Jason Hawk Harris Bares His Soul, ‘Deals With the Mess’ on New Album ‘Love & the Dark’
The long-awaited arrival of Jason Hawk Harris' Bloodshot Records debut, Love & the Dark, introduces more than a new name and face to a broader Americana audience. Multiple tracks double as autobiographical statements about the former Show Ponies member’s recent spiritual and emotional journey. By bearing his soul, Harris quenches his growing audience’s thirst for authenticity in the most honest way possible.
“I would say that this album is a record of what my life has been like in the past six or seven years,” Harris tells The Boot, "just going from kind of being an idiot in college to going through a bunch of really hard stuff and coming out on the other end and, in some ways, still dealing with the mess.”
Before his fifth grade discovery of Queen led to DIY punk experiences as a teen and classical composing training in college, Harris’ earliest musical exposure came in church. Like many kids raised as Christians, Harris rebelled against his family’s beliefs as a young adult, only to rediscover faith without fanaticism.
To share this part of his story, Harris blends his own experiences with those of a friend on the caustic song “I’m Afraid.”
“I think that, at some point, some of the stuff I was supposed to believe, I wasn’t comfortable with it at all,” Harris reflects. “Yet there’s still this pressure from the people you grew up with and the people you grew up around to believe all of these things that just don’t quite make as much sense as they did when people were just telling you to believe them.
"When you get a mind of your own, you start to at least examine everything that you presuppose. That’s what I found myself doing for the past few years," he continues. ""I’m Afraid" is a good example of kind of where my thought process has gone because, ultimately, I’ve come back around to religion, but it looks very, very different than it did when I was 18.”
Love & the Dark's closing track, “Grandfather,” tells a darker, more personal story about the passing of Harris’ mother. In fact, it’s the bluntest example of Harris’ self-described "meta-apocalyptic country / Americana grief-grass” approach to date.
“It’s the song that predicted my mom’s death on accident,” Harris explains. “I didn’t really mean to. She died two and a half years ago, and it wasn’t unexpected, but it also wasn’t expected. She was in a bad place, health-wise, because of complications from alcoholism. She had been sober for about a year, so we kind of thought she was on the up-and-up. At the same time, when we got the call that she probably wouldn’t make it, it wasn’t a surprise.
“When I wrote this song, I was thinking about that,” Harris adds. “It was during the year she was sober, and I had been living with the reality that it’s very possible that my mom would die at a very young age and not meet my kids and not see a lot of big moments in my life. So, I included this verse in this song, and I got to play it for her before she died. That moment in general, when I shared that song with her, makes that song mean a lot to me.”
With such personal songs on his setlist and an independent streak learned from both Willie Nelson and the Dead Kennedys, Harris hits the road in September for his most ambitious tour as a solo performer. If a string of dates including multiple appearances at AmericanaFest in Nashville fails to maintain the momentum built by 2017’s Formaldehyde, Tobacco and Tulips EP, it won’t be from a lack of songwriting quality or brutal honesty.
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