George Harper Interviews

Interview - George Harper Series
Part I
George Harper Interview
Who Is George Harper? ***

Think in English (T): What I thought would be a good thing to start with is for those people that don’t know who you are how would you describe yourself? Who is George Harper?

George Harper (GH): Nathan, George Harper is a guy that was born in Nashville, Tennessee and grew up there and I put a guitar in my hands for the first time when I was about 12 and never really ever took it out. I’ve always played and just like a thousand other guys or ten thousand guys in Nashville… I mean, everybody in Nashville was born with a guitar in their hand and it’s nothing special there. And you’ve gotta be humble in Nashville because if you start thinking that you’re the best or that you’re good even, there’s a lot of guys following you that’ll show you just how ‘good’ you really are.

Th: Yeah.

GH: And I’ve been able to make friends in the music business, not necessarily in the music industry end of it but in the music…musicians end of it. I’ve been able to… I’ve had the fortunate opportunity to be invited and get to play in jams with some – y’know – very special people. I’ve played with John Prine. I’ve played on stage with John Paul Jones, Dierks Bentley, Marty Stuart. I’ve played on the Grand Ole Opry and the list goes on and on of these wonderful things that I’ve had the opportunity to do. But I’m just very average when it comes to what’s goin’on in Nashville. I’m maybe even below average.

Th: Yeah. And for people that aren’t from the States, is there an easy way to explain why Nashville, why that area, is such a…. I guess you could say a ‘Mecca’ for great musicians. Has it always been that way?

GH: Yeah, it really has. But I would say that in the last 20 years they’ve had an influx of music from all genres. Sheryl Crow lives there now. Peter Frampton lives there. Every day I hear somebody else is living in Nashville. And they come there not just because the music’s good, it’s because all the picker are good. There’s so many real good musicians and although there’s not a lot of places like pubs or bars that pay a lot of money for bands because there’s so many musicians it’s still a place that you like to be because you enjoy the music being so good.

Th: Sure, sure, sure. You said you’re from Nashville, but I believe you’re from a town right outside Nashville, is that correct?

GH: I was born in Nashville and I grew up in a town just north of Nashville called Goodlettsville and I still live very close to there in a suburb called Union Hill. And it got its name from the Union troops occupying it.

Th: OK.

GH: And there’s a lot of Union Hills in the South ’cos the Union Army would take the hills and… so they could overlook the valleys.

Th: Sure.

GH: So, there’s a lot of Union hills but I live in Union Hill and it’s about 20 miles north of Nashville.

Permissions obtained from Think in English. Transcripts from Think in English Issue 143

Interview - George Harper Series Part II
Good Music is Good Music ***

Th: And you said you started playing guitar at the age of 12. Are there any other instruments that you play?

George Harper: Oh, yeah, man. I play all the brass instruments and I play fiddle and banjo and mandolin and – y’know, just – I try to get my hands on anything that… If you’re a musician then you figure out what to do, how to do something with any instrument. Y’know, you figure it out. You might not ever become a great player on any of them, but you figure it out.

Th: And why did you decide to start playing a guitar at 12? Was it the family… a family thing or...?

GH: Oh, yeah, man. When I was a kid we listened to Flatt and Scruggs. They had a show on TV and we would listen to that and my brother was really my major influence. He loved the way Uncle Josh played that dobro and it was… it was Flatt and Scruggs until the Beatles came out. And when the Beatles came out everything else stopped. And from then on it was rock and roll in our house. And it wasn’t until I became an adult that I started realizing the beauty back of that bluegrass and roots sound. And it wasn’t until I was in my… probably I was in my 40s when I decided that that’s what I wanna to do. And I wanna put down the big amplifiers and I don’t wanna haul that heavy stuff and I wanna bring a guitar and a small P.A. and that’s what I wanna do and I don’t want all those loud drums and I don’t wanna hurt people’s ears. I wanna… I wanna do something pleasant, more pleasant, and easier to listen to, which I think acoustic music offers, yeah.

Th: How would you describe your music now? I mean, I guess you could describe it as Americana, bluegrass, country. But from whatI’ve heard of your I’ll Be Back album and the No Smokin’ in Here album is the wide variety of influences from rock to country to bluegrass and Americana. How would you yourself describe the type of music that you play?

GH: Man – y’know – when I write songs sometimes I’m in the mood to write…I won’t never know until I start to write it, but sometimes I come up with a bluegrass jig or a rock-and-roll ditty or a country idea and if I start to strum and have a chord progression that I like it doesn’t matter to me what it sounds like. To me good music is good music. I had just as soon sit and listen to an orchestra as I had listened to Led Zeppelin or go over here and listen to The Grascals or go over here and listen to Vince Gill. If it’s good it’s good and I try… I try not to write anything that I don’t like. And I feel that if I like it somebody else is gonna like it.

Th: Sure.

GH: There’s… there’s a lot of songs that I’ve started and it’ll be middle-of-the-road and mediocre and nothing special and I will lay itdown and wait for something else that comes along that has more of…maybe more of a catchy melody,catchy chord progression, catchy chorus. Y’know, as long as it’s a catchy something that draws people in, it doesn’t matter to me what genre it fits in. So, therefore, I would say that what I do is Americana because it definitely includes blues, rock and roll, bluegrass, country…easy-listening.

Th: But it’s not something you’re thinking about before you write the song?

GH: No, I’m not conscious about it. No, I’m just trying to do something… original and when I come up with something that I think is a little bit different than anything else I’ve heard, then I’ll expand on it, I’ll keep writin’ on it. It might take me five years to finish a song. I might set it down and pick it up and, case in point, I had this No Smokin’ in Here record on my mind and there’s… there’s a couple of songs on there that I started a couple years ago. One of them I started five years ago. And right at the last minute I decided, well, you’ve gotta get up off the couch and finish these songs. And so one of them is the end of the record and it’s You Better Think. And it’s probably my favorite song on the record. It’s finally a song that maybe tells a story about something that we need to be doin’ instead of something that’s just mush and about a woman or about a relationship. It’s about something that we all need to be doin’ and that’s thinking about… thinking about our future.
Permissions obtained from Think in English. Transcripts from Think in English Issue 143
Americana, Roots, Bluegrass, Country, and Rock.
Nashville Tennessee George Harper Band

Interview George Harper Series Part III
Permissions obtained from Think in English. Transcripts from Think in English Issue 143 & 144
Interview with George Harper 5 Part Series

No Smokin’ in Here ***

Th: That’s one of my favorite songs on that CD, also the title track is a very beautiful song, No Smoking in Here. Is there some sort of personal story behind that? Is that…

George Harper: Well, yeah, and the title, Nathan, just to correct you it’s No Smokin’…

Th: Without the ‘g’.

GH: Without the ‘g’.

Th: No smokin’.

GH: No Smokin’ in Here and it’s really a song about growing up in my mother’s house and there was no smokin’ allowed, there was no drinkin’ allowed. We were not allowed to cuss. We went to church, but we loved the Beatles and we loved to smoke and we loved to drink. And so we had to go out… outside on the porch to do that kind of thing and although she didn’t really agree with it as long as we weren’t inside the house, we weren’t invading her space.

Th: Right.

GH: And believe me, inside the house was her space. And so when… my mother’s very old; she’s 89, she’ll soon be 90. And my brother, he’s 58 years old and he lives with her. And he grew up in the 60s. He wanted to be… he wanted to grow his hair long like the kids did back then. She didn’t want him to and they fought and they fought. And now he’s 58 and she’s 89 and sometimes they still have the same kind of confrontation. And one particular morning I went down… I go down to see her everyday and he’s… he might be there, he might be at work, but she was… she had obviously been in argument with him, neither one of them were speakin’ and he told me he didn’t want me to feel like I wasn’t welcome because nobody was speakin’ to me, but it was just that nobody was speakin’. And he didn’t want me to feel unspoken to so all he could really conjure up to say was, “The mosquitoes are swarmin’ this mornin’.” that’s all he said and five minutes later No Smokin’ in Here was a song.

Th: OK.

George Harper: Because the more things… I realized the more things change, the more things stay the same. And nothing’s really changed. And also, Nathan, I’ve recently been able…had the opportunity over the past six years to go to Ireland several times for the Johnny Keenan Banjo Festival in Longford. And this record… my first record, I’ll Be Back, first introduced me because they really liked it and they wanted me to come play it. And so when I went to Ireland, of course, the first thing you notice as a smoker is that you’re not allowed to smoke in any building. And the Irish don’t like that, especially if they’re a smoker and they like goin’ to pubs. Y’know, you’ll see them outside smoking their cigarettes. And, so, when I finished the song it’s really written in such an Irish vein that I just really wanted to get this record done so I could get it there for this festival this year. And the chorus is written in such a fashion that “no smokin’ in here”… you might not listen to the rest of the story, but everybody knows that there’s no smokin’ inhere, you know?

Th: Great.
Americana, Roots, Bluegrass, Country, and Rock.
Nashville Tennessee George Harper Band

Check out George's new website at
Interview George Harper Series Part IV

Permissions obtained from Think in English. Transcripts from Think in English Issue 143 & 144
Interview with George Harper 5 Part Series

Rushin’ Around ***

Think (Th): And that was the… I believe you said before, that was the 4th time you’d been to the Longford Festival?

George Harper (GH): Yeah, and I’ve been there four years, not in a row. I first went six years ago and skipped a couple of years and I had that… I was working on that record and I get it to Kathy Casey and Chris Keenan over there, they run that festival. And – y’know – it turns out that they really liked it and they like me and I like them and we’re friends. And they started hiring me to come over there and play and – y’know – I’m just so very grateful for the opportunity. And they just told me last week when I was playing the festival that they didn’t think thatthey would ever have a festival without me again. So…

Th: That’s a nice thing to hear.

GH: Yeah, yeah. It’s a very nice thing to hear, you know?

Th: Great. So the first official record that you released is I’ll Be Back, correct? And then No Smokin’ in Here was just released. Is that correct?

GH: Yeah, and it’s not official yet, but I’ll probably have a record release thing when I get back to Nashville. But they really... to be perfectly honest, man, we went down to the wire on this thing. We went in and recorded this thing live in the studio. We tracked a couple of things, the harmony vocals and a couple of the lead parts. But pretty much it’s about 80% live in the studio and we did that because we were on such a time schedule. Tim Carter of Tree-O Records, which I’m signed under. They’re my record label. It’s a small record label there in Nashville owned by the Carters and Brian Budzinski up in Boston. But we went in knowing that we had this time schedule because the Carters are very busy entertainers. And Timmy was in for just a very few days and I said, “Man, I’d really wanna get this record done before I go to Ireland.” So, we had one day.

Th: One day?

GH: We had one day and so we did all those… I said, “Man, you know I’ve got a lot of songs I wanna put on there.” And he said, “Man, we don’t have
but one day.” He said, “And so all you really need is six songs because if you’re gonna pitch yourself, that’s what you need.” They call it an EP.

Th: Right.

GH: And so we rehearsed for about an hour one day and three days later we were in the studio and it just went like clockwork. And we were so happy that we were done by six in the evening. We went in at eleven and we were done at six.

Th: Wow!

GH: Yeah, and then we had one day that we mixed it, sent it to the printers and I got it about a week before I came here.

Th: OK.

GH: Across the big pond.

Th: Right, right, right. Tight, tight schedule!

GH: It was tight, man. And I got T-shirts printed up, and they were so cool. But I went and picked them up at midnight the night before I got on the plane to come over, yeah. So – y’know – just running around trying to get things done, Nathan from Hotel.
Americana, Roots, Bluegrass, Country, and Rock.
Nashville Tennessee George Harper Band

Check out George's new website at
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