SAINT HARISON ON HIS DEBUT EP ‘LOST A FRIEND’, WORKING WITH TIANA MAJOR9 [@TianaMajor9] & VULNERABILITY IN MUSIC
Hailing from Southampton, pink-haired Saint Harison has a remarkable vocal range. His growth as an artist has been rapid, and rightfully so. His debut EP, lost a friend is an astounding display of his vocal range and moving lyricism.
Kat: Tell us about what inspired the lost a friend EP.
Saint Harison: It was really funny ’cause I wasn’t writing for a project and I didn’t even really know what I was writing about. I think I was just writing about this situation – this person that lost a friend – but it wasn’t very intentional. When you start writing, it just kind of falls out and someone’s like, “Have you been in a situation?” And you’re like, “Yes. Mm-hmm. I have, I’m in that situation.” We recorded so many songs for the first project, literally over a hundred but I was also finding a sound as well. That was the first time I’d ever worked with people – we were trying to find what it sounded like and what route to go down sonically so it was a lot of like trial and error. When it came to putting the project together, I was just like, “What are the best songs I’ve done, the songs I relate to the most and make me feel something?” and then put them together, and then it was an EP with no title. Then I said to my managers, “Oh my God, do you realise how many times I say friend in this project, this whole project has become about this person. ‘homies’, ‘more weed less friends’, there’s ‘lost a friend’, I’m sure there’s another one where I say friend somewhere and it just happened to be about the same situation, so it kind of just presented itself really. I didn’t plan it.
Kat: What songs were hardest to write emotionally & which ones were easiest?
Saint Harison: ‘james (bleeding alone)’ is probably the hardest and easiest one at the same time. The time it took to write – it was the easiest, it was the quickest lyrics have ever flowed. It literally took like 20 minutes – I was on the mic and it was just going. It’s also the hardest emotionally. I kept that one to myself for a minute, ’cause it’s probably the rawest song on the project. They’re all stories and they’re all personal experiences, but I think I felt that one was so personal and so direct, it was so directly a letter to this person that I felt reserved at the beginning about ever putting it out.
Kat: Now that this is being put out for all the world to hear, do you feel like you’ve healed from the situations that inspired the record? And how do you feel like music is helping you do that?
Saint Harison: Definitely but it still comes with its struggles. I didn’t date for ages and I still care very much about this person, but I think life has helped that. Me getting stuck into music and being able to do this for my job has helped me, ’cause I’m really busy and distraction is always an amazing thing. Writing is definitely therapy for me. It just works. I love writing by myself ’cause there’s so many lyrics I go through, there’s so many ideas I go through and no one has to hear all the bad ones. Sometimes I’ll say something a bit too out there and then I can just tweak it without having to go through the process of people hearing everything. It’s a very vulnerable thing, but it does work. I think when I’m making a song, I sit here for hours, so it’s hours of me processing whatever I’m writing about – that’s a long time to sit and think about something; I think it’s then easier to come away from it and be like, “Oh, I did that and I’ve thought about that for six hours and I’ve actually made something creative out of it and now I can go away and I don’t have to sit with that thought anymore.”
Kat: How does being vulnerable about your experiences in such a public way have an effect on you?
Saint Harison: I’ve been asked that a few times, it’s so funny to me cause I’m like, “Am I not registering that this is public? Am I not getting it?” I think it’s because everyone I listened to and everyone I grew up with did that, so it feels very normal for me to consume that type of music. It would feel weird if I did it the other way around, if I took other people’s songs or I didn’t write at all. This feels really normal – to be emotional and vulnerable and then put it out. I’ve always done that – not put it out, I’ve always written like that so it feels [normal].
Kat: What artists shaped your sound as a singer and the kind of production you want to work with?
Saint Harison: The divas – a hundred percent. I grew up with Mariah Carey, Barbara Streisand and Whitney Houston and absolute soul singers that have influenced my sound a lot – Stevie Wonder, I love Al Green, I love Soul and Motown and that – as a teenager – took me into modern R&B. I just love voices – anywhere from Bon Iver to Jazmine Sullivan. It’s how it makes you feel, I love timeless stuff too. I remember I wanted to really try and do that with this project, like ‘more weed, less friends’ – it’s my timeless song that I that I love.
Kat: In songs like ‘ego talking’, you can really hear how the beat works with how you are singing and what you’re singing about. How do you work with producers to make sure the sentiment of your lyricism is amplified through the production?
Saint Harison: It’s a trial and error process and that’s not to say that people aren’t good at what they do. It’s such a specific thing to find someone who can see your vision, because I’m not a producer, so I can’t explain what’s in my head so the process is really finding people that are good at [understanding] your influences, know your sound, then they just do their thing. ‘ego talking’ is produced by Deputy and he’s a magician, he did ‘TMF’ as well and it’s just so good. I don’t understand it, but it’s a beautiful skill and it’s an amazing thing when you work with people who just get it like that.
Kat: I love your pink hair! What made you choose that colour as part of your aesthetic?
