Name: Jason Hawk Harris
Age: 20 something
Style of Music: Meta-Apocalyptic Country/Americana
Short Bio: Jason Hawk Harris experienced his musical coming of age one fateful day in middle school when a friend played him Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Indeed, fate seems writ large in Harris’ artistic journey. He comes from a long line of musicians; a tradition that all but guaranteed a both passionate and vexed relationship with the guitar. Though classically trained, he considers it perhaps the greatest instrument ever created (and occasionally wants to smash his Martin over the head of its inventor).
Harris’ songs offer nuanced explorations of life’s vagaries; matching determined honesty with vivid imagination. His upcoming record fuses robust musicianship with a poetic vision inspired by magical realists like Charles Williams and Haruki Murakami. His music, Harris explains, shares in their “audacious assumption that the physical and spiritual occupy the same plane of existence.”
1. What made you want to be a musician for a living?
The sharp realization that it would feel too strange to do anything else.
2. It’s common for musicians to be out of work for long periods of time. How can you supplement this time without work? How can you transition out of this period as quickly as possible?
I am not a “hired gun” type. I’m just not that good, honestly. First and foremost, I’m a songwriter. As a songwriter, I think that you’re out of work a lot more than the type of guys who are so great at their instruments that they basically live in the studio. I’ve learned to value getting my fingers into other artistic endeavors to shake up my creative process. The other thing I’ve learned to value is a dependable “side-hustle.”
3. As an independent artist, what have you done to successfully create music that competes with major label big budget artists? What would you have done differently? What advice would you give to other independent artists when budgeting funds?
I think the greatest way to get the best bang for your buck is to find a good producer that believes in you. In order to compete with Capital, you need great production quality. There are a lot of independent producers out there who are really great at what they do, and are working just as hard as you are to get their careers off the ground. Partner with them. Learn from them, trust them. A lot of times they have relationships with studios or other professionals that can lead to discounts on some of the larger expenses involved in making a record (i.e. mastering, mixing, studio time, pre-production).
4. How important is the choice studio/engineer when it comes to recording the music that means the most to you?
There is no more important decision when it comes to the recording process. I don’t like to think about any of the technical sides of “recording” the music when I’m in the studio. I want to focus on playing. That’s it. So I think it’s really important to have a great space, and an engineer who knows how to work it.
5. How important is image? How has social media played a role in your image and your career? What advice would you give to other independent artists?
Ugh… this question. I get why it’s an important consideration—I really do—but man I hate spending any time on it. My advice would be to spend as little time as possible on it without neglecting it. Spend the majority of your time being as great as you can be at what you do. Then, use an app like Hootsuite or Buffer at the beginning of the week to schedule all your posts at one time so you don’t have to look at it again.
6. How do you go about making connections? What is the importance of the connections you make? How do you utilize them?
A good rule of thumb is to stop thinking about making connections. A friend of mine is fond of saying, “Talk about the dip.” Meaning… if you see Willie Nelson at a party and he’s chowing down on some killer bean dip, don’t hand him a CD with your music on it, talk about how dope the dip is. But the other important part of this is, you have to actually try the dip before you say anything, or else you’re just a schmuck who’s trying to clandestinely slip Willie Nelson his demo. People see through that sort of crap. Networking is for young, neurotic marketing professionals at SXSW with a fistful of sweaty business cards and tote bags of useless garbage. In music, it’s about shared experience. Connections are important, sure, but nobody likes the person who’s always trying to “connect” or “make contacts.”