Originally from Dallas, Texas, Harper Grace originally thought she was going to become a gymnast before she pivoted into music.
Inspired by artists like Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash who she heard on her grandmother’s radio, she began writing songs at the age of just seven years old. Her drive and ambition led her to sign with Curb Records when she was 21 and she released her debut single ‘Sparkle’ earlier this year.
Whilst she was in the UK last month to play at Song Suffragettes, I spoke to Harper about what the collective means to her, her recordings of ‘Santa Baby’ and ‘O Holy Night’, and what she’s got planned for 2024.
Welcome to London!
Thank you so much. I’m so happy to be here. Absolutely love it.
How have you been finding it so far? Have there been any particular highlights?
I think the whole thing. Every time we go somewhere and do something, I just continue to look at my mom and my manager and I’m like, “I wanna move here! I love it, I love it”. We walked around last night, when it was kind of dark, and just the lights and everything, I’m just like, “it’s so romantic! And so sweet!” I love it. My brain is like… this is like a movie [laughs]. I love it here.
You’re over here as part of Song Suffragettes – tell us how you came to be involved with that and what your experience being part of it has been like…
Yeah, so out of Nashville, we’ve got a venue called The Listening Room. I’ve played The Listening Room a handful of times and then got invited to be a part of Song Suffragettes, and come and sing with them. I had just sung my very first time, prior to leaving for Africa, so probably a month and a half ago at max was the first time I met the team and everybody who’s a part of it, and they’ve just been super welcoming.
And then I was offered this amazing opportunity to come to London and I didn’t even hesitate. My manager was like, “do you wanna go to London?” and I was like, “do I wanna go to London?!” [laughs] And then when I found out I was with a team that I really respected and super glad to be a part of, I was like, “hands down, let’s go”. So yeah, I’m happy to be here and experience London.
For people who might be unfamiliar with you, how would you describe your musical style and your influences?
Well I grew up singing gospel music, and that led into me listening to R’n’B and Norah Jones and Joss Stone for a while, which I love. Classic, amazing. But my grandma, my nana played the accordion, and she listened to Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash. And so that was kind of my first glimpse into some down home, just real country music. And then gettin’ older, ridin’ shotgun in my daddy’s truck, and he’d turn on red dirt country and I’d listen to the radio with him. So kind of when I think of what my music sounds like, I have tried my best to incorporate every bit of nostalgia that my childhood kind of grasps onto. So piece together that R’n’B, soul, and that gritty grungy country, as best as I can and kind of mash it all together. So I’d say like a soulful country.
And what is a typical Harper Grace show like for people who haven’t seen you live before?
Well, I do all of my original songs, which are all things that I have most definitely been a part of. I like to try my best when I write music to just be authentic, and just hope that somebody can relate. ‘Cause if I’ve been through it then I’m sure maybe somebody else has [chuckles]. So yeah, I like to talk a lot, I attempt to make jokes. I was homeschooled so not too sure if they hit that well, but we try! But talk a lot, sing a lot, and if I have a full band I’m dancing all over the stage. But tonight it’s just me and a guitar and I like to do that too, especially when I’m able to talk about the story behind the song, which will be fun.
Are there any songs you’ve particularly been enjoying playing live recently?
Honestly I love playing ‘Sparkle’. That was one of my very first singles and I play that quite often. And I really enjoy the upbeat aspect that that song has. But on top of that, I actually am gonna do a new one tonight. I was in Utah just a few days ago on a writers’ retreat for some new stuff for the project, and I wrote a song that literally none of us can get out of our heads that we all keep texting about, called ‘Getaway’, and I’m gonna attempt to sing that tonight. I have never played it on the guitar before. We wrote it to a track that my producer put together. But I figured out the chords and we’re gonna hope for the best. But I like to listen to it so I hope I like to play it too!
Do you have a typical approach to your songwriting?
It’s different every time. I have this big notes in my phone that has all these different song titles, just ideas of songs, and then my voice memo holds a bunch of melodies in there. But this last weekend while being in Utah, going out with two of my producers, I actually had the opportunity to sit down behind one of the tables, one of our production setups with Ted. And he just gave me the mouse and I just scrolled through probably about 50 or 60 guitar parts and sounds that he put in a tracklist that he thought I would like, and I just scrolled and listened to about 10 seconds of each and clicked the one that just hit. Actually most of the songs that I wrote this last weekend, I didn’t have titles to before. I just listened to it and then felt how I felt like the music would be, and what the music’s sayin’. And then I just kind of wrote a song after that [laughs]. But yeah, it’s different every time.
You’ve also just released your version of ‘Santa Baby’. What was it about that song that particularly appealed to you?
Oh goodness! I chose ‘Santa Baby’ because I remember listening to the original with my nana, and just something is so dreamy about having nostalgia about something. And vintage to me is so classy and elegant, and so especially with vintage country, honestly just vintage anything. I’ve tried my best to kind of live in that era of being a modern day take on vintage. So having ‘Santa Baby’ be a song that I’ve listened to for so long, when I think of Christmas it’s also traditional and classic, and ‘Santa Baby’ was an upbeat fun quirky little song that I thought mixed really well with my personality, ’cause I always loved singing it, as well as keeping it true to what it was when it first came out. I know a lot of people do Christmas songs and kind of make it their own. I definitely had my own flair to it, but I wanted so badly to keep that nostalgia and tradition of it.
