Self-described “folk ‘n roll” singer-songwriter Jaimee Harris kicks off Arts on the Green’s 2017-2018 Music Season and the Singer Songwriter Concert Series on Saturday, Sept. 9. This will be the Austin-based artist’s first appearance on the East Coast, but she is fresh from a West Coast tour this summer that, she said, was a bit like Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” with stops in White Sands, New Mexico, and the redwood forests of California.
“I’m a big Woody Guthrie fan,” Harris said, adding that she and fellow musician Jane Ellen Bryant, who performed together with her on tour, visited the Woody Guthrie Center when they played Tulsa.
That she’s a fan of Guthrie, who championed the downtrodden and inspired countless musicians like Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Bragg and Pete Seeger, is perhaps not surprising. “I’m a huge fan and believer in the folk spirit,” she said, “how people can work together and don’t need to step on people’s faces to get ahead.” She relates to folk music because it’s a genre that “cares about the music and the songs.”
But growing up in suburban Waco, Texas, Harris said she listened to loud ‘90s country, ‘90s pop and alternative. The only radio station there was Clear Channel Radio.
And despite picking up a guitar at age five and performing at age 10 in-between sets for her father, Chris Harris, and his cover band, Harris said she didn’t think she could write her own material until she heard Patty Griffin. “I thought, ‘What’s this?’ It inspired me.”
By age 14 she was writing her own songs and performing as a duo with her father. Their group, Better Off Dad, performed mainly in Dallas, she said.
These days, Harris is a big part of the Austin music scene, performing often and singing backup vocals for other artists like Jane Ellen Bryant, Garrett Owen, David Ramirez, Seela and Jimmy LaFave, her friend and mentor who passed away this year, just before her West Coast tour. And after 17 years as a musician, she is hard at work on her first album.
Harris describes her “folk ‘n roll” music as “a little poppie. There’s some socio-political material, but it’s mostly relatable stuff that most people go through.” Her songs are “birthed from personal experience but people-watching gets my brain going.” Lately, she has been writing at Austin’s Donn’s Depot, a piano bar in an old train car.
Harris said that for the 3 p.m. songwriting workshop portion of her Sept. 9 Arts Barn appearance, she plans to discuss “tapping into inspiration” for songwriting “and what that looks like.” Then she’ll see what direction the group wants to take. At her 7:30 p.m. concert, she will perform original material.
Tickets are $45 for workshop and concert, or $25 for concert only. The Singer Songwriter Concert Series is presented by O’Hair Salon + Spa.