Alt-pop singer-songwriter, Harper (born Sam Harper), recently released her debut EP entitled, Velvet EP. Produced by songwriting and production team, Eagleye, her eclectic debut does not shy away from experimenting with style and sound. Gifted with a gorgeous voice, she passionately explores her diverse influences, deftly moving from alt-pop and dubstep, to folk and rock.
The Winehouse Mag had a chat with the Bristol born 20-year-old about her influences—#QueenBey, songwriting, and her dark side. Chaka V.
TWM: You have such a belting, fantastic voice. When did you start to understand that you could really sing?
Harper: I really found my voice at the age of eight or nine, when I discovered the power ballad and huge voices like Celine Dion and Mariah Carey–all the classics! I used to practise for hours after school until it tired me out. I remember my mum singing along downstairs and it would drive me mad…”Why are you trying to join in? Stop singing!”
As I got older I fell in love with R&B music, and it all became a “riffing” challenge—trying to copy Beyoncé to the note. But it’s not until now that I’ve really found the power in my voice and my own identity, probably due to writing my own music.
TWM: When did you start songwriting? And explain how important songwriting has been to your experience as an artist and finding your voice as an artist?
Harper: Songwriting is my one true love, lyrics in particular. I started writing at a young age, mainly poetry and short stories. They were obviously terrible but at the time I used to get lost in my imagination, [I] still do. I began to write songs when I was about 13. I’d download really bad quality instrumentals from the internet, use Sound Recorder on my PC, and a beat-up old microphone to put down melodies. It’s hilarious to look back at all the hard work I put in; to record harmonies I’d have to record over the whole track again for each part. #TooFunny.
In terms of finding myself as an artist, my songwriting is probably the most definitive thing about me. I will never write a song that doesn’t mentally stimulate me. The process is always highly creative and I try to be as clever as I can without getting too carried away with metaphors.
TWM: Which artists or albums have played an influence on your sound and style?
Harper: I have a few artists that I adore infinitely. Though quite diverse, my influences include Beyoncé (obviously), Miguel, Björk, Radiohead and Kate Bush, to name but a few.
TWM: You write your own music but if you could remake one song, which song would it be? And why that song?
Harper: Wow, what a great question! There are so many songs that I love and wish I could’ve written and performed, but I would most like to remake “Running Up That Hill” by Kate Bush. It’s one of my all-time favourites. The lyrics are so powerful and the 80’s vibe gets me every time.
TWM: How was it working with Eagleye?
Harper: I love the Eagleye boys to death! We’ve become a really strong team together and I enjoy every session with them. As I’ve only worked with them in the last year or so, we’ve come to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and I strongly believe we have the winning pop-masterpiece-creating formula.
TWM: Why did you name the EP the Velvet EP? It’s a great title!
Harper: The EP is named after the lead track “Velvet.” The reason behind this is that “Velvet,” as a track, really encapsulates me as an artist. And as this is my first EP I wanted it be known for what I think is my greatest piece of songwriting to date (if I say so myself).
TWM: What feel did you want for this first EP? Did you have an idea of a tone you wanted to carry throughout or were you more interested in experimenting with different sounds, styles etc.?
Harper: When myself and Eagleye were creating the EP we found ourselves not following one particular sound but dabbling with a variety. We all have different tastes and I think the music we’ve made has a piece of us all. Over the space of a year we produced over 30 different tracks in a plethora of different styles. The tracks that made the EP are the ones that really felt right and true to team Harper.
TWM: You like to infuse your lyrics and music with a darker undertone, where does that desire come from?
Harper: I don’t really know where the darkness in my music comes from. I’ve always enjoyed musicals and that huge explosion of sound you’re hit with. I think it’s the emotional impact I relish, and perhaps it’s that flare for the dramatic and atmospheric side of music that I try to evoke in my material. The darker tones I depict in my lyrics come mostly from life experiences and things I’ve seen along the way. I suppose you could see it as a type of therapy—a way to tell my story.
TWM: When can we expect a full release from you?
Harper: The EP is streamable via SoundCloud at the moment, but there will be an official release very soon, along with two incredible music videos. Then my first ever single is to follow. So keep your eyes peeled and finger on the button as it’s all happening very soon!