Harper Grae – Dear Daddy
By: Jamie Steinberg
Q) How would you describe your sound?
A) That’s a hard question. For me, I’m all about creating authentic sounds. I grew up on Johnny Cash and Hank Sr. So, I definitely had some traditional country undertones to my work as well as the lyrical content. I love writing from an experiential perspective and writing good story songs as well. So, my sound is definitely a mixture of up-beat dance, but also mixing in some heartbreak whether that is from relationships or family turmoil.
Q) Who are some of your musical influences?
A) Definitely Hank Sr. and Reba McEntire. Brandi Carlisle is a huge influence as well. I love a lot of her music. I think I always go back to the little girl in a rural town in Alabama that used to cry listening to “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.” So, I think Hank Sr. plays a big part in my life.
Q) Where do you get the inspiration from for your lyrics?
A) A lot of my inspiration (pretty much 100%) is mostly from my experiences. “Dear Daddy” is a song that started out as a letter that I wrote to my dad. So, it’s all 100% true. The song “Free” came from me sitting down one morning and journaling. I was thinking about the idea of what true freedom looks like and how it must feel to really push past boundaries that society places on you. Sometimes I feel like people put you in boxes (or they do me at least) and if you’re not careful you can conform to that. Like I said, I write from an experiential perspective and I write from a place of honesty and truth.
Q) Talk a little bit more about the story behind your song “Dear Daddy.”
A) I wrote a letter to my father a few years ago. It was right after I got off the TV show “The Glee Project” and I was kind of in a place where I was like, “I’m the child, but I’m going to reach out to my father and see if we can have a relationship.” I ended up writing this letter and I never sent it to him because at the end of writing I kind of talked myself out of it because I was like, “I’m the child. I shouldn’t have to do this.” So, I let that letter just kind of sit in a box for a few years. One year I was moving apartments in Nashville and found it. I had a songwriting session with the legendary Pat Alger and I decided to take the letter into him. I thought maybe we could use that letter for inspiration because Pat and I come from a very similar background – a small town with hardly any relationship with our dads. What ended up happening was “Dear Daddy” the letter turned into “Dear Daddy” the song. Pat is a virtuoso on the guitar and he really crafted what “Dear Daddy” has become. The iconic guitar riffs are all Pat. It started out as a letter and ended up as a piece of my heart in song.
Q) What is your song writing process like?
A) For me, I’m actually the singer-songwriting who is sitting in every coffee shop in Nashville singing to my voice memo very low. I’ll write a lyric down and that’s where my songwriting start – by myself in coffee shops. I’ll just start journaling and then melodies will come to me. I’ll put out the voice memo on my iPhone and start singing it kind of softly. It’s anywhere from seventeen seconds to a few minutes of just me talking to myself or singing to myself. I’m pretty sure people think I’m crazy. [laughs] It starts there and I’ll take that voice memo home and start to fine tune it. From there, it starts to become an idea and if I’m going into a writing session with a co-writer I always like to have a solid idea – whether it is a melody or song idea itself. I don’t like to come into songwriting completely empty. Some people do well in that aspect. I start Googling things and YouTubing “America’s Got Talent” if I start with nothing. So, I definitely start out by myself and then take that with writers and start to collaborate
Q) How much of a hand do you have in the production side of your music?
A) I have a pretty big hand. I’m there from start to finish. I think that’s really important to me as an artist not only in the writing world, but also in the production world. So, I definitely let the producers do their thing, but I’m in there every step of the way from storyboarding to pre-production to vocals to harmonies and figuring out instrumentation and musicality. I really want my listeners to have an emotional experience with my music, whether it is streaming tears or laughing, smiling and dancing with their best friend. I think that all begins with a song, but it really does end with the actual sound of it, too.
Q) What can fans expect from a live Harper Grae performance?
