By Anna Letson, Multimedia Editor
With the Brooklyn skyline setting in the sun across the East River, Pier 16 was abuzz with young twenty-somethings and beer connoisseurs at the Samuel Adams Octoberfest. Singer songwriter Corey Harper returned to play in New York City with everything that has helped him grow since he played here just over a year ago. His set was fresh with the music that he has released over the past year, including his single “Favorite Part of Loving You” and his recently released “No Good Alone.” He performed revamped versions of songs from his past sets, including covers like “Angel of Montgomery” and the Fleetwood Mac classic “Landslide.”
Harper has been touring around the country these past few months playing a number of festivals and small concerts, as well as opening a handful of shows for Niall Horan on his first solo tour across the U.S. With the number of gigs he has been playing and a full band backing him, Harper’s confidence and maturity on stage has grown. Though he can only move so far from the mic stand while playing guitar, his presence does not lack due to the amount of passion that is palpable when watching him perform.
Eyes often closed, his heart is in the music and the emotion that his lyrics express. Like any skilled songwriter, Harper is a storyteller. In his original songs, he knows how to paint a picture and compose an emotion that he wants the listener to both empathize with, as well as connect to. Through his performance and personality on and off stage, Harper is about connection: with the people he is on tour with, the music that he writes and performs, and the people that help him continue to pursue his musical passion.
In the midst of a busy schedule of tour dates, meetings and gigs, Harper got on the phone with Washington Square News to talk about his past year, writing and food that he can’t stand. Read our interview with him below:
Washington Square News: The last time we really talked was about a year ago, so what have the highlights been for you over the last year?
Corey Harper: There are a lot of things that would be categorized as highlights. To try to put it into a couple key points, I feel like definitely the release… the Rockwood show was right after I released the acoustic EP and I’d been playing some songs from there. I think definitely playing the festivals this summer, Bottlerock, Bonnaroo, Sasquatch and kind of just getting out and being able to have a band with me for some more massive shows was, looking back on the last year definitely one of the high points of the music side of things for me. Definitely putting out more music, like writing “Favorite Part of Loving You,” because I really love that song. I think it has a really cool kind of, I don’t know, I think it’s like one of my favorite songs that I feel like didn’t get as much recognition as I was hoping for, but I feel like it could still have it’s, kind of like a secret weapon thing. But that was fun, and shooting the music video for that as well. And release “No Good Alone” and definitely being able to be on these shows with Niall, playing the Palladium with him was outstanding just because playing in front of that many people with an acoustic guitar. Moving into a house in Venice and getting to play music here and write music and live with a bunch of other guys in a really cool environment, and just being able to have that freedom on the music side of things, not being with a major label and still being able to make money from music that I make myself and release with people that I know really well whenever we want. I feel like the freedom of the last year musically has been a huge blessing for me. It really let me get a handle on how I want the music to be translated.
WSN: That’s awesome. You mentioned Niall, what’s that experience been like opening for a handful of his shows?
CH: It’s pretty amazing. I mean, stepping out on stage like that is insane. And having 2000 people in front of you screaming and taking photos and holding lights up in the air while you play is definitely a captivating thing. It definitely makes me so honored and really just feel like what I’m doing is important not only to myself but to other people because I see people that connect to it and that get it and understand it. It’s not like I’m spoon feeding people anything, it’s like they’re accepting it. It’s cool too because to have someone like Niall kind of have your back, someone who’s been in music for so long and been in one of the biggest young pop bands of the last, in one of the biggest pop bands ever actually, ever in the world. To have him reach out to me and do this has been great, and just to be able to know him on a personal level and as a friend is cool. And it’s also cool to see him do what he wants to do now, for him not to have any limitations on his music, his creativity and his freedom. And for him to ask me to be along with him on this journey is just incredible.
WSN: Is he someone you could see yourself collaborating with?
CH: Oh yeah, we talk about it all the time. We wanna make music. We have such similar music tastes so definitely.
WSN: Yeah definitely, I can hear that in both of your music, especially with his new stuff out.
