Harrison B. is a Progressive American Soul artist from Lascassas, TN. He blends traditional and progressive American song forms into a soulful and statement-driven delivery. I happened to meet Harrison B. two summers ago when he showed up at a party I was throwing with my friend, Sarah. I talked to Harrison B. about his music and what it means to him to be living his dream.
Caitlin: Can you tell me a little bit about your musical roots? Was it something you were always interested in?
Harrison B: So, nobody in my family really dug playing music other than my grandfather. He is into bluegrass, old school blues, Southern Folk, Gospel, Western Country. He is into early country. I used to go over to his house and he has had the same guitar since he was 15 that he bought out of a Sears catalogue. It’s just this big, incredibly difficult to play, but amazing sounding instrument. I learned from him having one guitar to truly love and put a piece of yourself into it. he’s genuine and he’s honest and he loves it, so I just kind of grew up hearing music from him. And I really, really enjoyed what he did. We listened to records together, too many to mention, but he put me into real roots music. They became my musical roots.
I’ve always had an ear for music. Writing has always been in my head. I used to love, as a child, listening to classical music when I went to bed. My favorite game was guessing the movement. I liked to guess where the arrangement was going. Major, minor, resolving, that sort of thing.
As I grew older, it became something I needed, as opposed to something I just wanted. I started with my first band when I was 19 and really picked up the guitar in earnest around the age of 21. At 22, I had to have it, had to get out there and do it.
Now, I’ve been doing it full time since I was 24.
Caitlin: I think it’s really interesting the way the importance of music in your life evolved as you got older. I think a lot of times people begin to let go of their passions as they get older and it’s often such a mistake. So, you grew up around Nashville. What effect did that have on you and your music?
Harrison B: So, I grew up in Lascassas, Tennessee and moved to Nashville for college. Musically at the time, I wasn’t very advanced and so I had to play and write songs that were in my technical ability range, which was limited. So starting out I wrote a lot of singer/songwriter, acoustic country, that sort of thing. I wrote a lot of country songs. Thomas Rhett became a buddy of mine and we used to write some, and Dustin Lynch was around, he went to my college. They’ve both gone on to very successful country careers.
So, yeah, I’ve always had a heart for country because of my grandfather. So I started talking with an artist development company about the things I needed to do to be groomed to be pitched to a major label.
As I was getting into it I thought, if I’m choosing to do this for the rest of my life I sure better love it. And you know, there were aspects that were just empty to me. I felt like my subject matter was limited. I felt like there were just things about confining to one single genre that didn’t move me to my core and didn’t satisfy some musical need in me, so I had to let country go. It is still an aspect of my music, but now it is one of many.
So, what better way hit reset than to leave town when I graduated. And if you’re going to leave town, what better place to go than Alaska, as far away as you can get.
Caitlin: I have to say, I am a big country music fan, but I definitely get what you’re saying. And when I listen to your music I definitely hear some country influence. But, I don’t want to get ahead of myself, so tell me about the Alaska move.
Harrison B: So, I had a friend, who had one friend in Juneau, Alaska. It’s the farthest from home I had ever been. I packed my Jeep up, and drove to Prince Rupert, BC. There I got on a Ferry and rode 3 days to Juneau. Between that solo road trip up there, and then adjusting to a whole new environment, that to me was really growing up. The road is a great teacher.
Musically, I didn’t play the guitar for four or five months and when I picked it back up, I decided it was, indeed, for me. So, I started playing again. All I had observed in my three week drive from Tennessee to Alaska, the things I learned, the CD’s people gave me for the drive in states along the way, indie rock, ambient rock, funk, punk, all these new things. All things I hadn’t really experienced before, particularly in their proper context. So, when I got my guitar out and played again it was totally different from what I had played prior.
I got out and played one open mic night and I was so scared I wore my peacoat through the whole performance. Still, I just really tried to let my soul out, which was kind of novel to me and my musical experience. I just realized at that moment, this is something I love and something I can’t live without. It felt like an infatuation, like you’d hear a guy talk about feelings for a girl.
