Jo Harman is ready for her voice to be heard...
...And with a new album on the way, there’s no stopping her.
"I’m incredibly grateful to the blues community and always will be,” says Jo Harman. “They’ve been really supportive and really got behind me, but…” she pauses, takes a deep breath, “and this is me being totally honest with you, the blues community really needs to self regulate, it needs to get a lot more fussy. And by that I mean everyone involved in it, from what the fans choose to buy, to who the promoters book, to who the festivals put on, we need some real quality control here. Because at the moment it seems there are a lot of old white men with long hair playing three chords in their local pub, doing covers of old blues songs that have no relation to their lives, singing about railway tracks and the cotton fields. I tell my own story.”
The gloves are off. The 31-year-old singer, born in London, raised in Devon, now back in London, isn’t afraid to voice what a lot of shy blues fans, not to mention many artists themselves, are actually thinking.
“Most serious musicians, they want to disassociate with the blues community, it’s not seen as cool. It should be, but it really isn’t. I’ve been lucky, I’ve met genuine music fans through it, but there is a real down side. It can be very limiting, very prescriptive and when I get a comment on Facebook saying how ‘Jo Harman isn’t blues’, I want to say: ‘Well, tell me exactly what your definition of the blues is, because old white men playing covers, that’s just pub rock, not the blues.’ I’ve made the decision not to follow what everyone else is doing. Good luck to them, I’ve got nothing against them doing their thing, but it’s just not for me. I’ve got big aspirations, big ambitions, I’m doing something different and always will be.”
Jo Harman doesn’t like “restricting” labels, and she doesn’t call herself a blues singer, although she says her place in the blues community isn’t up for debate, “because my music is always rooted in the blues, always has been, always will be. But I do a bit of gospel, a bit of soul, a bit of rock, a bit of country. I do intimate singer-songwriter stuff, with just a piano and vocal, and on my last EP [this year’s Found A Place], there are some really weird, fucked-up sounds on that. And my fans are following me. I’m taking them along with me on my artistic journey and I genuinely believe that whatever I do next, these fans will stay with me. Okay, rant over now, let’s get on with the interview.”