Honey Harper’s Universal Country EP manages to be weightless, but heartbreakingly huge.
The songs; some written over 10 years and others in just an hour, aren’t weighed down by agony or ache, but instead almost release the insecurities that he describes with such eloquence and honesty. Written with the help of his wife, the EP is “about the start and end” of his former band. “As a whole, the EP reflects my personality as it’s country and familiar but also future and alien.” he tells me, explaining that he’s also working on writing a book entitled “All gods are Aliens.”
“It’s hard to pin down what actually makes a flicker evolve into a song,” Honey starts, “Without sounding obnoxious, it’s really just about a feeling you get from the beginning.” Having grown up in Adel, Georgia; “a town which has a population of 5,000 and is just about as far south in Georgia as you can get,” he was exposed to country music whilst driving around listening to the radio with his father. “Because of my upbringing I think the familiarity and the memory of country music resonates with me today. But also, I like writing sad songs, and all the best sad songs are country songs.”
Slow-burning track, ‘Secret’, explains how it’s hard to fall in love, when you don’t understand what it is. Washed with melancholy and delivered with a hushed pain, the harmonies almost pine against the salted, minimalist acoustics. ‘Man Is a Luxury’ is bluesy but lovely, turning the beautiful melodies sad with distant female harmonies making the lyricism of lost love ever so real.
Parts of the EP came to fruition in various locations, from a a lake in northern Ontario, a haunted hotel room in Atlanta, and in a car at 5am in east London. “On one hand the disparity between the types of locations is intended to support the concept of the EP Universal Country as music you can listen to anywhere that isn’t strongly rooted in time and place.” he explains, and the music is as pure and raw as can be because of this. “On the other hand, the more I keep talking about these locations, the more firmly rooted in them the songs become. Lyrically the songs have nothing to do with where they were written. Musically perhaps there is a subconscious influence of energy from these places that I’m not aware of…. but don’t tell anyone.” Though a subconscious decision, it’s becoming a double-edged sword of sorts.
Previously, Honey Harper had been putting all of his focus into a previous project, only once in awhile picking up a guitar for this EP. “Every time I played them my wife would tell me I had to record them but I kept putting them aside to focus my energy elsewhere.” he says, and he finally did on his return to London after a summer in Canada. “I came home at the end of the day and played the songs for my wife. I was smiling because I knew that these were the songs to start this new project. She was smiling because she agreed with me but mostly because she had been right all along.”
To give a deeper insight into Universal Country, Honey Harper shares the places that helped to shape it.
“Each one of these photos had something specific to do with the writing of the EP. Whether it was where some epiphany happened or just an influential time and place they each visualise a moment where “Universal Country” came together a bit more.” – Honey Harper.
“Top: Champagne in LA hotel – Nov 2015. Bottom: On my phone in Atlanta hotel – Aug 2015”
“Top: Swimming in Leonard Lake in Muskoka, Ontario – Aug 2016. Bottom: Eating on deck at Leonard Lake in Muskoka, Ontario – Aug 2016”
“Top: Family Dock Dinner at Leonard Lake in Muskoka, Ontario – Aug 2016. Bottom: Writing Universal Country on couch at Leonard Lake in Muskoka, Ontario – July 2016″
“Standing in haunted hotel hallway in Atlanta – Oct 2014”
“Bambi and I getting ready to go out for the night in haunted Atlanta hotel room – Dec 2014”
“Sunrise in London 7am, about to take cab home – Feb 2015”
“Dan and I smoke out of New York hotel window, 6:45 am – June 2016”
Words by Tanyel Gumushan