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  • Bryon Harris

Harrison Country - 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.

What got you into music?

If the tales my grandmother used to tell about me were accurate, I learned to read when I was 4, so fiction has been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember. What got me into music was listening to songs that had a story in them: people, places, dialogue. Songs like The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, Raised on Robbery, Sympathy for the Devil, King of the Road. We didn't have any disposable income to speak of when I was a kid, but my mother joined The Columbia Record Club and she would let me pick the album every other month. I would listen to the same songs over and over, and gradually intuited how melody and harmony could enhance a good story, really make it come alive.

What is your favorite part about being an artist? Is it songwriting, performing, recording, something else?) Tell us why.

Songwriting. For me, writing a song is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle where the pieces can fit together in many different ways, but they still have to show you a coherent picture when you finish. Chuck Thompson was the radio voice of the Baltimore Orioles and Colts when I was a child, and his favorite expression, when everything on the field went just right, when Brooks Robinson hit a walk-off three run homer, or Johnny Unitas threw a touchdown pass to Lenny Moore, was "Ain't the Beer Cold!" That's how I feel when I finish a song that I really like. (Shameless promotion -- "Ain't the Beer Cold" will be a featured song on our upcoming album.)

Can you tell us what being in the recording studio is like for you?

Excruciating. I've gotten more relaxed with it, but I always go in knowing that, no matter how much others may like the end product, I'm always going to hear the little things that I think could have been done better. Trying to get everything just right can be agonizing.

As a songwriter or musician, are there any obstacles you have had to overcome or obstacles that you are facing right now in your career?

When you start writing songs at age 59, it's hard to get people to take you seriously. Early on, when I would tell friends what I was doing, it seemed like many of them would express a cursory interest and then try to change the subject, as if they were worried I was going to ask them to listen and they would be forced to politely say "Oh that's nice." About the time we finished Men in the House, an old friend paid me a visit at my office, and before she left I asked her if she had a minute to listen to it. I could see the wheels turning, trying to come up with some place she just had to be, but she couldn't think fast enough and eventually said "I've got a little time." At about bar 4 she let out a soft "Ohhhh" and this look of joyous relief came over her face.

Who do you admire most in the music scene today and why?

Brandy Clark. I think Big Day in a Small Town is one of the finest and most underappreciated country albums of the last 20 years. Not weak tune on it. She has an easy voice that invites you in, and yet she can be soulful when the tune calls for it. Her songwriting ability reminds me of what my father once said of the great Orioles center fielder Paul Blair: he never got the credit he deserved because he made the tough catches look so damn easy.

To date, what do you think your best song is? Can you describe the song for us?

Shadow Games. It's a thinking person's song that I believe still packs an emotional wallop. Bryan's guitar playing on it is other worldly, Aidan's drums drive it with ruthless energy, and Larry's piano adds a complimentary softness. It suits my voice, and the harmonies we arranged for the girls to sing lift the story in unexpected ways.

Are you working on any new material right now or what's in the works for the upcoming year?

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 younger people who come to realize that human nature is unchanging, and the old verities they learned on their grandmother's knee can see them through all sorts of 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. It will have a bit more of a traditional Americana feel than Climate Change, but still with a healthy dose of the eclectic production values that our fans enjoy.

Tell us where fans can access your music?

For more information, please visit Harrison Country's website.


About Harrison Country

Harrison Country is an Annapolis, Md. based group consisting of Don, Amy and Karen Harrison, Jennie Harrison Young and Lexi White. They have dubbed their music “21st Century American Folk Music,” though it doesn’t sound at all like the “folk revival” music of the ‘60’s. It’s folk music in a deeper sense. The people who created John Henry and Froggy Went a Courtin’ and Scarborough Fair weren’t trying to make “folk music.” They were telling stories about their lives and the world in which they lived, using language that ordinary people could understand, with the instruments and music traditions available to them at the time. Harrison Country does the same.


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