United Kingdom based 23-year-old Harrison is a man who’s very much in demand after storming the EDM and progressive house charts over the past year. After an initial breakthrough track with David Guetta, titled ‘Ain’t A Party’, collaboration singles have swiftly followed with the likes of Hardwell, Steve Aoki, Dannic, Vinai, Laidback Luke and more over the past twelve months alone. The secret to Harrison’s success and rapid rise is his uniqueness. How many artists can play not only a great DJ set, but also produce their own tracks, write their own songs and perform the vocals live during their DJ set? Following 2015 hits such as ‘The Wave’ with Vinai, ‘Mayday’ with Dannic & Lucky Date (both Beatport #1’s), ‘Sally’ with Hardwell, ‘Never Rave Again’ with Laidback Luke, ‘Take Me Home’ with Thomas Gold and ‘Eternity’ with Tim Mason, you might be wondering when the next H-bombs are due to drop in the charts.
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Chris Remmers: We’re going to talk about your life experiences and how that’s kind of led you into music. Also, traveling around gave you inspiration on a daily basis. Let’s start by telling us a little bit about where you’re from.
Harrison: I live about a twenty/twenty-five-minute train ride away from London. I didn’t live here all my life. I moved out here when I was 16 when kind of I dropped out of school, because I wasn’t very good at school. I’m dyslexic. I’m a creative person, but I’m not very good with numbers and grades. To write a gold-selling record, you don’t need to have an A, B, or C in English.
Harrison: Yeah, so I moved away when I was 16, and I came down here because I just wanted to do anything apart from being in the barrier that I was in. I would never have made anything of myself if I had carried on living [there]. Basically, I came down here and worked on a building site for four years.
CR: Just something totally, completely different. I understand that. I live in New Jersey in the States and just by going five minutes over the border into New York it’s a completely different world.
Harrison: Yeah, exactly. That’s how it is. Basically, I worked on a building site and my girlfriend was always like, “Yo, you should try singing and try doing more stuff with music.” I was like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Maybe. I don’t know.” Then I recorded a couple of songs and got addicted. Then I was like a studio [intern] at Metropolis Studios in London. I worked on sessions with Grammy and Emmy Award-winning producers. People that produced Sting, Mary J. Blige and Stevie Wonder. I really learned my craft from professionals that have been doing it for a long time, no 20-year-old kids with a MacBook. It was real, real production. Most of the guys use ProTools and some seriously complicated mathematical [stuff].
CR: Yeah, absolutely. That was a great way to get your foot in the door!
Harrison: Definitely! Even today, I’m trying new stuff now, which seems to involve a lot more live instruments. I now know how to do it, where a lot of people might be like, “How do I record a vocal?” A lot of DJs are getting sent a cappella, and work the track around the a cappella, where really it’s best to write the song and then move on to the track. We’re getting sidetracked, but basically I learned my craft through being in studios and watching a lot of people in there. Then just about one month before Mike Reno, who got me into all of this, died I made “Ain’t a Party Without Me”.
Harrison: It was really sudden and then, the next thing you know, I’ve become an underground record. The world was digging that track. Then, people were playing ‘Ain’t a Party’ at Ultra in Miami and started getting plays by Hardwell, Steve Aoki and David Guetta picked it up. That’s how I kind of look back.
CR: That’s absolutely amazing. What was it like to work with Hardwell on ‘Sally’?
Harrison: We wanted to make something really controversial that would get a lot of people talking. Something that was more for like five in the morning than for five in the afternoon, if I’m making sense. I wanted it to be something that you could sing when you’re drunk with your mates. I wanted to kind of shock the world and do something a little bit away from the more commercial stuff that Hardwell always does. I didn’t want it to sound like ‘Young Again’. I didn’t want it to sound like ‘United We Are’. I didn’t want it to sound like anything else. I wanted it to be unique, and I definitely feel like we brought a unique track.
CR: That’s refreshing to hear, especially nowadays everything tends to sound the same. When you get something that’s original sounding, it’s like, “Alright, we’re adding that to the track list.”
Harrison: It wasn’t set out that way. I wrote ‘Sally’ four years ago, as more of an acoustic one. Then we made it into a dance thing and I saw Hardwell [out one night] and he was like, “Yes, cool!” He did a little bit [to it] and then it kind of went from there, really. He’s a really cool guy, and very down-to-earth, very humble.
CR: You’ve got to love people who are humble. So to transition, where would you say your inspiration comes from? Would you say it comes from more of your life experiences, or your travels and experiences on the road now?
