Years before developing his own brand of confessional, cathartic country music — a sound he
describes as meta-apocalyptic country/Americana grief-grass — Jason Hawk Harris chased a
different muse as a classically-trained composer.
He was rooted in the orchestral influence of modern classical music from the 20th and 21st
centuries. He loved the theory behind the genre. The atonal arrangements, too. It all started with
a fondness for Queen, whose albums accounted for some of the most frequently-heard records
in Harris Houston household. The band sounded progressive, mixing the punch of rock n roll
with the complexity of symphonic music. From there, Harris discovered Debussy and Mozart.
He eventually enrolled in music school and graduated with a degree in composition, which he
immediately began putting to use.
After writing thousands of measures of classical music, though, Harris found himself drawn back
to the country, folk, and rock music that had soundtracked his early childhood. He'd grown up
listening to classic crooners like Hank Williams, Roy Orbison, Jim Croce, Patsy Cline, and Elvis.
That music had laid a sort of musical bedrock that couldnt be ignored. Later, after hearing
bluegrass musician Michael Daves playing a stirring guitar solo, Harris knew he needed to
somehow incorporate his country-loving childhood into his songs.
Hearing Michael Daves tackle that solo really woke me up, he remembers. There was
something wild about the way he played. He played with abandon. Something sparked in me
again — the same spark I heard when I first discovered Brian Mays guitar solo on Its Too
Late — and everything changed.
Harris began cutting his non-classical teeth with the Show Ponies, an Americana group based in
L.A. He played guitar for the band and produced most of their albums, racking up several million
Spotify streams along the way. Meanwhile, problems arose in his personal life — including a
family history of addiction, which ultimately resulted in the early death of his mother — and
began fueling Harris's need to write his own music.
Released in November 2017, the five-song Formaldehyde, Tobacco and Tulips marks Harris's
debut as a solo artist. It's an emotional EP about joy, pain, sorrow, and grief, tied together with
autobiographical lyrics and sharp, detail-rich songwriting. The record also paves the way for
Harris's full-length album, which draws a distinct bridge between his country and classical roots.
I love country music because it's built upon a collision of the sad and specific, says the
songwriter, whose music evokes comparisons to imaginative Americana frontmen like Daniel
Romano and Robert Ellis. I want to treat it like an art form. I want to show people how seriously
devastating it can really be.
Although performed with traditional country instrumentation — including acoustic and electric
guitar, pedal steel, bass, strings, piano, and the occasional harmonium — Harris #39; LP reaches far
beyond the genre & #39's rootsy influence. There are complex chords, acrobatic arrangements, and
unexpected intervals. There are cathartic songs about love and addiction. A classically-trained
composer turned country singer, Jason Hawk Harris proudly operates within his own lane,
proving that there's something stirring and compelling about musical culture clashes.