From there I went home and recorded my first album, The Harrison B LP.
Caitlin: What place does music hold in your life now?
Harrison B: It is my life. Honestly. It controls just about everything. I think that’s what it takes if you have aspirations beyond local successes.
I’m in a growth phase right now, I’m still pretty small fries. I’m starting to establish myself, as to say, these are the things you can expect from me artistically. I really think it has to color all aspects of your life. Music is, honest to God, just about my everything. I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Caitlin: What’s the best thing about spending your time playing music?
Harrison B: I think getting to do what you love for a job, even if you’re just surviving. It brings peace of mind to me that honestly I don’t think I could get anywhere else. I don’t think I’d be as happy doing anything else.
Caitlin: I imagine life on the road as a musician isn’t always easy, even if it is satisfying. What’s the hardest part?
Harrison B: The hardest part is probably all the time alone. For instance, in the last year, I’ve been on the road all but 2 ½ months. It’s very rare for me to get to be home. At heart I’m a homebody so it can be difficult. The other aspect is love and relationships. It is very difficult to keep a relationship. I had one for four years and I had to give it up for this. And it was a terrible day.
It’s very hard coming into a town and seeing all these awesome, beautiful people and before you can even get a chance to talk to everybody, you have to roll on. It’s isolating in a lot of ways.
But you start to develop relationships where you make good friends in a lot of places. For me, it’s been a learning curve, but once you understand it and can be genuine through it, it’s awesome to have good friends in different places and when I’m with them to really get to spend time and connect with them.
Caitlin: I hear you renovated and live in an Airstream. That’s so cool. Tell me about it.
Harrison B: The Lil Miss Josie is a 1968 22’ foot Land Yacht Safari. I renovated it from the frame up. It was a lot of work and it sucked for a long time. For over two years it was about all I did for with my off time.
It’s a pretty liberating thing. I get to travel and do my job and enjoy it and at the end of the night, anywhere that I am, I get to go back to my apartment and sleep in my own bed, cook a meal in my kitchen. So, for my lifestyle, it’s perfect. And I rebuilt it from scratch so it has a lot of soul, a lot of heart, and it’s home.
Caitlin: I love that. I’m a total homebody, so I definitely see the appeal there. What have you learned about people since you’ve had a chance to see a lot of the country and meet a lot of different types of people?
Harrison B: Interesting question. Honest to god, my answer is, there’s a lot of sameness, and a lot of difference and I think they’re in equal amounts and with equal subjects.
Good people are good people and bad people are bad people. Bad people are few and far between. I’ve found nothing but love on the road. I don’t think I’m unique in this situation, but everywhere I’ve been has been a contributing factor to where I am right now. That keeps me humble and grateful, knowing how much of what I do is because of other people..
I want for nothing anywhere I go. And not because I can afford it or I feel like I deserve it, but because genuinely, people have gone out of their way for me. And so, touring does nothing but embolden in me the feeling of the greatness and goodness in people.
I can’t imagine more of a LIFE. Not everyone gets a chance to get out here and really live. And I feel grateful because I didn’t afford that opportunity all by myself. I am one piece of a puzzle of many who have helped propel me and put their faith in me and put a little bit of pride in me.
I accept that as a responsibility and I take it quite seriously and I try to live each day to respect that. I push myself to be the most impactful voice of positivity and that to me is my job. The music, the shows, the road, those are the details. Those are the medium through which I can reach out. But, I just want to embolden people. I want people to leave a Harrison B show feeling strong in themselves and looking out at the world a little closer than when they came in.
Harrison B.’s debut release, The Harrison B LP, & the Sophomore effort, Down At Brown’s, are available at major online music retailers. You can check him out at harrisonbmusic.com. Oh, and check out his latest video for his song, ME. Serious skills.
Image 1, 2, & 3: Harrison B.
Image 4: Jeremy Lavender via Harrison B.