Just a month after singer and guitarist Ben Harper performed at the Arlington Theatre, Santa Barbara is getting treated to a performance by another member of the Harper family. Peter Harper, Ben’s younger brother, will be returning to SOhO Restaurant & Music Club with his trademark tenor guitar on Oct. 11 for his fourth gig at the venue, this time promoting his latest EP “Twilight Time.” According to the singer-songwriter the new record, featuring his backup band The Last 3, features a slight departure from his original folk sound.
“There’s five songs on that EP and it ranges from old school blues, to folk, to sort of a pop, folk rock thing, so it’s got a real mixture of sounds within a five song span,” he said.
These sonic changes are leading up to a new album that he plans to release in May 2020, which he said will mark a “huge sonic departure.” While it will retain his soul-inspired vocal tonality, the new record will introduce “hip-hop meets rhythm and blues” element to his sound.
Despite growing up in the Folk Music Center in Claremont, Mr. Harper’s music career started relatively late in life. Though he had been playing music independently — so independently that not even his family knew about it — he didn’t commit to becoming a professional musician until he was 37 years old. Originally a bronze casting sculptor, the singer-songwriter recalled that his switch to music came circa 2013 and was spurred on one day he visited The Louvre in Paris, France. While waiting outside a large crowd to get a glimpse of Leonardo DaVinci’s masterpiece The Mona Lisa, he noticed that those at the front of the crowd didn’t stand face-to-face with the painting, but rather turned their backs to it so they could take selfies with it. Mr. Harper was shocked by this, calling it “the opposite of reverence,” and at that point realized people no longer had the ability to spend time appreciating the details of fine art, or any still image for that matter.
He recalled, “I realized that if that was going to be the case for DaVinci, what’s the difference for me?”
Once he decided to switch to music, Mr. Harper wrote and recorded a few songs and had a tiny audience that consisted of some people, primarily based in France, who had followed his sculpting career. His French fans bought multiple copies and passed them around to others, who likely shared it with more people by ripping it to their computers. Two years later, Mr. Harper received an email from a fan asking him to do a tour of France for a passionate fanbase that he didn’t even know he had. His first show in France had an audience of 1000 people, which he said “blew up from there.”
Despite having an older brother who is an accomplished recording and touring artist, Mr. Harper said he doesn’t often get feedback from Ben. One time he did was when Mr. Harper was staying at his brother’s house, rehearsing for one of his first concerts. As he played a rendition of his song “Make Me Weak,” Ben came into the living room and asked if the song was one of Mr. Harper’s. When Mr. Harper responded yes, Ben simply said “It’s really good.”
Though the compliment let Mr. Harper know that he was on the correct path, the singer-songwriter thinks the lack of feedback from his family is just fine because it allows him to simply rely on his own creativity.
“I try to just focus on what I know and what my experiences are and do what I do… I really wanted to make sure that I wasn’t being influenced by anything other than my own inspiration,” he said.Mr. Harper’s October 11 gig at SOhO begins at 6 p.m., with doors opening at 5:30 p.m. Tickets cost $12 and can be purchased online at www.sohosb.com. SOhO Restaurant & Music Club is located at 1221 State St, #205.