Country's Newest Superstar
Jessica Harp and Michelle Branch formed the The Wreckers for "purely selfish reasons." The result was a commercial and Grammy-nominated success. Harp is striking out on her own with a fantastic sophomore solo CD, A Woman Needs.
Harp and Branch's collaboration would result in a gold record, number one single, Grammy Award nomination and a slot opening on two of country's biggest tours of the year – Keith Urban and Rascal Flatts.
Harp was born in Kansas City to parents that treasured the art of music. It was Harp's mother who was the country fan in her household. Although her father was not a fan at the time, he is now that his daughter is taking Nashville in a solo storm.
Perhaps hoping she would find her way to rock n' roll, Papa Harp introduced Jessica to the guitar. The result was a further passion for country music – particularly at crafting songs.
"My songs are my diary"
SheKnows: Where did you find the joy of music? Did it come from your parents? Or, did you discover it on your own and they encouraged you?
Jessica Harp: It definitely came from my family. Both of my parents are huge music lovers. My dad is a musician and plays bass guitar. From my mom I got a huge love of country music. Then, from my dad, I also got singer-songwriter, blues, and rock – the whole nine. My dad (laughs) wasn't the country fan in the family. He said, 'if you're going to grow up and be a country singer, you're at least going to play guitar.' So, he bought me a guitar and taught me how to play three chords and we went from there.
SheKnows: Writing songs and having them come to you, is it a process involving that guitar? Or, is it a process that comes from having a prolific gift?
Jessica Harp: Most of my life, lyrics have come to me first. I always say my songs are very, very autobiographical. My songs are my diary. Usually, lyrical content comes first. But, now having played guitar for many years and getting a little better at it (laughs)…I wouldn't say I'm great. It definitely helps to sit down and pick up a guitar and play around. The aspect of coming up with melodies is actually something that is growing for me. I'm glad because that's something I've challenged myself to come up with melodies before lyrics sometimes.
SheKnows: I've talked to many songwriters. They do say the lyrics do come first. They can set the tone of what you're writing musically.
Jessica Harp: Absolutely. But, it can be the other way around too if you are coming up with something on that guitar (laughs).
Live and in love
SheKnows: You said your songs are like diaries, of course inherent in your job is you have to perform live. Performing these songs that are so personal, one, was it a challenge at first, or is putting yourself out there comes naturally to you?
Jessica Harp: It's always come naturally. I always feel a real bond with the audience. I've always been on stage introducing a song with 'this is something I went through.' There are so many that have gone through the same things. My favorite part of my job is standing on a stage singing a song that I wrote in my living and watching someone sing word-for-word with a look in their eye that they get it. They've been there too. Sharing that moment is the most rewarding part of my job.
SheKnows: That sounds priceless. Tell us a bit about this new CD, A Woman Needs, coming out and why the title A Woman Needs?
Jessica Harp: The title A Woman Needs, there's a song on the record. That's the title track.
SheKnows: But of all the songs on the record, why that one to make the title track?
Jessica Harp: That song one of the most special songs on the record for me. The lyrical content, it's really for women (laughs)...not for guys. It's a girl power song about finding your way in the world. Finding your path and what makes you happy. Originally I was going to call the record A Few Second Chances because there's a lyric in A Woman Needs that says, "A woman needs a few second chances." I think that's true for so many people. As you're maneuvering your way through life, I personally have had to ask for a few second chances to end up where I am at my life at peace and fulfilled with the direction my life is going. It's a very special song for me. I also tell the guys, the record is full of songs about things that women go through in their life from happiness to heartbreak to being just fine on your own. I've been telling the guys in concert, if you want to learn some things about women, go pick up the record (laughs).
SheKnows: (Laughs) That's perfect. What are your plans for the summer? You have any vacation time in there?
Jessica Harp: (Laughs) I don't see any vacation time. But, I'm extremely close with my family, so I will be sneaking away to Kansas City and getting some pool time in with my family. Other than I'm playing a lot of radio shows right now -- giving my thanks to country radio because they have been super supportive of the first single right off the bat. It's just continuing and continuing. Beyond that we are looking at touring options. I'm not sure – I'll play wherever I can.
SheKnows: As someone pursuing your dreams, being busy is a good thing.
Jessica Harp: It's a very good thing. I do like being n the studio and creating this record was an amazing process for me, but I also get a stir crazy because my favorite thing is being on a stage. I'm ready to get on the road full time.
Getting Wrecked with Michelle Branch
SheKnows: How on earth did you hook up with Michelle Branch?
Jessica Harp: Well, it's very funny. We were teenagers with independent records. We were out there, spreading the word -- both wanting record deals both wanting to be singers. We ended up having mutual fans that saw that we had similar music and similar voices. They brought us together. She and I really hit it off. Musically and personally and became very dear friends. We spend a lot of time together. She got a deal six months after we became friends. When I wasn't busy, she wanted a girlfriend on the road, so I'd hang out with her. That's when we started writing and singing together. Then a few years later, she went on a tour and asked me to sing backup. It was on that tour that we actually started playing some of the songs we'd written together. They were getting really huge response. In the back of our minds, we started joking about beginning a country duo together. It was just a joke. Michelle said, 'we've written these songs together and they're really special to us. Before you tied to a label and things get complicated you want to try make a record together. I didn't hesitate. I was proud of the songs we'd written. As far as singing together – people all the time ask if we're sisters. We have this weird sibling harmony thing going on (laughs). We made The Wreckers record selfishly. We wanted to do it for ourselves. We had no clue it would be so successful.
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