Our eyes are on rising talent Corey Harper who will be hitting the charts sooner than later. He has been compared to John Mayer endlessly for their similar heartfelt folk-inclined ballads and has opened arena shows for mega-pop sensations Justin Bieber and Niall Horan. Harper has been in the spotlight lately, not just for his music, but also his relationship with model and actress Ireland Baldwin, and pals Cody Simpson and Bieber. Despite the paparazzi attention, Harper’s music speaks for itself.
Centering his life around musical instruments– specifically the guitar –since a young age, he has also mastered vocals and songwriting. His interest started with an “Americana-folk-rock” music style with his freshman EPs. Harper has been since exploring harmonies and pushing boundaries between discordant genres. His bio describes his approach as “traditional folk song-craft, impressive guitar work, bluesy gusto, and 21st century pop adventurousness.”
Having released his sophomore EP, Barely Put Together, on August 2019, this new undertaking digs into new sonic territory. Fusing multifarious genres, Barely Put Together is adventurous and instrumentally diverse – Harper’s tunes range from upbeat pop sounds that make you want to dance, to country-inspired bops. “I don’t really believe in sticking to one genre. My mind is always wanting to shift directions and evolve over time,” he told us. The lyrics come from his personal diary – for his newest EP, he recounts his past year in five songs, with the message that “we are better off embracing ourselves, even when we don’t have all the answers.” To learn more about his music career, we spoke to the Harper on how he gets into lyric-writing mode, and what’s next for his flourishing career. Check out our exclusive interview as well as portraits shot in New York City by Indira Cesarine.
How did you get into music?
I started listening to my parents’ records and playing anything that was around my house. My dad had a guitar, so I started out on it from a very young age.
Was it what you always wanted to do growing up?
I knew I always wanted to be an artist, I just didn’t know what I wanted to create. When I discovered the guitar, everything in my life became centered around that.
Did you study music?
I took some music classes in college, studying jazz and music production, but I spent most of my college experience in my attic writing my songs and playing guitar.
You’ve opened for stars such as Justin Bieber and Niall Horan. Can you take us back to those experiences? How was it opening for them? Was it overwhelming?
I could try and write a million responses about the experience and it will never come close to the feeling of it. I guess the closest thing I can say it that it’s a dream come true. I grew up imagining myself on these big stages with people I grew up respecting and I definitely was a huge Justin Bieber and 1D fan growing up. I got to know Justin and Niall personally when I moved to LA just through mutual friends, so it felt like I was just playing a show with my friends. They are such top-class musicians and people, and they bring such an energy to their music and stage. I felt lucky to be put in that atmosphere and let my music exist in it. Not only has it helped my career, but I’ve met such wonderful people who are involved in those camps as well.
You’ve described your sound as “Americana Folk Rock.” Have you shifted directions musically since you started your music career? Who are you biggest musical influences?
I try to write and record the things I feel at that exact moment. However it comes out is eventually what I guess people will label it as, but I don’t really believe in sticking to one genre. My mind is always wanting to shift directions and evolve over time. I think the music I listen to during the recording process affects my sound heavily, and I feel like people can see and hear that. I never want to stay stagnant, so I hope that there is an evident change. But, that being said, I feel like I bring the same energy and personal style to every song even when they do differ sonically. My biggest influences are always shifting as well. I’d say that I originally began to be inspired by the sounds of the 60s/70s era of rock and singer-songwriter music. Fleetwood Mac, The Beatles, Eric Clapton, Jackson Browne, Dylan, and more recently like Eva Cassidy, Norah Jones and John Mayer. But I’m always changing my mind, and I’m leaving out so many, but that’s a good start.
Fill us in on the inspiration for your new EP “Barely Put Together.” What inspired the title / track?
I wanted this project to reflect the fact that not everything has to be made perfect or has to really even have a deep-thinking theme. I chose songs that I had worked on over the year and tried not to overthink the whole process of creating. Since I have such a hard time trying to stick to a theme in my music, I felt the best theme was to be completely honest about the music on this project, and let the listeners in on the feeling of never really feeling like you have everything figured out all the time, and that’s okay. Someday I would love to go into a studio and make an album for my fans that is thematic and conceptual, and that represents a certain era of my life, and what I think others will connect with. But I feel right now in my life, my mind is moving too fast to focus on one thing and I’m trying new sounds out and using this time in my career to experiment so that I can set the bar for future projects. Barely Put Together explains my emotional and physical existence at most times, and I know others feel the same way.
What song in “Barely Put Together” resonates with you the most and why?
I can relate to “Best of Me” in a way that I feel most others can. One of my fears in life is not living deliberately and intentionally, but sometimes my mind can be cluttered and it’s hard for me to focus on things I wish I could. Especially with someone who I felt like I couldn’t give my full attention to at one point in my life, and I lived with that regret every day. But the song serves as a final gesture as an apology and closure for me as well as the individual. It’s the action of closing the door on the regret and moving on.
What inspires your song-writing? Any rituals to get into writing mode?
Freedom is the most important thing in songwriting. Honesty and realness. I’m inspired by those that can say the words I’ve needed for so long but way too scared to say. For me, there is no way to get into songwriting mode. I think the best way to write is to practice writing as much as you can and every day, so that when the inspiration comes, you will know exactly how to execute the feeling you have. For me, that moment only lasts about 20 minutes, but when you can get it all out, it’s a magical thing.
You’ve mentioned Fleetwood Mac as inspiration and have been compared to John Mayer endlessly. How do you feel about that?
It’s an honor to be compared to the people who have shaped my sound and who I’ve taken so much inspiration from. I just hope that I can do the same for someone else someday.
Are there any musicians you would want to perform with given the opportunity?
I’m a huge The 1975 fan right now, and I really love Matt Healy as a person as well as a frontman. I would love to write music and collaborate with him and those guys.
Do you have a favorite show you’ve played? If so can you tell us about it?
I think one of my all-time favorite shows was when I opened up for Niall at the Tabernacle in Atlanta. It’s one of my favorite venues of all time. It’s an amazing theatre that has 3 levels of balconies that are really close to the stage, and the floor is wide and goes very far to the back of the room. It was such an intense show, because of how packed it was. I feel like it was my best performance as well. The energy was spot on, and the crowd was so respectful and attentive. It was just me and my acoustic guitar and thousands of people right there up-close hearing me play songs that I wrote in my bedroom. It was a defining moment for me in my career as well as personally with myself. I gained so much confidence from it, and to be on tour with Niall was such an incredible opportunity. I’m such a big fan of that guy.
What do you have coming up we can look out for?
Listen to my new EP Barely Put Together and look out for more shows in the Fall that are in the works!
Photography by Indira Cesarine
Interview by The Untitled Magazine