Brooklyn-based musician, producer, and artist E.W. Harris creates music in the alternative-folk genre.
Harris has performed all over the globe as a futuristic romantic composer, singer, and producer, but this may not be distinct enough to satisfy the current need for authenticity in art.
Harris’s sound is uniquely his own, yet he has been likened to artists like Bon Iver, John Martyn, Jeff Buckley, and Jim James (My Morning Jacket).
Harris’s folk-adjacent musical style may be elusive since he has always been significantly influenced by songwriters as diverse as David Bowie, Björk, and John Prine, in addition to the unique musical/cultural legacies of his twin hometowns of Akron, Ohio and Athens.
We had a lengthy chat in which he spoke about his most recent album, “The Damage.” This is the second single from the upcoming album “Homunculus IV,” and features a new song.
The minimalist songwriting style of “The Damage” is influenced by post-rock and ambient electronica, and it tells a tale about the weight and presence of love and memory.
What is your real and showbiz name?
Real name E.W. Harris: Showbiz name E.W. Harris lol
What would you say is your greatest strength as an artist?
I feel like I’m a pretty good singer AND can reliably carry a lot of stuff around. That and I produce a lot of material. Most of it never gets heard, but there is a ton to go back to when I’m not feeling that creative or someone wants to collaborate. Seriously though I think my greatest strength as an artist is openness to new ideas. As Duke Ellington says “If it sounds good, it is good.”
What is your creative process when making music?
I have a lot of methods, most of them focusing on deconstructing what I like about a piece of music/painting/sculpture/film/etc and then reassembling and recombining it with other things and futzing around with that until it’s something that I like. At the end of the day, I’m really just trying to make art that I like.
How long have you been making music and what attracted you to it?
As long as I can remember. My parents are musicians and I really can’t remember not making music. I have always been attracted to it mostly for its ability to tap into visceral emotional states that are hard to get to by other means.
What is the biggest challenge you have had to overcome as a band/artist so far?
Making a sustainable living from the production of original music is one of the most difficult things you can do really. I believe everyone has within them the ability to create music that they themselves at least can love. The amount of time, money, spiritual/emotional/psychological energy, and luck required to make that support a sustainable lifestyle however is another thing entirely.
I love what I do and I like my life, but there are times (particularly as I get older) that you feel like you’ve sacrificed many potentially positive aspects of your life for this ephemeral thing.
The weight of that psychologically/emotionally/spiritually can be very difficult to bear and often leads you and those closest to you into any number of challenging situations (mental illness/addiction/depression just to name a few).
What streaming sites do you think offer the most value to a band?
That is impossible for me to say. I’m kinda old school myself and a big part of my creative process is to buy albums and listen to them over and over again.
I think most of them are more or less the same, they all wildly underpay the people who create their content with the exception of Bandcamp which doesn’t have the convenience, algorithmic sophistication, or breadth of well-known legacy content to be similarly competitive within that space.
I use them all, but it’s mostly because I feel like I have to but prefer Bandcamp for philosophical reasons.
How do you think social media or the internet has affected the music scene in your country?
In the US it has definitely had an effect. On one hand, I haven’t had to print and mail hundreds of posters in years. This is great cause it’s wasteful and expensive. On the other hand, all of the content I generate is gatekept, not by some cigar-chomping fatcat record executive, but by an algorithm designed to sell me knickknacks I may have googled one time.
Artistically it has changed the scene (especially among young artists) in that a constant stream of half-baked (albeit often virtuosic) content is created and in spite of the wealth of musical influences accessible at the push of a button, many things gain traction by their closeness to sales trends determined by that same algorithm.
It sucks, but it is some access to a lot of people who wouldn’t have had any before and I think that at least is a good thing.
What does your current song mean to you?
It’s a part of the story of Vessel 4, a Homunculus in the post-apocalyptic future. It’s meaningful to me because I can (within the context of the fictional universe) deal with feelings of isolation, memory, longing, and alienation in a way that would be more difficult to manage in a more conventional context.
As the creator of this character, I can relate to them without necessarily being them. This is connected to my feelings about artwork being the making of things I LIKE/AM INTERESTED IN rather than things I AM.
Also, it is meaningful to me in that it represents a real collaboration with Kia Eshghi and Edward Marks to arrive at something we all really enjoy.
What is one message you would give to your fans?
I would say thank you for listening. First and foremost it is you the listeners that make any of this possible. I hope you enjoy this tune as a part of the Homunculus IV album and I wholeheartedly invite you to ask me nerdy questions about the Rocket City Universe