done guy.” Obstacle is not in my vocabulary. I don’t mean that in a cliched, rah-rah sense. I mean it literally. I don’t think I ever use the word. Problems exist to bring you joy after you’ve solved them. Who do you admire most in the music scene today and why?
Brandy Clark. She is the most underappreciated talent in American music today. Her voice invites you in, begs you to sing along. I wish I had written almost every song on Big Day in a Small Town. Her music is country in the deepest sense – witty, poignant stories about ordinary people, told in language that everyone can understand. You don’t even notice the magnificence of her powers of observation because they so seem so effortless. A great center fielder in baseball makes the tough catches look easy. That’s Brandy.
If you could be granted one wish, right now, as an artist, what would you ask for? I wish that in some magical way, we could return recorded music to the prominence it once had in the industry. I believe that the rise of streaming, and the subsequent collapse of recording revenues, is destroying creativity in popular music. If the point of an album is just to drive concert ticket and t-shirt sales, does it really have to be all that good? If it’s all about a night on the town, just give ‘em the same old stuff. I think that’s part of the reason for the vapid audio wallpaper that you hear on Country Top 40 today. If the music business in 1966 had resembled today’s, Sgt. Pepper’s never would have been created.
What is on the horizon in the next year for you?
We’re planning another album, tentatively titled Keeper of the Past. This will be more of a theme album – stories from the past, folks trying to navigate today with yesterday’s chart books. But I think we’ll keep the same musical approach we had in Climate Change. Every song will be like the chocolates in Forrest Gump’s box – you never know what you’re gonna get!
To date, what do you think your best song is? Can you describe the song for us?
If I was stuck on a desert island with just one of our own songs, I think it would be Shadow Games. Bryan did absolutely fabulous work on guitar, Aidan killed the drums, and Larry’s piano filled it out nicely. I think the song suits my voice, and I loved our idea to have Lexi sing the last chorus. It’s definitely a “thinking man’s” song; you need a little Plato to fully appreciate it. It germinated as I drove from the cloistered university-town atmosphere of Charlottesville, Va., past the Civil War battlefields of The Wilderness and Chancellorsville and Spotsylvania Court House, and ruminated on the hard lives my ancestors had lived, and contrasted those with what their imaginary “heirs” are doing today.