So when I thought of what song to do, I was like, “‘Santa Baby’ is a must” and so we went ahead and did that. We did a whole music video, it’s like 50s themed, and I kind of co-directed that whole thing and had my friends come out and dance in it, and had my choreographer come down from Dallas. It was really nice. But ‘Santa Baby’ is out, officially. It’s a little too early for Christmas, but there’s still some people that like to listen to it, so that’s great. But then I also have another one coming out, ‘O Holy Night’, and that was one of my other favourite Christmas songs in church on Christmas Eve that they always used to sing. So those are my two Christmas picks, my first Christmas releases. But we’ll see how they do. I like ’em.
Have you got any particular favourite Christmas traditions?
Yes. Every single Christmas Eve, we all go to church and do candlelight service and we come back home and my dad, even though I’m 22 years old now, he will literally read the same Night Before Christmas book that we’ve had since I was a very young child. So we read that, and we still make cookies for Santa, and we still leave carrots out for the reindeer. So that’s my favourite. It just brings me back to childhood, and no matter how old I get I’m still a little kid at heart. So being able to keep that is fun for me.
I also wanted to ask you about ‘Down In My Hometown’ which is your most recent single. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
Yeah, so ‘Down In My Hometown’, when I released that, my imprint being in Nashville officially. I’d lived there almost three years, but going back and forth since I was 14 years old and establishing myself as this dreamer who wanted to come out and do the thing she loved the most. And so getting the opportunity to actually live out there and do what I love has been so exciting. And so when we wrote ‘Down In My Hometown’ I put on this hat – I was homeschooled like I said, so growing up I didn’t sneak out and slip through barbed wire or do anything crazy like that. But a bunch of people in Nashville come from Georgia and I’m hearing all my Georgia friends’ stories, all my Nashville friends’ stories, and kind of put together this thing of that teenage fun outside, what you do in your hometown and driving around in a car and all that things, that young love type thing. But as well as making Nashville my home and establishing that this is where my heart feels most like home, even though I love me some Texas and my parents are still out there, ‘Down In My Hometown’ was this statement of “here I am Nashville, happy to be here, love you all” and kind of tell my friends’ stories at the same time.
I saw on your Instagram you’ve been involved with the St Jude Country Cares and I know you’ve done a lot of work in Africa as well which you mentioned. Can you tell us some more about that?
Yes of course. The one thing that really matters most to me is using the platform for something that goes back and helps others. I think in my music I’m very authentic but my biggest portion is whether I meet somebody face to face or they’re only seeing my social media, I feel approachable. I don’t ever wanna make it so people feel like they can’t come up to me. But the thing that I love most is sharing what really matters to me. And so my parents have done mission work and been going to Africa for 20 plus years. I’ve been able to grow up in that kind of home where giving back is so important, and loving on others the way that the Lord loves us. Getting the opportunity to grow up in that and go to Africa and spend time with the kids and churches out there as well as doing other things in our community on how to help.
St Jude has an amazing program called Country Cares where they continuously give back and support through country radio, and all of country music has done an amazing job at that. And so being able to be part of that this year for the first time was just an amazing experience, and super humbling to be able to meet some of the patients that have come out of St Jude and hearing their stories – how they have joy throughout the chaos and staying hopeful and just feel normal whilst everything else is going on. So getting to be a part of that and meet the doctors and the people that work within the labs and the scientists and all the things, it was just a beautiful thing. So finding other spaces and other opportunities to give back and learn about everything that’s going on in the world and how we can best help. So yeah, beautiful, beautiful. Keeps you down to earth, keeps you humble, so I encourage other people to find a space where they can do that too.
What’s still on the bucket list for you in terms of people you’d want to work with, places you’d want to play and so on?
People I wanna work with, on the dream board, Dolly Parton, she’s at the top of the list. Lainey Wilson is another one I would love to work with, she is amazing. And HARDY and Morgan Wallen are some of my top country dudes. They know how to put on a show. So those are some people that I’d love to work with in the future. Lord willing, it’s gonna happen!
Is there a song you wish you’d written?
It’s a Lainey Wilson song and it’s called ‘What Would Dolly Do?’ It’s so good. And it’s so funny ’cause I don’t think I had found Lainey’s music quite before she had gotten her first number one and things had started to pick up for her. I had heard her name through friends who had written with her and knew her, but I remember going to her first album and had ‘WWDD?’ up in my notes for a long time and never wrote it. And then I went to her album and I scrolled down and I was like, ‘gosh dang it!’ And then I thought “maybe I could rewrite it” but then I listened to it and there’s absolutely no way. She killed it. She wrote it so perfectly. It doesn’t need to be touched ever again. So I wish I wrote that song. It’s phenomenal.
And what does the next six months to a year look like for you?
Well hopefully coming back to London in that timespan. And we are wrapping up the end of the year, so we’ve got the other holiday song hitting and then Nashville shuts down when Thanksgiving and Christmas comes along which is super sweet. So spend time with my family, but right when the new year rings around we’ve got a new release called ‘Break It Like A Man’, that’ll come out in April. So we’re doing a music video to that, a bunch of promo videos that’ll start coming out, and then we’ve got some shows and festivals and hoping to come out here for a festival. You never know. So lots of things planned for the new year. But this is my last trip of the year, and it was a great way to end it.
Are there plans for an EP or an album at some point as well?
Yeah, so after this single we’re hoping to get a big group of tracks together and put ’em out there! [laughs]