Interview: Kree Harrison Revitalizes Old Country Traditions With Her New Music
Kree Harrison is a well-known figure in Music City, with a hefty vote of confidence from some of its most prominent artists; Brothers Osborne, Emmylou Harris, Maren Morris and many more have spoken publicly about their admiration for her musical talent.
Her newest single, "I Love the Lie," is a case in point: Longtime songwriter and now-country superstar Chris Stapleton and his wife Morgane co-wrote the track. Harrison and the Stapletons are long-time mutual fans.
Nashville may be Harrison's home, but as she delves into the process of creating her second record, she's skipping town. That's a pattern the singer-songwriter established while making her first album, 2016's This Old Thing, when she traveled to Asheville, N.C., to record at Echo Mountain studios.
"I mean, I love Nashville so much, obviously. It has my heart," Harrison tells The Boot. "But I went to Asheville for the last record, and something about that place -- it's an old church that has been turned into a studio. I love it."
Like a lot of artists, Harrison has always been sensitive to her creative environment. "I mean, it's like anything," she goes on to say. "Wherever you go, you put yourself in a different environment. You're pulling from whatever you believe in, or the energy. I really believe that."
In this instance, Harrison adds, Echo Mountain provided a change of energy as well as a chance to disconnect from the music industry at home for a little while. "When you walk in, you feel like there's a holy vibe, which makes sense, because it used to be a church," she explains. "We're going there for four days. I wanna just check out, put my phone under a mattress, take some of my closest friends and musicians and just make the rest of the record."
As for her sophomore record itself, Harrison will be doing a deep dive into the traditional country style that has always inspired her. She clarifies, however, that the sound is a bit of a shift from her first record, which focused more on a '60s pop feel.
"The new stuff, it's definitely more country than the last record. That was a Motown throwback," she says. "I got that out of my system, and then I wanted to go back to my roots of growing up with amazing influences like Trisha Yearwood and Patty Loveless, '90s country. Country has a really, really special place in my heart, so to be able to do my own twist on it was important."
To write several of the songs for the new project, Harrison holed up in a Nashville house where she and the Brothers Osborne once lived. "We rented it out for a week," she recalls. "I brought in some of my favorite co-writers, and some new ones.
"It was kind of full circle, to be in that kitchen that we had basically made memories in, and then were also creating music in," she reflects. "It was really cool to create all that music in that house."
Harrison is deeply aware of the power of a vibe, whether that means writing songs in a place that feels like a home or chasing the particular recording environment she's looking for, even if it means traveling to North Carolina. In many ways, that attitude toward making music is a part of her new project's classic country style, channeling a time when the technology to edit out mistakes or background noises in the audio of recordings didn't exist yet. For Harrison, sometimes, those accidents can be the best part.
"Dreaming that stuff up is so much fun, but then sometimes when it organically happens, that's just the cherry on top, you know?" she adds. "Keeping the little treasures that are accidentally on the audio, or something funny."
While Harrison's style channels the traditional country music that she grew up on, some aspects of her career have been distinctly modern: She competed on Season 12 of American Idol, ultimately landing in the runner-up spot. Still, Harrison says that she feels a responsibility to keep traditional country alive -- especially when she has a large platform such as a nationally televised singing competition at her disposal.
"It was exciting to be able to cover those songs on the show. I remember at one point, the judges were kind of like, 'Good girl for choosing this and bringing back a legacy,'" she remembers. "I think it's our job."
During her tenure on Idol, Harrison performed songs by Kris Kristofferson, Patty Griffin and Candi Staton, among many others. One performance that sticks out to her in particular was a "Contestant's Choice" rendition of the Susan Tedeschi song "It Hurt So Bad."
"I fought for that one -- not fought, but you have to get clearance and all that, for TV," she continues. "I was so proud when they finally went, 'Okay, yeah.' I was a part of it!"
To this day, Harrison still hears from listeners who discovered Tedeschi after watching her performance. "I still get tagged sometimes, like, 'Thanks for introducing me to this, and bringing it out from the bottom,'" she adds. "And not because they're outdated or anything, but just because there's so much music, constantly.
"Sometimes it's nice to go backwards," Harrison says.
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