Interview by Scott Preston
“Anne Harris‘ songs frequently sound born of a spiritual awakening. …songs reference mountains, rivers and deep-rooted trees, the singer viewing the natural world almost as an open-air cathedral,” said the Chicago Tribune in a recent feature. As a leader in Chicago’s conscious music scene, the vocalist / songwriter / fiddler has made quite a name for herself with a growing body of fans who are drawn to her passionate and captivating performances and evocative songs. An energetic, charismatic performer and engaging vocalist, she complements her inventive fiddle playing with turns on mandolin and djembe drum, offering enticing glimpses into her creative well.
“Fiery fiddler Anne Harris is a free spirit” (Chicago magazine) and exemplifies “an original sound and voice.” (Bruce Hornsby, June 2005.) She has received radio airplay in over 80 markets nationwide, including Ted Airlines in-flight radio, and was awarded “Album Artwork of the Year” honors at the 2006 DIY Music Festival in Los Angeles for her Wine and Poetry CD packaging.
Cincy Groove: I understand your new cd is coming out soon. How does Gravity and Faith differ from your previous 3 albums?
Anne Harris: Yes the album is coming out Sept 12, and we are having a cd release show at Matyr’s here in Chicago. I really immersed myself in the process in a way previously I was unable to. Part of that is getting to work with a great producer and my band and I have been together for about 7 years now as well. That really helped to keep everyone on the same page in many regards. We also have been playing these songs live for about 2 years. The biggest difference for me really was my level of involvement in the process of making a cd.
Cincy Groove: How is your tour going with Otis Taylor?
Anne Harris: Its going really great. We had this really crazy chance meeting, he saw me perform with my band over Blues Fest weekend at Buddy Guy’s venue here in Chicago. He just happened to be in the room and saw my show. Otis then asked me if I wanted to sit in with him on a couple tunes at one of his upcoming shows. What started as a couple tunes at one gig turned into me playing with him for the entire weekend. Now he hires me to play with him whenever I can.
Cincy Groove: Who are some of the other people who you have performed with?
Anne Harris: Kathy Richardson, a singer/songwriter who used to be based in Chicago, but now lives in San Francisco. Her current gig is touring with Jefferson Starship, she replaced Grace Slick on the vocal duties in the band. Alice Peacock is another artist based here in Chicago that I work with on a regular basis.
Cincy Groove: Do you play any other instruments besides the fiddle?
Anne Harris: I play a little mandolin, actually I write most of my songs on the mandolin. I really only picked it up so I had something to help translate my music to the rest of my band. I also play the djembe.
Cincy Groove: When did you start playing the fiddle?
Anne Harris: I think I started bugging my mom about it when I was 3. I started taking more formal lessons when I was eight years old.
Cincy Groove: Who do you consider some of your influences?
Anne Harris: I always think of that as a loaded question. I really believe everything you hear and every experience you have influences your art in some way. I like a lot of different types of music, I have a very eclectic cd collection. My songwriting is really diverse and I think thats a direct reflection of my listening tastes. I think my sound is also diverse because I play an instrument that traditionally isn’t a front instrument like a guitar.
Cincy Groove: Where do you think is the strangest place you had to play at?
Anne Harris: There was this this Chicago Police Officers Union event . I got hired to play with my band for all of these really tough looking cop biker guys and their girlfriends. We walked in and looked at each other and said, “Ok they are either going to kill us or love us” (laughing). But they really ended up loving us and they had a great time.
Cincy Groove: Where are some of your favorite places to play in Chicago?
Anne Harris: I would have to say Matyr’s is my favorite place in Chicago. The owner is a truly diehard music supporter. He will put bands in that room from time to time that won’t fill it up, but he loves to give bands a good outlet to perform in.
Anne Harris~ vocals, fiddle, mandolin
Rich Stitzel~ drums & percussion
Chris Siebold~ acoustic & electric Guitars
Greg Nergaard~ bass
Upcoming Anne Harris tour dates:
For complete show details visit anneharris.com
9.12.08 Gravity and Faith CD Release Party Martyrs’ Chicago, IL
9.20.08 Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion Bristol, VA/TN – – Anne plays fiddle with Otis Taylor
9.27.08 Sonoma County EarleFest Santa Rosa, CA – Anne plays fiddle with Otis Taylor
9.28.08 C. Donatiello Winery Healdsburg, CA – Anne plays fiddle with Otis Taylor
10.4.08 World Music Company Chicago, IL
10.17.08 Acorn Theater Three Oaks, MI