by Jake Harper
Music is more than chords and percussion and isolated tunes. If there’s one thing that music in films teaches us, it’s that any sound can inspire an emotion, and that’s what lies at the core of musicianship.
Listen to the album while reading the text.
When I picked up the guitar at 16, I wanted to be Paul McCartney. My English teacher was showing me open chords and I was running home to use those and play whatever Beatles songs I could. I started a band with friends, “The Socks,” and played Paul’s bass model. Obviously this wasn’t a project built for longevity, but what I didnt realize was that when I would write songs, my voice was coming through, sharpening, as the Beatle-isms were breaking away with each new song.
My mother was the first person to incite my hyper fixation with music. She was a punk, then a new wave fan, then a grunge person by the time she was my age now. I was going to concerts with her and watching live recordings from kindergarten, and it got me thinking early on about performing. Later down the road, during the 2008 recession and in my earliest bouts of depression, listening to music became a self-medicating practice.
I pursued film in college, but it ultimately acted as a vehicle to sharpen my writing and recording abilities. Within the first semester I was everyone’s sound guy, and soon everyone’s composer. These compositions were nightmare-inducing and will make me nauseous if I talk about them for too long, but they mattered. What started out as digital string compositions became ambient and plucked works by graduation. I started experimenting with any sound and instrument I could get my hands on. Synth, dulcimer, childrens’ cat keyboard, anything. I thought about communicating the same emotions in my own music as the ones I took solace in from music I loved.
I quit my job delivering pizza in Spring 2022, and took the opportunity to release a rudimentary, folk-inspired EP called “Closet Recordings.” It was rough, but the lyrics connected, and the recordings got the message across of what kind sound I was going for. It was up to me to sharpen them on a technical level going forward.
I’m still learning and still trying to get better, but my songwriting will always take priority. My new EP, “Austin,” is based on experiences and emotions from the brief time I lived there before moving back to my native Dallas. Experimenting with lyric-writing continues to be the most fun I’ve ever had. I’m trying to channel the emotions from my experiences into the lyrics without being overly direct or literal. The lyric, “The view of Austin looked so nice as it dragged us by our feet and watched us lie,” isn’t about a specific person, it doesn’t even necessarily have to be about Austin for the listener. I want to leave enough wiggle room to where you can hear the emotion driven by the imagery and carried by the music and performance, then fill in the blanks with your own experiences. I can only hope that, as a musician, the music I make can connect with people in the way that music’s connected with me. Mindlessly tapping feet to an instrumental is on the same level to me as crying to a song’s lyrical delivery.
All that matters is that the emotion connects, and that’s all we can hope to do, music fans and musicians alike.
“Austin” is streaming everywhere now.