Harbison's Debut Release "Shades of Green" Dropped June 20, 2023
I was lucky enough to run across Adam Harbison and rather than just write about him, thought it'd be more interesting to hear his take on the Country Music scene in St. Louis and what he's up to now that his debut album is out in the world.
Coyote Music: What's the music scene like in St. Louis, especially in the Country/Western realm? Are there many venues for your style? Do you gravitate more to clubs, Country/Western specific venues, or more of the restaurant/hotel/happy hour circuit?
Adam Harbison: St. Louis has a vibrant music scene across a lot of genres. In the country space, most artists I know are closer to Americana, Alt-Country, or Red Dirt than straight country, especially by radio standards. Being two years into it, I'm currently playing a lot of restaurants and private events on the Illinois side of the river and love all of the relationships I've gotten to build in the process. Three of my favorite venues are The Abbey, Venue On Main, and Eckert's Cider Shed, all in Belleville, IL. The Abbey and Venue offer an intimate listening room experience, while the Cider Shed is a larger outdoor stage. Being able to play the same places as a lot of great local talent and touring acts in front of people I know and love is a tremendous blessing. It would be awesome for this new album to create additional opportunities, but I feel very fortunate to be where I am.
CM: You include Strait & Dylan as influences. They're pretty different, even just in their overall approach to songwriting. Does that mean you gravitate lyrically toward Dylan but stylistically/musically toward Strait, or some combination of lyric, music, stylistic influences?
AH: For me, Bob Dylan is the pinnacle of all songwriters. His lyrics never fail to make me feel something, and I greatly admire his artistic conviction. Whether it's folk, blues, rock 'n roll, country, gospel or somewhere in between, he has always done it his way. With George Strait, it's largely about the sound. Growing up, his 50 Number Ones were in regular rotation in my Dad's truck, and that became the sound of country music in my mind. There is never too much or too little in the production, and his voice is incredible.
CM: You played the legendary open mic at Bluebird Cafe in Nashville. I've been to that. It's pretty awesome. What was your Bluebird experience like?
AH: It was a lot smaller than I expected (haha). What impacted me the most was the diversity of songwriters. There were people from all over the U.S. and stretching out across the pond to the U.K. and Ireland. Some folks were in Nashville on vacation (like me), while others had been in the city for decades or just moved within the month after going to Berklee. There was a 13 year old girl who blew the room away, and Chris Wolf, an older gentleman who had everyone belly-laughing with a song about his invisible dog, Spotless. When it was my turn, the nerves were there, but it was a thrill to play my song “Like Honey,” and I think folks enjoyed it. I also got to share that moment with my Dad, and it’s one of my favorite memories.
CM: What about your current goals? Are you looking to do some Regional/National touring, or work more on developing a more local in-person fanbase with expansion coming through streaming and online sales?
AH: Touring looks and sounds awesome, but I don’t think I’m quite ready for that. Developing as a writer and performer is more important and is something I can do without going out of my depth. I’m also very active in my church and in ministry work with my family and close friends, and that is a priority in my life. The relationships I’ve made close to home are important to me, and I don’t want to let those fall by the wayside, so my focus is on reaching people locally, while using the internet to make myself available on a larger scale.
CM: You've got the new album coming out. Talk a bit about Shades of Green - inspiration for some of the songs, the production experience, and if you're dealing with label/distribution (even if you're not) how the process is going as you approach the release date.
AH: Most of the album reflects on where I’m at in life, where I’ve been, and where I want to be. There are songs touching on romantic relationships (Like Honey, Spending Time With You, My Love Letter Goodbye), relationships with family and friends (Replay, Illusion of Love), and reflecting on inner experiences and uncertainty (What Could’ve Been, When That Train Leaves the Station). In terms of production, it was a blast to work with Dan Mehrmann and Robert Scott at Midtown Sound House in St. Louis. Dan was one of my college instructors, and I got to know Robert through Dan when I interned at Midtown. They are both great musicians and songwriters in their own right, and they brought their musicality to the production process. We managed to get some of the area’s best session players, Dan recorded and mixed the album, and it was mastered by Bobbi Giel at Welcome to 1979 in Nashville. Being independent, funding the album was going to be difficult, so I chose to run a campaign on Kickstarter. A lot of family, friends, and a few strangers were kind enough to support us, and we were able to fund the whole album through production, CD pressing, and digital distribution. I’ve been handling promotion, placing orders, and making merch myself, so that was stressful, but I’m really pleased with how everything turned out.
CM: What are some things you'd like to convey to the world (potential fans)?
AH: I’m just a guy from a small town outside of St. Louis who loves music and likes to engage with it however I can. This record is my attempt to create something worth hearing, and I want you to be the judge.
CM: I love this question, as a challenge... Everyone has a lot going on everyday. What is it about your live show, your songs, your whole artistic package that you think makes it worthwhile for someone to come out to see you play or pick up a copy of "Shades of Green"?
AH: I am a pretty shy person by nature, but music stirs something inside of me like nothing else does. Whether on an album, at a show, or in conversation, I want to share that feeling with other people.
Photo by David Harbison