Trail Mix: The Story of J.P. Harris

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Over the many years that I have been contributing pieces to Blue Ridge Outdoors, I have had the pleasure of chatting with a wide variety of incredible musicians. From the iconic to the unknown, this blog has brought me into contact with a dizzying array of colorful characters.

None, perhaps, has been more colorful than J.P. Harris.

J.P’s story is nothing if not interesting; now in his early thirties, he’s been on his own since the age of fourteen. He’s traveled the country by foot and freight train, worked as a lumberjack, carpenter, luthier, and laborer. He’s grown more cubic feet of beard than he can ever count, covered his body in tattoos, and cut I’ll Keep Calling, his first record, in just three days.

I first interviewed Harris a couple years ago, right around the time he released I’ll Keep Calling; our chat lasted for around two hours. Once I got J.P. rolling, I had to grab hold and hang on. Unabashed in his opinions and more than willing to share them, we rolled through a variety of topics, including iconic country songwriters, the state of country music, and more. J.P. pulled no punches; what I got was the real deal and perfectly honest. It was gold.

J.P. is one of a handful of young artists out there making country music the way country music is supposed to sound. Take a listen to his latest record, Home Is Where The Hurt Is, cut with his band, The Tough Choices. You won’t find any hip grindin’ and backwards ball caps, no lifted trucks or homages to cut off denim jeans or dusty river roads. J.P. doesn’t churn out modern country fodder like those many “Nashville pop country jerk offs” – a term he coined but one that I have purloined, because I love it.

Instead, Harris’s songs are a scuffed boot to the belly, the soundtrack for love and loss, heartache and pain, all backed by the moan of pedal steel and vintage Fender Telecaster. It’s old country.

I recently chatted with J.P. and played a little word association game with him. I threw some words at him and he responded with the first thing that came to mind. As you can imagine, it was pretty entertaining…

Blue Ridge Outdoors – Clean shaven faces.

J.P. Harris – A lot of extra work in the morning.

BRO – Wrapping up a record.

J.P. – So much still left to do.

BRO – Bad tattoos.

J.P. – Good stories.

BRO – Working with your hands.

J.P. – Part of understanding what truth in work really is.

BRO – Life on the rails.

J.P. – Fun. Romantic. Dangerous. Everything you hope it would be.

BRO – Bro-country.

J.P. – Garbage truck.

BRO – Country music.

J.P. – Good for what ails you.

J.P. Harris & The Tough Choices will be all over Virginia in early November. You can catch them at the Lyric Theater in Blacksburg on November 7, Wolf Hills Brewing Company in Abingdon on November 8, The Palisades in Eggleston on November 9, and at Balliceaux in Richmond on November 12.

Also, be sure to take a listen to “Give a Little Lovin’,” the brand new track from J.P Harris & The Tough Choices, on this month’s Trail Mix.

For more information on J.P., his band, more show dates, or how to get your hands on Home Is Where The Hurt Is, surf over to ilovehonkytonk.com.

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