Jess Harp / Courtesy photo
Local music fans, now that live shows are starting to happen with more regularity, more local artists will be releasing records this year. Support bands and buy their music if you are able. If you’re seeing a live show, buying tickets early lets the venue know to keep booking your favorite bands. It also helps boost an artist’s social media presence if you like, share and comment on their posts. Keep your eye out for some great local releases in the coming months.
Fayetteville songwriter Jess Harp was starting to take off in 2019. He’s finally about to release his debut EP Jessy Baby Forever on Gar Hole Records. I think it’s up there with Memphis Pencils and SW/MM/NG as some of the best indie rock to come out of Fayetteville. Now that he’s got some shows booked to support the record, hopefully he can also become a flagship artist. Jess’ band is filled with Arkansas music staples, and one listen to his song “Nick Drake” will hook you. Jessy Baby Forever is full of breezy charm, and is as easily accessible as Snail Mail or Bonny Doon.
Don’t miss the EP release show on Saturday, May 7 at Smoke & Barrel Tavern with Adam Faucett.
Who: Jess Harp EP release with Adam Faucett
When: 8:30 p.m. Saturday, May 7
Where: Smoke & Barrel Tavern
Tickets: $10 at Eventbrite
More: Facebook event page
I asked Jess some questions about music and tried to get him to take sides in the long-running Cats vs. Dogs debate. Here goes…
Hi Jess. How would you describe your music to a stranger?
I just tell people my music is alternative rock, or I just say it’s guitar music. The EP is songs that I wrote 3-5 years ago and it’s just like bedroom singer-songwriter alt rock.
You have a distinctive voice, when did you start singing? What songs did you first sing along to, and when did you start writing your own songs?
I guess I started singing songs my parents would play or I would hear on the radio or whatever. Also always sang along to hymns at church from a young age. Some first songs I sang along to would be like “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” or just Southern Baptist hymns, I guess. I started writing little melodies and chord progressions 5 or 6 years ago around the time I was trying to learn guitar.
Your musical influences seem to be name dropped on your song “Nick Drake.” Who are some other influences of yours?
The Microphones, Girls (Christopher Owens) and Vashti Bunyan come to mind.
You’re about to release your debut EP on Gar Hole Records. How long have you been working on it? Who is playing on it with you? Is there a story from the recording you’d like to share?
Well, the songs are pretty old to us by now, and we recorded it in late 2019 to early 2020, I believe. COVID kind of messed up a lot for our timeline on that. My band did all the tracking for the EP – James Williams on lead guitar, Hayden Williams on bass and Dick Darden on drums. They’ve also all helped out with some songwriting and getting the songs from my rough ideas into rock songs. Plus, they all did some backup vocals.
Do you have any release shows coming up?
So far we have a little 3-day run planned to kick off the album – May 5th at White Water Tavern in Little Rock, the 6th at Maxines Live in Hot Springs and the 7th at Smoke & Barrel in Fayetteville.
Where are your favorite places to play in NWA?
Favorite places to play were definitely Backspace and LaLaLand, but sadly we lost both of those venues the past couple years.
Are there any current venues you’re wanting to play? Any Arkansas bands you’re wanting to do a show with?
I’ve always wanted to play the George’s main stage or The Momentary in Bentonville would be cool. I would love to play a show with Bones of the Earth. I think that would be a sick show.
Are you a cat or a dog person?
I am a mixed cat and dog person. Grew up with dogs, but have only lived with cats the last long while so I have a lot of love for both.
What are your plans for 2022?
This year I’m hoping to do some light touring. Maybe a couple week-long trips or something like that. I’ve never gone on tour and having COVID change the timeline of our release, it would be really satisfying to be able to go play our songs for some new people.
What’s something that’s been bringing you joy lately?
Moving into a new place has been really nice for me and just growing relationships with my loved ones has been something that has held me together lately.