AMERICAN duo Native Harrow head down from their Celtic Connections show in Glasgow to play York the next day, January 18.
Singer-songwriter Devin Tuel and multi-instrumentalist Stephen Harms will be promoting their wistful folk-rock 2019 album, Happier Now, at The Basement, City Screen.
Signed to Loose Music, the London home to The Handsome Family, Courtney Marie Andrews and Israel Nash, Native Harrow will be performing 11 British gigs in January before returning to North Yorkshire for the Deer Shed Festival at Baldersby Park, Topcliffe, from July 24 to 26.
Native Harrow is the nom de plume of Tuel, a former ballerina and classically trained singer, from Newburgh, New York, who says of her third album: “This record is about becoming your own advocate. Realising that maybe you are different in several or a myriad of ways and that that is okay. And further, it is about me becoming a grown woman.”
After nearly two decades of rigorous training in ballet, theatre and singing, Tuel needed to break out of the oppressive rules of academia. She had to find her natural voice, write from her heart, and figure out what kind of performer she truly was, rather than the one she was being moulded into from the age of three. “I spent my early twenties playing every venue in Greenwich Village, recording demos in my friend’s kitchen and making lattes,” she says.
“I felt very alive then. I was on my own living in my own little studio, staying up all night writing; the dream I had of being a bohemian New York City artist was unfolding. I wanted to be Patti Smith.
“I was also heartbroken, poor and had no idea what I was getting myself into. My twenties, as I think it goes for most, were all about getting up, getting knocked down, and learning to keep going. I never gave up and I think if I told 20-year-old me how things looked nine years later she’d be so excited”.
She and Harms recorded Happier Now at Chicago’s Reliable Recorders over three days in March 2018, working with co-producer Alex Hall on nine songs that addressed fear, love, the open road, ill-fated relationships and coping with the state of the world.
“I wanted to share that I made it out of my own thunderstorm,” says Tuel. “I had experienced the high peaks and very low valleys of my twenties.
“I saw more of the world on my own, got through challenges, revelled in true moments of triumph, but all the while the world around me was growing louder, wilder, and scarier. Music for me is a place to be soft. This album was my place to feel it all.”
Happier Now’s songs were written in the duo’s “downtime” during three back-to-back tours across North America, spanning 108 dates, in support of Native Harrow’s second album, Sorores.
Tuel approached the sessions like a musicians’ workshop, each morning beginning with the songwriter presenting her collaborators with the day’s material.
Tuel, Harms and Hall rehearsed and documented each song live on the floor, tracking as a band through each take. No click tracks, scratch tracks, or even headphones; just three musicians in a small room, captured with Hall’s collection of vintage microphones and subtle retro production techniques.
Overdubs, including vocal harmonies, B3 organ and the rare lead guitar, were added to decorate these live performances. The creative energy of the tightly knit sessions spilled over into Tuel’s songwriting as well: she skipped lunch on the third and final day of recording to pen the road-weary Hard To Take.
Four days after arriving in Chicago, Native Harrow were back on the road and Happier Now was complete, with its songs oscillating between feeling the sting of uncertainty on Can’t Go On Like This, through the beauty of California on Blue Canyon, to the ache for lavish stability on Way To Light.
Hear them live in York on January 18 in an 8pm show promoted by Please Please You. Tickets cost £10 at ticketing.picturehouses.com.