Harp Samuels: Having full freedom over the artistic integrity is so liberating | Interview
by Olga Knapinska
Couple of months ago I had a pleasure of getting in touch with one of my favourite emerging musicians from Australia. His name is Harp Samuels and he is one of the most inspiring artists that I know; he is also a photographer and a true Renaissance man.
Right now he’s preparing to release another EP, which I already cannot wait for, and he was kind enough to talk to me about his inspirations, stories behind songs from Getting There EP, and his life as an independent artist, which could influence a lot of DIY artists out there, who struggle with releasing music on their own.
Your EP came out last year. What has changed since then in your life?
Wow… So much! My style musically and artistically + my life and outlook on life. Since then I’ve been recording and growing a lot, and having some really exciting opportunities musically and artistically, as well as selling my place to spread my wings and travel a bit.
What story does your EP tell us?
The EP is called ‘Getting There’ and it’s really the idea of being on the journey of where you’d hope to be emotionally, spiritually, and physically. I’m a big believer in looking at like from the end and working backwards, i.e. imaging you’re on your death-bed, then figuring what it is you regretted not doing, then doing that! Each song has ‘getting there’ in the lyrics somewhere, but also their own title. It’s really also about trying to see the light at the end of the tunnel and finding hope in any circumstance.
Which song from ‘Getting There’ was the hardest to write and record?
I think ‘Lonely’ was a harder one for me, because it’s a vulnerable thing to do to admit loneliness or weakness (maybe it’s a guy thing?) and I decided to just go with it and write from my heart without holding any information about my feelings or life. It’s definitely redemptive once you’ve released something like that, because now I feel comfortable with strangers, or people at a gig hearing intimate details of my life.
Do you remember the day when you thought for the first time “actually, my music is valuable and I am ready to show it to people?” Did you have that groundbreaking moment or was it a natural thing to do for you, to perform and express yourself in that way?
I’ve had a few of those moments. I think when you play a new track to a friend in your room, to see what they think, and they really connect with it or get something out of it, you realise that you want it to reach a wider audience, and connect with anyone who’s in the same place that I was when I write the track.
Are you completely a DIY artist?
At the moment I am. I’ve been offered a publishing contract for my track “Taken by Beauty” and I have also been scouted over “Ghost-town”, so things could change pretty quickly! I’m definitely open to taking the right record deal or working with the right management. I’ve worked for myself of a while now, so it’s also something you get used to.
What do you love the most about being a DIY artist?
I love that you have full freedom over the production, lyrics, and artistic integrity. If you want to write and record a 7 minute piece that has no structure (which I am, by the way), you can! The freedom is so liberating. I think that it shows with artists that get full control over their product, that it has so much of them in there!
I know that, other than making excellent music, you’re also a photographer. Do you think those two passions of yours are strongly connected in some way? Does it help to be artistically versatile?
Yes, I am. I’ve exhibited work all around Australia, won awards, and also shot a few music videos. I would absolutely say that there’s a connection there. Even being able to shoot your own album cover or paint a poster can really tie everything together. At some point, I’d like shows to combine imagery, music, and film to be a completely immersive experience!
How does your creative process look like? Are you more of a “leave me alone and let me create art from my head” kind of person or do you find yourself an artist mostly inspired by your surroundings?
I do spend a lot of time alone and a lot of time with people. I work on pieces by myself, but draw a lot of inspiration from the stories people tell and the things that are happening in my life or the lives of my friends. Obviously relationships are a huge thing to draw from… ‘Taken by Beauty‘ was inspired by a gorgeous dancer I was dating, ‘Ghost-town‘ was inspired by addiction + depression, ‘Change‘ was inspired by the proactive life choices I’ve been making in the last year, etc… I draw from a lot of stuff!
You’re fro Australia. It’s a country full of surprises, especially for someone from Europe or from the US – but how do you use your background and origin in your art? Do you feel artistically bounded with the place that you come from?
I’m a dual citizen of Australia and New Zealand, my parents are Kiwis… It’s interesting that belonging to two countries has kinda made me feel like I don’t belong in any particular country, and I really feel like I could settle anywhere in the world. I don’t have a strong connection with any culture in particular, I like to draw from the best parts of different cultures. I’ve been to Africa, India, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Europe, Canada, America, New Zealand (like a billion times) and a few more, so I have found it such a rich experience to learn and try to assimilate the best of what each place has to offer.
If you could choose one artist that inspires you, who represents a completely different musical style, who would it be?
I’m a huge fan of Efterklang, from Denmark. They do a crazy combination of music, that’s quite different to what I do, but very very awesome.
I also think David Byrne is another one, his live performance style, and artistry is so different to mine and so interesting to me!
Any Australian music, other than popular acts like Chet Faker or Josef Salvat, that you would recommend to me and my readers?
I’m excited about what Matt Corby’s doing. I think also Little May, Vance Joy, and The Jezabels are really killing it. So many great artists here!
Lastly, what are your plans for the rest of this year? Are you planning on releasing new music soon? Maybe going on a little tour?
I am doing a new EP at the moment. It’s much fuller than the last one, and very different thematically. It’s really an exploration of love, but not in a corny or typical way.. It kinda goes into concepts like ‘needy love,‘ ‘lost love,‘ ‘fear of falling in love‘ etc, so it’s an interesting one to write and record!
I’m off overseas mid-year, and I’ll be playing a few gigs here and there. I’m hoping to arrange more a world tour next year (fingers crossed), so that’ll be interesting!