While it may seem like a long time coming, Harper says the extended timeline has allowed him to better figure himself out as an artist, building on his early folk days and expanding into bigger pop sounds and rock themes.
"It's the artistic statement I've been working toward," says Harper of the new album, which arrived on Sept. 23, and includes the standout single "Pink Razor" and favorite cut "2 Tickets," the latter of which is an anthemic, sun-drenched jam, a reflection of the singer in peak form.
"It was a song that came about while I was living up in Oregon at my parents' house," recalls Harper, speaking with Variance days ahead of the album's release. "I was by myself—they live with my grandma full-time, and they take care of her now. While making the record, I was traveling back and forth to California from Portland, while I was staying in the house that I grew up in."
He continues: "The record was in a place to where I thought it was ready to go, ready to be done ... I was also really bored, and kind of not really sure what my living situation was going be in the future, I was wanting to just produce a lot more for myself. And so I kind of sat down one day and was like, I really, really want to make something from scratch and write something from scratch and produce it myself."
According to Harper, the song turned out to be "sort of like a science experiment." He notes: "I came up with this guitar riff and I just thought, 'This has to become something because it's too good to just write half of the song and then forget about it—which is what I do 99% of the time with my music, especially if I'm by myself doing it. I just kind of set out to do it during that week, and I told myself I'm not leaving until I finished the song."
But as Harper notes, "I have to keep reminding myself this isn't just a song or a single or an EP. It's my debut album. I've never actually released an album before."
The 27-year-old singer says the newly released LP is reflective of a time when he was in a relationship with someone, aware of its pending demise yet somehow not able to acknowledge it out loud. Instead, his music became his outlet to say what he was feeling and "form this story" of how he envisioned the direction of the relationship as it dissolved. Thus, the album title.
"A lot of the songs that I was writing were kind of me foreshadowing the future of what happened after the separation," he says. "I was writing these songs in future tense. Because at the time I was writing them, I was still in the relationship and I hadn't really like been able to say these things to this person about how I felt outside of song form."
Because of the inspiration behind the record, Harper says his singular hope for the album, if there is one, is that "people listen to it all the way through because it is a story."
He adds: "That's a lot to ask these days, because the attention span, especially with younger people, is very thin, and a lot shorter than it was even five or 10 years ago. So I hope that people can just play and listen to it. Um I also understand that, some people prefer not to listen to music that way and like to just bump around, because I'm saying this and I'll just do the exact same thing that I'm saying not to do."
Bigger picture, Harper says he hopes people will listen to the album and hear something they can relate to and latch on to, sensing a connection as he shares his own personal experiences. "I hope they can hear it and just know that there are other people out there who feel the same way. I hope they can find hope in the music."
He also quips: "And obviously, I hope they are compelled enough to want to share it with their friends and family and buy tickets to my shows and I hope that it gets me in front of a bigger audience, which would help me financially," he says with a lighthearted laugh.
And while he is mostly joking, he stresses how important this album is to him personally, the result of two years of hard work and a big step in his career, especially in the middle of a music industry which has faced numerous challenges over the past few years.
As he is quick to point out, Alex Salibian, who co-wrote and co-produced Harry Styles' solo debut single "Sign of the Times," co-produced a large swath of Harper's new album alongside producer Ethan Schneiderman.
"I was at Coachella and watched [Styles] perform that song and it was like, 'Holy shit, I'm working with the same people who were in the room when this was created,'" he recalls, noting: "And you know, I feel like I'm worthy of that. And I've worked really hard to be in those rooms and to be in the room that I was in for the last two years. So I'm really happy for people to hear this music."■