Nashville by way of Alabama musician JP Harris is pretty clear about what type of music he plays – country music. His most recent release, 2014’s Home Is Where the Hurt Is, hearkens back to the genre’s classic era with tales of hard livin’ and heartache. The self-taught musician promises to bring the honky-tonk to Vermont for his inaugural Tweed appearance.
Harris spoke with us about why he enjoys playing festivals, how location and community have influenced his music and why he’s an “old-fashioned” kinda guy.
This is your first time playing the Tweed River Music Festival. What, if any, expectations do you have for the experience?
Seeing as it’s basically a family reunion of bands, I’m expecting a good hangover.
Are there any particular artists that you are particularly excited to see perform at Tweed this year?
All of the artists on the bill are excellent, so I’ll be happy with whatever I catch!
Vermont is a haven for outdoor sports and activities year-round. Are there any outdoor sports/activities that you especially enjoy when you’re not working?
Downhill extreme tarp-sledding is an age-old fave, but seeing as it’s out of season I’ll probably stick to nighttime skinny dipping.
What is your favorite Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor?
Haha…call me old-fashioned but I’m really a vanilla ice cream kinda guy.
Do you think differently about festival shows than you do about regular shows?
Yes, definitely. At music festivals, an artist is truly allowed to perform in what feels more like a short-term autonomous reality…an alternate world of sorts. The fans in attendance aren’t worrying about catching the last train home after the gig, where their designated driver went off to, any of the things that taint the high of seeing a band live. And knowing this always gives a band a little more freedom to cut loose or be a little wilder in their performance than usual.
Tweed has always been a festival that is built around community. How would you describe the music community in your home town/town where you live? How has it, if at all, influenced your music?
Living in Nashville, I feel like my music has grown directly out of the support and recognition of the musicians and artists around me. Nothing pure or real has ever come from an artist who’s career was built out of thin air; by money and power as opposed to the professional, personal, and life lessons learned in working within an artistic community. Music festivals are an awesome way to involve the fan base side of the arts and music world and merge the whole picture into one community, if even for a short while, and truly make the circle complete.
How does “location” fit into your songwriting?
Having travelled so much for so many years, I am definitely influenced by my natural surroundings as well as the man-made impressions left in a region. The minutia of every days’ locale is like the inflection of a word, and the larger picture of a landscape (urban or rural) is the song as a whole. For me being creative is picking up the small details you find in snippets of others’ lives and putting them into your own story…so the things you find around you at any given time influence that very much.
Here is Harris and the Tough Choices doing what they do best — honky-tonking through a song called “Give a Little Lovin’.”
Tweed River Music Festival is less a showcase for bands and more a celebration of everything that great music embodies: the deeply personal link between artist and fan, the spirit of community and cooperation and, yes, the magical atmosphere of a great show in a stunning setting.
Set on a bucolic swath of land nestled between the Green and Northfield Mountains in the Mad River Valley in Waitsfield, VT, the 2015 Tweed River Music Festival will host more than 30 acts, including staples such as Bow Thayer, Tim Gearan, Andrea Gillis, White Dynomite and The Curtis Mayflower, while also welcoming Bloodshot Records recording artist Lydia Loveless, Vermont natives Waylon Speed and Alligator Records recording artist (and Boston native) Jesse Dee. Other great musical acts include Joe Fletcher, JP Harris and The Tough Choices, Caitlin Canty and ANTI Records recording artist Christopher Paul Stelling.
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.