CH: Yeah we like a lot of the same guys and we come from similar backgrounds, too.
WSN: Who else would you love to collaborate with? Is there anyone in particular?
CH: In particular… let me think. There is a lot of people I would love to collaborate with. There’s a few people who I’m been trying to think of recently who I’ve been listening to and it would be awesome to do a song like that. A good friend of mine, Noah Kahan, we’re good buddies and we both play music and play shows around the country. But, he’s a good friend of mine and I met him in Winston House when he stayed there for his artist residency and we always talk about writing music together and wanna start maybe tour together. I think we’re going to try to get some dates next year together, so yeah Noah for sure. Noah Kahan.
WSN: “No Good Alone” came out pretty recently. What has the feedback been with that song and how has it been received?
CH: Every person that’s talked to me about the record has said how it’s so much of a different style of some of the earlier stuff that I was doing. Like no slide guitar and a lot more pop rhythmic-ness to it rather than kind of the slow melancholy melodic music that I was doing on the EP, On the Run. And I feel like it kind of transcends a pathway into the kind of music that I want to create. I feel like I could do a lot better, just by, it makes making that kind of music, the world where that music lives in a lot easier to understand as far as for my own project. It makes me more excited to beat that and out do it the next time I go and make a song that has those elements. And the feedback has been great, people have said that they like the sound and they like the guitars on it which makes me happy because I’m a guitar player. So it’s always cool to hear people that are non-guitar players saying that. Like “oh this is cool that you did that” and sometimes you’re the only one that kind of gets it but people always pick that on the sound, which makes me really happy. I think it’s been really great.
WSN: Awesome! And with the singles that you’ve released this year you’ve been playing around with different sounds, adding new instruments and everything. What direction are you thinking of going next? Where do you want it to be?
CH: Oh yeah, that’s a good question. I mean, especially with being such a new artist and releasing music only in the last year and a half, there’s so many things that I enjoy about music, there are so many different bands that I listen to and if you went through my Spotify playlist you would be so confused just because of how diverse that is. But, I really want to start doing bigger productions and adding a lot keys and some electronic stuff. Not like drum-wise, but with synths and getting into some stuff like big songs like Joy Division, and I’ve been listening to Queen and David Bowie a bunch lately, so definitely more rock but still having the same singer-songwriter-y pop element to it and making it easier for listening, I guess. Not having people, not so much storytelling in the fact that I’m, you’re yelling in someone’s face but just, I definitely want a lot more theatricality and definitely doing stuff like having themes in the music and having recurring sounds that pop up and definitely trying to get more thematic based with the music. Making the music easy to listen to, if you’re a fan of mine and you’ve heard my earlier music and you hear the new stuff, I don’t want it to be like “oh, woah, are you going in a new direction?” I just want it to kind of fall into place.
WSN: Like a smooth transition into the newer stuff.
CH: Yeah, I still want there to be, I mean any music I ever make will always have my heart behind it and will always be something that I really believe in. So I think people will always be able to see that just through the music. But, I want to experiment. I want to try different sounds, play different instruments, maybe play some other instruments myself on the record and have some other people come in and play some stuff. I think there’s plenty of different directions I could go, I definitely have one that I could pinpoint right now, but just a lot of the more, I don’t know. I just kind of want to experiment with new sounds. I can hear it in my head, but I don’t know how to describe it yet because I haven’t done it. I think that someday, soon, hopefully soon when I do a bunch of writing sessions of it, it’ll come out of me and I’ll be able to make sense of it.
WSN: So, what’s your songwriting process like, then? What inspires you, what makes you sit down and how do you flesh it all out?