A) Lots of energy and lots of emotion. They are going to go from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows because I kind of lived this whole Lifetime movie story. I was afraid to tell that story, but a lot of my new music is telling those stories and I’m going to be performing that. There are going to be those moments of just baring my heart in front of everyone, but there are also going to be those moments of empowerment. I really want people to leave my show feeling empowered and they can conquer anything in front of them – whether it is getting a higher score on a test that is kicking their butt right now or they are wanting to make a healthy decision in a really toxic relationship with their mother or father. We’re gin got talk about real stuff and I want people to feel empowered when they leave. I want them to feel encouraged and loved.
Q) What did you take away from your time on “The Glee Project” that has carried with you since then?
A) Lea Michele, on the very first episode, I ended up winning a homework assignment and she was my mentor. I had to sing “Here I Go Again” and it has that big note. The homework was that I got to sing the big note. With my vocal range, she was worried I wasn’t going to be able to hit it and she didn’t know that I was a big belter so I could hit it. I kind of hesitated because when I was on that show I was still coming into my own as a person and artists. She looked at me and said, “I’m pretty sure that you can hit this, but don’t show everybody all of yourself all at once.” I think that has been a truthful moment for me as an artist. I do have a lot of story to tell, but that doesn’t mean everyone has to hear it all at once. Reveal yourself in stages like an onion. Peel back the layers when the moment calls for it. Going back to my show, what I want to convey in a lot of my shows is that these stories are going to be different that you are hearing. There is not going to be one that is alike. Something cool I do with my band is a jam session where we have no idea what is going to come out and what we are going to sing is going to be true and unique to that crowd that is there. I think that’s important as an artist to still have fun and reveal yourself in those moments. It was definitely a big learning moment from Lea Michele – not to reveal all of myself at once.
Q) Can we expect an EP or album in the near future?
A) October 2017 it is going to be revealed to the world! We’re finishing up right now and about a month ago we started pre-production. We’re doing slow releases of some songs that are on it and it will be released in October. We’re going to have a tour to support that as well. We’ll probably be releasing that in the month of September.
Q) You are a part of social media. Do you enjoy the instant fan feedback you receive to your music?
A) Oh wow! It’s awesome. With “Dear Daddy,” I wasn’t exactly sure how people would respond to that. It ended up being this song that so many people (unfortunately) could relate to and the feedback I was getting put into perspective to me that, yes, this is story, but this is your opportunity to help others heal. I have healed from this part of my life. I think that’s also very important to know about me is that the songs I sing about are experiences that I have healed from because I don’t like to sing about things I’m still going through. With “Dear Daddy,” the amount of people who reached out to me on Instagram and DM’d me – I love to respond to people and have conversations with my fans. The amount of people who were sending me these longs messages of how “Dear Daddy” spoke to them and was helping them – I don’t know the word for it. It’s probably some long Italian word that they would pronounce a lot better than me. [laughs] It’s incredible how music can heal.
Q) Who would you most like to collaborate with on a song?
A) That probably changes monthly and right now every time I have my headphones on my ears I’m listening to Mumford and Sons and imagining us…I’m so weird. I’m telling you the truth. I’m imagining us doing a collaboration at the CMA’s and it is epic in my mind! It’s funny you ask that. There are red silks involved and awesome dancers and fire. It’s pretty rad! [laughs] They probably don’t know who I am from Adam, but it’s like one of their songs from their first album that I continue to listen to.
Q) What do you want to be sure fans know about your new music?
A) I’m just excited to show this side of myself. I don’t know if my fans really know who I am and this first piece of music that I’m going to be releasing is going to show a big piece of who I am and who I have become since “The Glee Project” and where I’m going. I’m so excited to share that with everybody. I hope it does well, but if it doesn’t that’s fine too because it’s nothing but honesty.
Q) What would you like to say to everyone who is a fan and supporter of you and your music?
A) I would just want to thank them for all the support and following me and being a part of the journey. It really does mean more than I could ever put into words. I was raised by my grandmother so she’s like my mom and I was telling her how everyone has become such a huge part of this journey. It’s not just me. It’s not just my team in Nashville. It’s every person who listens to this and buys the music and streams the music. Especially the people who are being healed by the music that I am writing. I just want to thank them and thank them for being a part of this because it takes all of us.