Harrison: I tend to write stuff that’s fun, not considered to be a joke, but something that I’d like to sing when I’m out with my friends. If I don’t write about that stuff, then I write really serious and dark [stuff]. There’s no in the middle. It’s one extreme, like ‘Ain’t a party’, which I would quite like to sing when I was wasted with my friends, all the way to stuff like ‘Holding Up the World’ by Steve Aoki. It’s cool, because it never really gets boring. But, the whole genre of EDM is really dying. It’s time to move on from that [stuff] now and move towards making a different kind of sound that more’s accessible to other people who aren’t necessarily just into dance music. Stuff that would work on a radio platform and considered very musical.
CR: It’s cool you have that perspective. You’ve always got to be one step ahead of the game. So, have you played anywhere where the crowd atmosphere of the show reflected the city’s nightlife? Or maybe a place where it was a complete 180 degrees from the show?
Harrison: Dude, I’ve played a lot of shows all over the world, but there’s some crazy places, in Asia. EDM kind of only just happened there. You guys in America have had it for like a long time. But, when you see 10,000 Indians losing their [minds], going absolutely mad and it’s like 42 degrees, and you’re sweating to the point your shirt’s see-through, that’s some special [stuff]. Or watching 30,000 Korean people singing every word to your song. You just put your cellphone up in the air and it’s like a flash mode. You don’t have to say anything. You don’t have to say, “Put your phone up in the air, or you should put it in the air.”
CR: That’s got to be such an amazing feeling. Onto a more personal level, when you’re taking some time away from work. Are you looking to go to a beach? Or are you looking to going to more of a cityscape? Or maybe in the middle of the mountains?
Harrison: I’m not going to lie to you. It’s not a joke, even if I’m on a beach, or if looks like it on Facebook or Instagram, I’m usually in Sweden at a lake house. I’ve always got my headphones in, texting someone or I’m always like doing something to do with Project Harrison. There’s never really freedom. I didn’t realize what I was signing up for in a way. I envy a lot of people that do a nine-to-five job and can have time towards the gym, or do nice [stuff] like go around to their friend’s on a Sunday and have a barbecue. Effectively, yeah, I sometimes might have time off and might be able to do that, but you’ll be sitting there, probably on Thursday, going to work, or having a nice time and watching Netflix, and I’m sitting on a plane going 17-hours to Japan.
CR: Traveling takes a lot out of you, I’m sure. There’s pros and cons to every lifestyle. So, to wrap this up you’ve played all over the world, but is there any place that you haven’t played yet that’s still on your bucket list?
Harrison: I’m looking to play in the States now, as in America. It’s the only place I haven’t yet, because the visas and [stuff] have been really hard to get. It’s fine, blame me ’cause I’m British. But, you know what’s funny? We’re going to America, and I’m going on a holiday in like 10 days. I’m so excited, ‘cause I have a house in Florida. A little far from Miami, about two-hours away. It’s on Marco Island, it’s like the most southern point. It’s so cool. Anyway, I’m going to America, and the first question I’ll be asked [by customs] is, “When are you leaving?” He’s actually clutching onto his gun like something’s wrong with him. Then I see all these Americans coming to England and it’s like, “Come in, sir.”
CR: Oh man! That’s pretty funny. Coming to the States, you’re always bound to leave with some funny stories, because people are so different everywhere. That’s crazy.
Harrison: Even on the plane, they’re like, “Yeah, I’ve never been out of America.” But not in a nasty way. Like, you guys have the full spectrum, like Russia does; you have your hot places and you’ve got your nice places. You’ve got California, New York and all these maniacal places, but you haven’t lived until you’ve had sushi in Tokyo, or you’ve been to the Taipei 101 Tower, or been to Dubai. Those were some really cool places. Or, until you’ve seen about 15-people living in one tiny hut by the Mumbai Airport, where they’ve got nothing else to do all day except watch the planes come in and out. They’re kicking around a stone, because they can’t afford a football. You don’t really understand until you’ve [been to] South Africa and you’ve seen places where they have to rescue lions, because they’re pretty much hunted to extinction. There’s some amazing stuff in the world and if you don’t leave, go out and see that stuff you’re not really living.
CR: Wow, that’s an incredible outlook on life. I’m glad you shared that with us.
Harrison: Anytime! That’s kind of the way it is, but as I was saying, I love America and I’m excited to get a visa through here and do some shows and with you guys before EDM goes completely. The newer stuff they’re making is a little more “house-y”. It’s a little bit more commercial. It appeals to a [broader] audience. So, yeah I’m excited for what’s to come.