Saint Harison: I’d always dyed my hair different colours! In lockdown I didn’t have to go into work, so I dyed it pink. Before, I did blues and greens and literally every colour you can imagine, I’ve had. Then, I just started posting on TikTok and everyone associated me with the pink hair. I was like, “Oh s**t, I should probably keep it.”
Kat: Your riffs, runs and melodies are extraordinary – what was your vocal journey like to get to where you are now?
Saint Harison: Oh, a wild ride. My voice broke when I was 15/16 and I lost all my high range. When I was a kid I was in a pop academy and I used to sing songs like ‘Emotions’ by Mariah Carey, so my range had no ceiling but I lost it all when my voice broke and I was so heartbroken. I literally had months of being like, “I don’t think I’m gonna be able to be a singer.” I still feel like I sound different now than I did like three years ago, but that transition of teenager to young adulthood – vocally it was really challenging. I had to relearn a lot of stuff, because I wasn’t gonna be satisfied unless I got back to what I was doing before. I love singing and as I said, I love voices, so if I didn’t feel like I was amazing at what I did, it was gonna really upset me. So, I just did the thing and got on with it and hoped for the best.
Kat: I remember we were going up to the green room at Mahalia Presents… and some girl stopped you to say she was going through a breakup. How does it make you feel when people tell you they resonate with your music?
Saint Harison: It’s still wild and it doesn’t feel real. You work towards these moments, right? Then it happens and you’re kind of just like – I’m not speaking for everyone – but for me, it’s like I have found that I actually need to take more time to realise what is happening – it’s just a weird overwhelming thing. It makes me quite emotional, which is why I don’t actually think about it all that much, but I’ve had nights where I’ve read through so many [messages], of people relating and I just get so emotional about it because I think that’s all you hope for. For me, that’s all I really wanted was for people to resonate or people to get it. I don’t know if it’s an emotional blockage thing, when people say it, I’m like, “Oh, thank you so much,” but when I sit there and deep it I get very, very emotional. It’s so sad, but it’s lovely – everything I wanted to happen is happening, which is very cool.
Kat: How did the collaboration with TianaMajor9 come about and what was it like working with her?
Saint Harison: We had no features on the project and the idea was getting thrown around of having someone to feature on ‘homies’. I knew [with] UK R&B, I really wanted to honour the scene. I love the UK R&B scene. I’m a massive fan of Tiana. I remember going live with Tiana Major9 in lockdown, she probably doesn’t remember but – and I’ve never told her. I was like, “Hi, I really love your music!” I was a genuine fan of Tiana and if we were gonna do a feature I wanted it to be someone I was really a fan of and working with her – she’s just incredible, she’s amazing. I went to meet her, ’cause I’d never actually met her before and we got on. Then she did her verse and I listened to it a hundred times over when she sent it, and it changed the song for me too. ‘homies’ wasn’t one of my favourites, and then she did it and I went back in to finesse it over what she did and now it is a firm favourite, but yeah she killed it. She’s an amazing human and she’s just a little bit unreal too.
Kat: I love how full circle that is! To have 503k monthly listeners with just three singles is a massive achievement so well done. Your numerical growth as an artist seems to have accelerated at full speed and grown at a pretty quick rate, how do you feel about that and do you think there’s anything you’ve been doing that’s played a key role in that?
Saint Harison: I don’t know, I think it’s hard. I think it’s hard because stuff online is one thing and real life is another thing. I haven’t done any sort of shows yet – which I’m planning to do this year, I haven’t met a lot of fans in person – which I’m really excited to do. I think that will bring another sort of reality to it. Obviously, the scene numbers are just amazing – I very much did not expect it for my first release. I remember when I first met my managers, I gave them a vision board and it was like, “When I put my first EP out, I want a million streams,”. It’s very cool to go back to and see that surpassed already. My team are a massive part of it – they knew a lot more about Saint Harison before I did. I think Instagram and TikTok – the people on there have received everything so well. I’d always felt like I wasn’t a very typical artist or writer, which I felt might hinder me a little bit, but it’s cool to see.
Kat: What are you learning about yourself & the industry as a new artist?
Saint Harison: I am learning to be more open-minded. Working by myself a lot – you can be very insular but you have to get used to a lot of other people being part of what you do. Everyone’s there to help, but sometimes when you’ve come from being so insular and you’re writing in a room, you’ve had all these visions since you’re a teenager – it’s hard to adjust to that. I’m learning just to be more open-minded, to trust the process and not feel so insecure about people being there to help. And then the industry – I knew nothing about it. I learned everything from scratch – what masters were, what publishing is – my team would draw [it] out and explain it all. For me, it’s definitely trying to stay focused on what I wanted to do from the beginning. There’s definitely a pressure that comes when you are in the industry, putting out music – you have things to fulfil. There’s a pressure that comes with getting the numbers and getting the song that’s gonna do something – if it happens or when it happens, it will happen. That’s what I’m trying to figure out now – just staying focused on what I was already doing and not feeling all these new pressures and make them [start] changing my way of creating or making songs. You can’t let that change how you do things. You just gotta carry on and know that whatever’s meant to happen is gonna happen.
Listen to Saint Harison’s ‘lost a friend’ EP below: