Interview: Harper Bloom On Her New Single ‘Mary’

Interview by Kate Lockyer

Harper Bloom is an Australian indie-folk singer-songwriter with a story to tell. Her tender debut single Mary has just been released and she is now gearing up towards the release of her EP. I caught up with her a few days ago and we covered songwriting, people-watching, and her debut EP.

You released your debut single Mary last week, how are you feeling about it?

“Super excited because I recorded it last year, halfway through the year in July. So it’s nice to have it out in the world now, finally, because it’s been in my back pocket for a while.”

What was the process like recording Mary?

“Recording was interesting. I recorded the whole EP with Ben McCarthy around midway last year. We had bit of an interesting time because it had a similar melody to one of the other songs that I wasn’t going to put on the EP but he really liked it, so we had to work around that. We explored a bit more of the keyboard and changed up the melody a bit which was fun. We’ve made it a bit more upbeat; I think the driving drumbeat really pulled it all together.”

I think that really comes through in the song. I was listening to it and it’s really uplifting as well – it makes you smile.

“Yeah, I guess what you want to do with music is lift someone’s mood, so that’s awesome.”

What prompted you to write it? Mary seems to have a real story behind it…

“Basically, what happened is I sold my car because I really wanted to come over to Melbourne, so I was kind of saving that money. I started working at the electoral commission just for like a month to save money, and there’s not very good transport in Perth so I was catching buses and trains way longer than one should. I was just observing people on public transport and I also tied it in with people in my own life that I noticed were kind of living just in an existence that they weren’t really happy with. It was a story of being able to break out of that and actually pursuing something that they love doing.”

I catch a lot of public transport too, and I agree. There’s a lot that you can infer about peoples’ stories just by watching them. Have you written many songs like that, based on observations of people?

“Yeah there were a few other songs that I’ve written that are just based on observations. I was living in New York for a while and I couldn’t work there, so I would just walk around sitting in cafes and bars and things, and I was just writing songs about what I saw on the streets, but they didn’t really make the EP because they’re a bit more folky. But I guess parts of that came into other songs and also just stories of what people would tell me were happening in their love lives or happening in their life and I would use that for inspiration to write songs, and those made the EP.”

So what style would you call the songs on your EP?

“They’re kind of indie folk-pop, similar to Alex the Astronaut or Vance Joy… kind of like singer-songwriter but amped up with electro-pop.”

Awesome, I’m looking forward to hearing it.

“I can’t wait to put the rest out and see what people think.”

Definitely! How long have you been songwriting for?

“I’ve been writing songs for pretty much my whole life really, like my parents encouraged me to finish high school and get a degree. I did that, but as soon as I finished that, I started performing open mic nights and really pursuing music. So I got the degree out of the way for my mum and dad and then I thought, okay, now I’m going to try and pursue music.”

Awesome. So, on the EP are we going to hear more songs like Mary?

“The next song I’m releasing is called Walk My Way and it’s kinda based on the deep south of America in the 1950s. It’s kind of inspired by that, and that’s still a lot of storytelling with a really upbeat guitar riff that pushes it along and I think it’s even a bit more poppy than Mary, so that will be cool.

Then there’s three more tracks on the EP as well. I guess Mary is more narrative-based than the other four, but they’re all based on little stories.”

And would you say your songwriting reflects your own experiences?

“Yeah for sure, the first proper song I ever wrote was called Sunflower Girl, that’s on the EP, and that’s kind of like my own coming of age love story, falling in love with someone of the same sex. So that’s very autobiographical in that sense. But I guess in all songs, you draw on your own experiences a bit, or I do anyway.”

Yeah, we all bring our own perspective to it. What are you working on at the moment during this isolation period stuck at home?

“Actually, at the moment I’m working on another music video for the second single, so I’m just in discussion with the director at the moment. He’s really cool, his name’s David Hansen, you should look up his other stuff because he works with remote communities, trying to get their message out into the world. So that’s what is happening at the moment. Luckily it’s just my girlfriend and I in the film clip, and if it’s just filming in our apartment we should be safe.”

That’s super convenient!

“Hopefully that’s still legal in a couple of weeks’ time!”

True, everyone’s having to get creative.

“So many livestreams… Have you seen Isol-Aid?”

An Australian livestreaming music festival!

“It’s amazing, it’s really helped the music community, bringing everyone back together at this time and to show that we can all stay connected is really cool.”

Yep, it’s really important at the moment because no-one can earn real money through music.

“It’s terrible – I’ve just teamed up with Aus Music Festivals who are doing this really cool thing where they’ve made shirts for everyone. We just sent in our logos and they made shirts and whoever buys them… 40% of the profits go to Support Act and the other 40% for the artists. So there are a lot of good things happening.”

Definitely. Now obviously no-one’s been performing for a month or so, but how did you find the music scene, moving from Perth to Melbourne?

“Perth was interesting because – I don’t want to speak for everyone – but it doesn’t have a super lively nightlife; a lot of people go there to retire. It’s a beautiful city, but it just doesn’t really have the culture that Melbourne has. I was like, if I really want to try and pursue music I need to move to Melbourne, and it’s been super amazing. Within my first few days of getting here, I found Ben McCarthy, who has produced my EP, and he’s worked with heaps of other talented artists, like Alex the Astronaut, G-Flip, Thelma Plum and other people like that. So he’s super talented and I was grateful to find him.”

Right, so did you seek him out when you moved to Melbourne?

“I went to Sing Sing Studios, now I know it’s the biggest studio in Melbourne, but I didn’t know at the time, and I just booked an appointment to chat with Jude, she owns it. We were just talking about producers in Melbourne and she said ‘oh, you know McCarthy sounds like he’d be a really good fit for you’. So I sent him a demo of Sunflower Girl and he really liked it, so we met up and it all went from there. It was really exciting. And then from there I managed to find a promotion company and a really good graphic designer and video director – all these people that are really talented in the arts scene. I think it would be much more difficult to have found those people in Perth.”

On another note, in terms of your background, what are some of your musical influences?

“Well, I grew up listening to a lot of older bands as most people do because of the parents, so I was really into Fleetwood Mac, and The Beatles, and all of those popular old favourites. But then current artists who inspire me… probably Julia Jacklin, Vance Joy, bands like Boy and Bear and the Lumineers. Kind of like upbeat, indie-pop, indie-folk music. Feel good music with deep lyrics.”

That’s a good way of describing it. Would you say that there is a reason you write?

“I think it’s really cool if you can take observations from the world around you to try and convey a message through your lyrics. That’s what I really try to do. I feel like each song tries to portray a message and I guess people can take that and use it for themselves. It might not be the message that I feel it is, but as long as there’s something there that strikes a nerve with people and they can take something away from it… I try and do that with my lyrics.”

It’s a good feeling to be able to do that I’m sure. I also wanted to ask: what was New York like?

“I went there because my partner had an internship there, so she was there for six months and I came over for six months. I couldn’t work there or anything and I was just there to support her. I loved living in this little shoebox apartment in Brooklyn. It was just awesome, it really exposed me to arts and culture in a deeper way. I’d say Melbourne’s probably an Australian equivalent to New York, just in terms of the culture here.”

And for now you’re planning on staying in Melbourne?

“I’ll hopefully stay here as long as I can, my partner followed me over here and she got a pretty good job here as well so we’re kind of set up here now. I think it’s good to put yourself out there into community and to do that you really need to stay here a while. And keep playing live, which I’m not able to do right now which sucks, but hopefully when this COVID thing finishes I’ll be smashing out a lot of gigs.”

Anything in particular you’re looking forward to when this is all over?

“I was supposed to play a launch show for my single at The Old Bar but that got cancelled because of the pandemic, so I think when this COVID thing is finished I’ll definitely set up another show at The Old Bar.”

Have you found that just being stuck at home at the moment has helped with creativity?

“Yeah, especially because my girlfriend’s at home working, I don’t just want to be at home lying on the couch. But I’m really loud, and we live in a one-bedroom apartment, so she makes me play music in the bathroom. Which is good in a way because it has good acoustics, but I’m in the bathroom all day playing music. So that’s where I am.”

Oh, nice! So, before we finish up is there anything you want to add?

“Stay tuned for the second single Walk My Way. It should be out in June.”

Follow Harper Bloom for more HERE


With thanks to On The Map PR

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