Interview: Jason Hawk Harris Details Debut EP, “Formaldehyde, Tobacco, and Tulips’

Jason Hawk Harris is bundled up on this cold Nashville morning. It is almost noon, and the weather has finally climbed into the 40’s, but is posed for a dive into the single digits in the next 24 hours. And after years of living in LA, Harris is loving the feel of changing seasons.

Late in 2017, the singer released his debut EP, Formaldehyde, Tobacco, and Tulips, as an experiment. Will people take to this? The answer came quickly and resoundingly. Drawing comparisons to Jason Isbell, in both his lyrics and vocal stylings, Harris is poised to be the next big thing in americana music. There aren’t barriers. There aren’t borders. Only raw, unfiltered talent.

Recently, we caught up with Harris, and were blown away by the intellectual maturity, loving nature, and prolific outlook. If you are looking for your next favorite artist, look no farther. Below you will find pieces of a conversation that showcase the inner workings of a man radiating all of the right parts of the world. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

GSLM: Recently you released your first solo EP. What made you decide to take that step?

Harris: I feel like I had an easier route, because I wasn’t a lead singer in The Show Ponies. I had been writing songs since I was eight, but I got to the age of 22 or 23 and I was just like, “these songs suck.” Then I went through some serious pain. And sometimes, that is all you need. The songs started pouring out.

GSLM: Isn’t it amazing how that happens. The shake up. The shift in perspective. Even if it painful, change comes.

Harris: There is an old quote that says it best: “Nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future.” (Jon KrakauerInto the Wild)

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GSLM: “Give Myself to You” proclaims, “There was grace in your green eyes. forgiveness on your lips, Hosanna in your hands, and hallelujah on your hips.” Sounds like you grew up in or around a church.

Harris: I did. (Laughing) You don’t grow up in Houston, which for many people is the belt buckle of the Bible belt, without it. There are more churches than any other kind of business. I’ve always loved sacred music. I studied classical composition in school and was always attracted to Bach’s Chorale Cantatas.

GSLM: Your song “Phantom Limb” has a line that is the perfect example of songwriter envy, the “I wish I had written that” factor. The titular line says, I feel the weight of a phantom limb/I call out to you, but you don’t say shit/And I’m crying again. Can you talk about what you were thinking about the you wrote it?

Harris: I was listening to a lot of Kendrick Lamar at the time. Specifically To Pimp A Butterfly’s “The Blacker the Berry.” There is a moment at the end of the song, where he gets to the last part of the verse, and then there is this crazy instrumental daze afterwards. It socks you in the head. And you have to use it to think about what he said. I took it and applied it to that song.

GSLM: It reminds us of an old Lucero song called “Nights Like These.” Ben Nichols says, “She had a weakness for writers, And I, I was never that good at the words anyways.” And then the band steps in and kills it.

Harris: That’s funny that you say that. When we were in the studio, everything was recorded live, except for that guitar solo at the end. I was in work mode up until that point, just trying to get the song out of the way. I was listening in the headphones, waiting to come in, and I heard myself sing that line, and then the snare drum. And I was flooded with emotions. I played that. And I played it really badly the first time. Andy Freeman, the guy who produced it came out. I could tell that he wanted to comment on it, (Laughing) and I said, “Nope! Go away. Just let me do it again.” It’s a catharsis. I have no more words to tell you how I am feeling. Even the words I just told you are not enough. “

GSLM: Some craziness happened in the studio during the recording process. Tell us about it.

Harris: We had booked five days in the studio. We were doing everything live and wanted multiple takes of each song. At the end of the fourth day, we only had one more song to do. Beautiful. Perfect.

The producer took the hard drive home. He dropped it, picked it up, and thought nothing of it. He brought it back in, and it was all corrupted. It was gone. So he calls me at 12 a.m. and says, “Let me be clear, this is not a joke. I lost everything.” I remember feeling pressured. I was using a lot of my own money. He said, “I think we can do it all again tomorrow.”

We had taken four days to record four songs. The next day, we recorded five songs live. Everything on the EP was recorded in one day. Honestly, we were so well practiced, that I think that they were some of the best ones that we did.

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Harris is hitting the road for a run of dates beginning on January 18 in Nashville. The tour will conclude on February 24 at The Livery in Benton Harbor, Michigan. More dates will be announced, along with the release of his full album later this year.

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Jason Hawk Harris Tour

1/18 Nashville, TN – The Country

2/15-16 Kansas City, MO – Folk Alliance International

2/20 Ann Arbor, MI – The Ark

2/21 Lake Orion, MI – 20 Front Street

2/22 Lansing. MI – Robin Theater

2/23 Spring Lake, MI – Seven Steps Up

2/24 Benton Harbor, MI – The Livery

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