A conversation with Corey Harper

Singer discusses success, touring and future in Spectrum Q&A


Corey Harper may only be 22 years old, but his acoustic bluesy sound is turning plenty of heads in the music industry.

The singer/songwriter recently talked over the phone with The Spectrum to discuss his upcoming tour, opening for Justin Bieber and his next steps.

Harper will be opening for Marc Scibilia on April 18 at Buffalo Iron Works.

Q: Can you tell me a little about your musical upbringing?

A: I grew up in St. Louis, my parents were really into music and my uncle is an amazing guitar player. Music was what was circulating in my house all the time.

Growing up I always gravitated toward the guitar…then I started getting into guitar players. My dad showed me a lot of videos of Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn and I remember seeing anyone on stage playing guitar and just [being] fascinated by it.

Then my family moved to Portland when I was 5. By the time I was older my family got involved in music at our church. That’s actually a big part of how I got into music, hearing that style of music and singing, made me think, “oh, I should start singing.”

I moved out to California and decided to give this a shot. I met some people through the industry and also playing at this spot in Venice called the Winston House.

Q: Can you explain what Winston House is and your affiliation with it?

A: It was founded by Corey McGuire and Jordy [his manager] in 2015, it’s a collective space for young creators to preform and showcase their work. They had brought their company down here to Venice and were living in the house and doing projects at the same time.

I moved in and I was meeting people who came to the house and we started doing regular shows every week. They’re curating a lot of really cool talent so people could come through and play. So that was where I really kind of started my career; here at the Winston House.

Q: What do you think separates you from other guitarists and singer/songwriters of today?

A: I’d like to think that I’m a great guitar player. Sometimes I think I’m a great guitar player, sometimes I don’t. I guess it just depends on the day.

I feel like I have a lot to say and I’ve been through a lot of life experiences that not many people get to have.

I’m not saying that it separates me from other people in a better way, but I’ve experienced some stuff that most people don’t want to go through. I write songs that come from a really vulnerable and honest place but also songs that people can relate to.

Q: Your EP On the Run recently hit 3 million streams on Spotify. What does a milestone like this mean to you?

A: It’s cool, man. For me, the most important thing is that people are accepting my music. I’m incredibly surprised but I also put hard work into it. It just proves to me that I’m doing the right thing with where I need to be

[The success] is kind of like an arrow for me telling me to keep going. It puts me into the place where I need to be.

Q: You opened for Justin Bieber’s Purpose Tour for a few shows. What was this experience like and how would you compare playing an arena to playing a general admission venue like Buffalo Iron Works?

A: Justin and Scooter [Bieber’s manager], who I know pretty well now, gave me a shot and were like “we like your music so much that we want you to be opening for Justin, who typically doesn’t have an opener that plays acoustically.” It really just pushed my confidence in a way.

You’re playing for people who aren’t there to see you but you have a couple seconds of being able to prove yourself. It makes you really think about an approach to try to win over these people.

Then there’s people who are there who have bought tickets to see you like on this tour with Marc Scibilia. It’s definitely a different mindset singing in front of ten thousand people versus a smaller show like this.

Q: What are you most excited for during this upcoming tour?

A: I love being on the road and I love meeting people that are excited about anything that I do. When I meet people who are excited about it just as much as I am, it puts it all into perspective for me.

This is why I worked really hard at playing guitar or writing songs. It just makes everything kind of come to life. Just meeting and seeing the reactions of people when I play my music and being on the road is so fun.

Q: When this tour wraps up, what will your next steps be?

A: When I get off the tour, I’ll come back here [Venice] and work on more stuff in the studio. Then I’ll go and do Festivals over the summer, immediately after that I’ll go on a couple tours in the South.

I’m releasing a single called “My Favorite Part of Loving You” next month. The vibe is a mixture between the EPand other stuff that I’m doing.

It’s all still guitar driven and more focused on the lyrics of the song, but I kind of added some new elements in there. It’s a Segway in between the EP into this new sound that I’ll be behind for a couple years; a bridge in between two projects.

Brenton J. Blanchet is an arts staff writer and can be reached at arts@ubspectrum.com