As current DC-area blues jazz maven Carly Harvey was feeling the impact of a host of life’s challenges, she wrote a song that unexpectedly had a pivotal contributor that helped make the song extra special: her late father. It’s one of a plethora of fascinating stories on her amazing musical journey that she shares with host Steve Houk on the next episode of Living on Music that airs this Monday at 6:30pm.
“I laid down the song’s blueprint in the studio in 2019, and then right around the time the pandemic hit, I kept seeing my Dad in my dreams,” said Harvey, the 2021 Washington Area Music Award winner for Best Blues Artist. “And he was like, ‘You really need to fix this song.’ I thought, ‘Hey Dad, it’s been around for a while, it’s blues funk, it’s fine.’ But he kept coming into my dreams every night for like two weeks, saying, ‘This is what you should do, you should do this and that,’ and I said, ‘I’m not reworking this song!’ But one night, all of a sudden we’re both working this all out, and it changed from an 8 bar blues song to a 16 bar blues song with these hits and this deep pocket…I mean basically, I wrote the song with my Dad.” The song was the beautiful “Worth Waiting For,” which was Harvey’s entry for NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest, a clip of which you can hear on the show, or watch right here: https://youtu.be/XHq1sFj1a_M
As a youngster, the blues wasn’t embedded in Harvey’s soul yet, but due to a series of different influences, it would mold itself into her over the years. But she laughingly recalls as a kid often waking up to a classic folk blues tune her parents would crank up and just cringing. “I woke up every Saturday morning, I kid you not, and I just wanted to relax, and every Saturday morning, I’d hear, ‘CALEDONIAAAA!,’ I mean the worst version of it with screaming, with skiddley bop skiddley bop, I mean, what is this? I think what I didn’t like about that certain era of blues my Mom liked was it was too showy and put on, I think I was just rejecting the buffoonery.”
It took some critical moments over time to help this then-budding musician change her direction and truly fall for the blues; she credits a band she began to collaborate with in college called Eat It Raw for helping steer her in that direction, with a member of the band, Wes Lanich, introducing her to the music of a well known blues rock artist which helped her find her blues core, one that is now deeply embedded in her heart and soul.
“One time after hearing me sing, Wes said, ‘You should do blues,’ and I said, ‘No, I don’t do that, I sing Carole King, Fleetwood Mac, America.’ He kept insisting, but I said, ‘No, I’m not into it.’ Then one day he starts playing some music by Susan Tedeschi, and I was like, ‘Ya know this sounds like another song I really like,’ and he says, ‘Yeah, you like BLUES,’ and I was like, ‘I DO like blues!’ Susan’s music just felt more accessible, her voice was just so authentic. It just captivated me, and then the blues started chasing me down!”
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