CH: I do a lot of writing, so I’ll write in my journal a lot and I write in my phone when I’m traveling. I put them all out on the table and look at the experiences I’ve had for the last few months or so and I really kind of dig deep inside of my brain and try to think about a lot of personal experiences that I want to talk about. Nothing crazy politically, but trying to make sense of the world right now because it’s so broken and people feel so hopeless and I definitely want to include a lot of that in the next project. Just giving people hope and giving them the will to want to carry on and want to keep going. I play guitar every day and write things down and write down melodies and then when it comes time when I’m not busy playing show and I can sit down and arrange and rearrange the jigsaw of the musicality and kind of fit it into a picture that looks nice enough to paint on the canvas, which is recording. I have a producer that I work with, Andrew Wells and my band and different writers that I’ll bring songs to and they’ll come help me map them out. It’s all just kind of one big almost like word vomit. You’re just vomiting out all of these emotion things and then sending them through a funnel that tightens things up and makes them dense and paintable and understandable.
WSN: Are you going to be releasing any new music soon? Or what can we expect next?
CH: Yeah I will be. Definitely. I don’t know when, but I know it’s soon. And that’s the worst thing to say, everyone hates when you say soon, but it is soon. I don’t know when soon, or how far soon. But let me just say that there is music being made and a lot of things that I’ve almost finished and haven’t put out yet, so yes to your question.
WSN: What are your hopes for the next year after what you’ve accomplished this year?
CH: Releasing music and being on a couple tours and playing more shows for more people and seeing the audience grow. I don’t know, buying more guitars, getting better at guitar, getting better at singing and being happy. Being happy with the stuff that I create.
WSN: Okay, now we like to do these quick-fire questions, so I’ve got about ten quick ones for you.
CH: Cool cool.
WSN: Favorite TV show.
CH: Um, right now it would be Mozart in the Jungle.
WSN: A food that you hate.
CH: Um, I tried to answer that question the other day and there’s nothing really that I hate. I would say, I don’t like… F-ck, I’m like a garbage disposal, I eat all kinds of food. There’s no food that I don’t like. So, I’ll come back to that one.
WSN: Favorite color.
WSN: What’s your favorite movie?
CH: Um, probably the Dark Night, well one of them. The one with Heath Ledger, that’s one of my favorite movies.
WSN: What’s a movie that made you cry?
CH: A movie that made me cry?
CH: Uh, what’s the last movie that made me cry? Uh, oh what was it? It was… it was something so stupid, I don’t know why I was crying about it. It was really funny, or it was funny that I was crying about it. I think I watched it on a plane, what was it? Oh, it was um, Lion.
WSN: Oh yeah, that movie made me bawl.
CH: Oh yeah, yeah.
WSN: What’s your favorite thing about the East Coast?
CH: New York.
WSN: Good answer! What’s your favorite thing about the West Coast?
CH: Los Angeles… well, no no no. I guess, when you say West Coast, I assume people mean California.
WSN: Oh, I mean the entirety of the West Coast.
CH: Oh, then I’d say the ocean. The ocean for sure.
WSN: Who is your favorite artist?
CH: My favorite artist, I mean, I guess I can’t kid myself because everyone knows this and thinks of it. Probably John Mayer.
WSN: What’s your worst habit?
CH: Chewing my fingernails, for sure. I’ve been doing it for so long.
WSN: What was the last concert you went to?
CH: The last concert I went to was, Noah Gundersen in Denver, Colorado.
WSN: An irrational fear?
CH: I have an irrational fear of glitter. I do not like glitter on me or around me.
WSN: It just gets everywhere.
CH: I get really uncomfortable when it’s around me.
WSN: Okay, now can you think of a food that you dislike or should we just scrap it?
CH: Oh, let me think. I don’t really enjoy, oh, I guess cauliflower. But people love cauliflower and I absolutely f-cking hate it.
WSN: It kind of tastes like nothing.
CH: I think it’s the most disgusting. The texture is just like it’s trying to be broccoli, but it kind of just quit halfway through. And it just sucks. It’s not even chewy and it’s not hard, and it’s not soft. It’s just awkward and it makes me cringe.
WSN: Alright, well that’s it, so if there’s anything you’d like to add before we say goodbye.
CH: Well, everyone should keep listening to my music, I guess, because I love everyone, I love all my fans and I love people that believe in me. Also, I guess, expect more music soon and expect me to be playing in your city soon. I’m going to be going on some tours that I’m excited about. Thank you to everyone!
Corey Harper can be found on Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Web.