I met Jason Hawk Harris in the summer of 2018 at the Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco. He was the middle act supporting Sarah Shook & the Disarmers (I was the opening act) – and I immediately warmed to him. Friendly, kind, the kind of guy you could pour your heart out to – or just chill and have a whiskey together. This was a few months before Bloodshot Records would sign him. A year and a month before his album would be coming out. And a night where I saw the crowd lose their minds for this impressive new talent that is poised and ready to take the country world by storm.
His new album Love and the Dark comes out on Aug 23rd and is a intricate mix of dramatic ballads and rowdy boot-stompers that draws a lush portrait of a man haunted by family loved and lost, while wrestling with his own mortality. Thankfully Jason has the chops to take us on the journey with him. This album is an easy win for fans of Sturgill Simpson, The Vandoliers, Waylon Jennings, and Drive-By Truckers.
Standout songs for me were:
I’m Afraid: A driving psychobilly treatise on his relationship to American Christianity.
Phantom Limb: A song that perfectly captures the sad nostalgia of loss and mourning of a loved one without feeling over-sentimentalized. It’s a breath of fresh air to hear this song and know you’re not alone.
Confused: A surefire crowdpleaser of a song where you can feel yourself falling in love on the dance floor while kicking up the sawdust.
Recently Jason made some time to chat with me about ‘Love and the Dark,’ touring, his influences, and more:
Hey Jason – well this is a pretty big deal – new album hooray! Are you excited?
Jason Hawk Harris: To say I’m excited would be an understatement. Been waiting for this day a long time.
CE: You really blew the crowd away when I played with you and Sarah Shook last summer – what is your favorite story from the road for that tour?
JHH: I don’t remember stories so much as I do conversations. I really enjoyed hanging out and talking with Sarah and the rest of the disarmers. They’re great people who took a chance taking me out as an opener for that tour.
CE: Speaking of that tour – our SF show (as an example) got lauded / promoted as a queer country show – how was that for you and how do you see yourself as an ally to the LGBTQ community?
JHH: It was just fine for me! I am among the most privileged folks on the planet. I try to make sure I’m not the loudest voice in the room, and that I’m boosting the signal of LGBTQ leaders, and following their lead in how they want to fight the fight for broader acceptance in this country.
CE: Legend has it that you got connected to Bloodshot Records via a showcase you did at Folk Alliance – was that your first Folk Alliance or was that a conference you’d been to a bunch of times?
JHH: It was my first time there as a solo artist. I’d been there a number of times with the band I was in before, the Show Ponies. It’s a crazy time. Reminds me of a college party but with a bunch of mature adults who play beautiful music in dingy hotel rooms.
CE: Bloodshot is such an iconic label – whats it like being a part of that musical family?
JHH: I couldn’t be happier. I’ve known about Bloodshot for a long time, I never anticipated getting to be a part of the fam—and it’s very much a family. All the artists are really great to each other and the folks that run the label are incredible to their artists. They do everything they can for their artists and they’re more interested in creative longevity than flashes in the pan.
CE: Who are some of your musical influences / heroes? Past and present
JHH: I have too many influences to name but my heroes of the past are probably Freddie Mercury, Judee Sill and George Jones, and my heroes of the present are numerous but three big ones would be Perfume Genius, Amanda Shires and Daniel Romano.
CE: The album is just so layered, lush, and real – what inspired these songs and brought them to life for you?
JHH: A lot of pain, and a lot of love. Specifically, I think it’s the experience of both of those in vast quantities that led to the album ending up the way it did.
CE: What was the most recent album you downloaded / purchased? If you DO buy the analog version – what’s your format of choice?
JHH: Always Vinyl. The most recent record I bought was Aimee Mann’s “Mental Illness.”
CE: Do you consider yourself a music nerd? If so – what’s one thing you think people should know about music (or an artist)?
JHH: eh… not really. You like what you like. Enema of the State by Blink-182 is one of my favorite records, so I wouldn’t call my self a music snob by any means. Maybe one thing I would say is that you probably like more than you think, and exposure to stuff you wouldn’t normally listen to can really expand your horizons in ways you wouldn’t expect.
CE: What do you think most regular folks would be surprised about re: the life of a professional musician?
JHH: That it’s really really hard to live a healthy lifestyle on the road. You have to be committed to it on a really serious level. I still haven’t gotten there yet. I’m working on it.
CE: What are your top three bucket list items as a musician?
JHH: Hmm… I have one. I just want to sing a song with Tanya Tucker. Even if it’s just me and her in a living room. That would be incredible.
CE: What do your touring plans for 2019 / 2020 look like? Any place that you’re the most excited to hit?
JHH: I always love hitting the PNW. The weather there is my favorite kind of weather. I’ll be touring a lot in the remainder of 2019 and all of 2020. You can find all the dates at my website’s tour page.
CE: Thanks so much for your time – I can’t wait until the world discovers how awesome your new album is!
JHH: Thank you for all the support! And I hope people enjoy the record as much as you have.