“I grew up in a rough part of the city man. And my mom, she really wanted to keep me out of trouble. And music was her way of keeping me in line. So from an early age I had access to instruments and records. And that was really what set up my love for music.”
I had been speaking with Devonne Harris, better known as DJ Harrison for a little over 45 minutes now. But his enthusiasm and love of music was apparent from the beginning of our conversation.
I had been introduced to DJ Harrison via a high school of mine, Daniel Guerra, who is working closely with DJH on touring and promoting.
“One of the main reasons I want to work with him is because he is so genuine and truly loves music. He’s just a cool dude that is OBSESSED with the art” Dan commented.
DJ Harrison released “Monotones”, his first commercial solo body of work earlier this year. When he’s not doing the solo bit, Devonne can be found creating and performing as a part of several groups including Butcher Brown and the John D’earth Quintet.
One of the pieces that stood out to me from my conversation with him was DJH’s approach to creativity and work.
Because even though I’ve never played anything besides an iPod (and even that has had mixed results) I strongly feel that his approach to music composition can be applied to many fields, both artistic and professional.
On Perfectionism: “You can spend your whole life making one thing perfect, but with your audiences’ attention span so low, you’re going to lose them if you don’t get your work out there. You only have so much time to make an impression on the audience and make them remember you. “
He was also very candid on the idea of “shipping”.
“…when you feel it’s ready, you ship it and get back to work. You could work on something like one song for an infinite amount of time, but at some point you have to get back to the project. You HAVE to ship.”
Coming from the professional, tech world I am used to operating on tight deadlines. However, Devonne views this a bit differently.
“When I work, it comes from an external power. I can’t put it into words: it’s a creative force. Sometimes when there’s a strict deadline, you have a goal to work towards, but it can make your creative power suffer. I would become more focused on the deadline than the music.”
I was a bit skeptical because without a timeline, how do you know when to ship?
“You know. As a musician or artist you get a feel for when the project is ready. But the key is not keep pushing it back. It’s a fine balance, really.”
Devonne’s eclectic background is also visible in his musical tastes, where he counts such disparate acts as D’Angelo, Pink Floyd and Chance The Rapper as influences.
“I’m inspired by what’s around me and every genre teaches me how to improve my own sound.”
While Devonne does use the computer to drum up sounds, he prefers live instrumentation as his medium of choice.
But he’s not one to knock those using technology. “No hate, everyone has a different style. I just prefer instruments.”
I asked him to expand on his thoughts behind technology advancements, both good and bad.
“Tech has it made it easier than ever to reach an audience. It’s lowered the barrier to entry so that you can get your message out. The downside of course, is that with a lower barrier, you have a lot more crap out there. “
He goes on to say “…in a way that’s worked for serious musicians, because it’s forced us to become better in order to rise to the top. For better or for worse, we have to work harder and faster to reach that audience.”
So what’s next for the VA native? According to Dan, a West Coast visit is in order later this month.
“We are prepping for our second DJ Harrison tour. We have four dates confirmed in LA and we are currently setting up some shows in LA and SF.”
Album releases and tour dates? Not bad for a kid who was just looking for activities to stay out of trouble.
Check out DJ Harrison’s Website
Jam with him on Bandcamp
And Follow him on Twitter