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Music Crush of the Month: Interview with Will Payne Harrison

We’re continuing our August Music Crush of the Month series with Will Payne Harrison! Harrison has been a friend of Nashville Noise since the beginning but we finally got together to break down his music, style, songwriting and so much more in this new interview.

We highly encourage you to read the entire piece — especially the last question and Harrison’s very real answer.

Nashville Noise: Obviously, you and I have a long friendship but I realized there’s one thing I’ve never asked you and I want to start with that. What is your earliest memory of music?
Will Payne Harrison: One of my earliest memories of music is listening to the oldies on the radio in the car. The Temptations, Elvis, The Beatles, Chuck Berry, The Beach Boys… It was sort of a mixture of Motown, bubblegum pop and early rock ‘n roll.

NN: That’s such an eclectic mix! You’ve obviously been influenced a lot by your home state (Louisiana). How do you think LA has impacted your music the most?
WPH: From a music standpoint, I would say some of the rhythms and phrasing. A lot of the Cajun, Zydeco Swamp Pop and Blues players just have an innate style that I didn’t even realize I was borrowing from.

NN: Although you are a Louisianan through and through, you’re also a proud Nashvillian. When did you move to Nashville and what was that transition like for you?
WPH: Nashville has some of the best people I’ve ever known. It’s a very supportive yet competitive city. You have to learn fast to keep up. I moved here in 2014. May made six years for me. It was hard the first year. I was working a job I didn’t like and I was trying my hardest to make friends and connections. I went through a bad break up from a long-term relationship. I almost packed up and went home but I had some good friends that supported me and encouraged me through it all.

NN: What’s been your favorite moment of living here in Music City?
WPH: The first band I saw on the first night in town ended up being my next-door neighbor. About a year later they lost their bassist and asked me to fill in for some dates opening for The Avett Brothers. Still haven’t topped that one.

NN: Obviously you’re an artist but my favorite thing about you, in particular, is your ability to write a song. It never ceases to amaze me. What has your songwriting journey been like?
WPH: Thank you! I think having really incredible songwriting friends has kept me sharp. When I hear a really good line from one of them, it makes me want to write better lines of my own. When I first started, I came from a place where getting people to dance was the top priority and singing and songwriting didn’t matter quite as much. So, I’ve spent a lot more time here in Nashville on learning the craft of writing lyrics. I think songwriting is just as much editing as it is writing. It took me a while to realize that saying less can be way more.

NN: Wow. I’ve never thought of that but it’s so true! Where do you typically find your inspiration?
WPH: Being in nature and connecting with God, reading really good poetry or being inspired by someone else’s art really help tap me into the creative mindset. Occasionally though, it will come out of nowhere.

NN: The most recent song you’ve released is actually a cover that we featured last week. As a songwriter, is it ever a difficult decision to cover someone else’s song?
WPH: Very much so. I might have six or seven songs that I cover on a regular basis. I pride myself in writing my own songs but “Caroline” is special. The Rayo Brothers and I have a very long-standing friendship. They are from Lafayette, LA and we cut our teeth at the same time in the local music scene. We’ve done tours together and they even recorded on my last full-length record. To me, it is a song that always brings me back home to the muggy back porch of Blue Moon Saloon on a Friday night and in a pandemic when I can’t do that, the only thing I could think to do was recreate it for myself.

NN: I think you probably make a lot of people feel like “home” with that beautiful cover. Can we expect any more music in this weird year?
WPH: I am! I have a five-song EP called The Stratford Sessions which releases Oct. 2 on streaming platforms. I will drop another single at the beginning of Sept. as well.

NN: Can’t wait to hear it! So, lastly, I want to talk about something very real and serious. This is an incredibly difficult time for indie artists right now. What is one thing you want people to know about supporting independent musicians in particular?
WPH: This is as honest as I can be. If you took all of my streams on all platforms from the last five years and added them up, I’ve made under $300. Some people do much better than that, but it’s still unsustainable. Since the rug has been pulled out from under artist’s feet for touring, we’ve also lost our chance to sell merchandise. Go buy merchandise from your favorite musicians if you have money. If you don’t, engage with them on social media, tell your friends about them. Ask your favorite radio stations to play their music. Anything you can think of to keep the music going!

Support Harrison by clicking on one of the album covers in this post. You can also support him by shopping at his online store. If you missed our other features on Harrison, check out our introductory piece here.

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