Jessica Harp is a
singer-songwriter born and raised in Kansas City. She is one half of the Wreckers (with Michelle
Branch), and just finished a cross-country tour with her. I spoke to her about writing love songs
when she was eight, Kelly Clarkson, and being a barbeque traitor.
You’ve toured with Michelle Branch; do you remember the first
time you performed with her?
We’ve been friends for five
years and met when we were just teenagers with websites promoting our independent records. She went
on to be signed to Maverick and when I wasn’t busy with my own stuff, I’d go out
on the road with her. In the beginning [it was] just to hang out, but then I started singing backup
for her. We’d always written together and loved singing, too, so we decided to start a
You started writing songs at 13. Do you
remember what your first one was about?
I actually still have the
lyrics from my first songs from when I was seven or
I don’t really know what they were about. My imagination of what love was. I was a
hopeless romantic even at eight. [Laughs]
have a certain process? Do you do lyrics first?
When I first started
writing, before I learned how to play guitar, I was definitely more about lyrics. These days it
varies. Sometimes, I’ll sit down and just play the guitar, and find a melody I like.
Occasionally, I’ll have stockpiles of lyrics.
Do you have any musical guilty
Avril Lavigne’s latest record I really love. I
actually love Kelly Clarkson’s new stuff as well.
Lavigne actually co-wrote some of that. You can hear it, too
Definitely. Living in Nashville, something I really want to get
into is writing for other people.
Who would you
want to write for?
I have some songs that would be pretty decent for
Kelly Clarkson or Avril Lavigne.
You were born in
Kansas City ...
Born and raised.
important Kansas City question: Favorite
What’s funny is since I’ve
spent a lot of time in Tennessee, I’ve got a lot of friends in Memphis. I have to say
after growing up on Kansas City barbeque, Memphis barbeque kicks Kansas City’s butt. I
might be a traitor, but it does.
This was going so
well. What happened?
You’re gonna have to try
Memphis barbeque sometime. I think you’ll agree with me. I never thought I’d be
a traitor. The barbeque sauce down here is sweeter and I like the sweeter sauce. KC’s is
I’m amazed. I just thought
you’d represent the locals ...
I know. However,
I’m still loyal to the Chiefs. The Titans are my new team, but I will always be loyal to
Describe yourself in three
I’m never good at these questions. I always sit here
and try to come up with something clever. Let’s see, I’m loyal, goofy and
I read that your album might be out on
Maverick at some point this year.
The Wreckers’ album will
come out on Maverick late this year or early next year. I’m currently in the studio
recording my solo record.
What I like about your
music is that it works on a lot of levels.
Believe it or not, that was
actually a problem for a long time. When I was first starting out, the labels were like
“What do we do
You’ve got a lot of
bases covered. You’ve got a hardcore fan base,
I’ve got crazy, awesome fans. I don’t think
of them as fans, they’re my pals.
What’s been your craziest fan
They don’t do crazy stuff. They’re just
so sweet. The whole time I was out on the road, they would send me letters and stuffed animals;
little things to make me smile during the day.
What’s the best gift you’ve
ever gotten from a fan?
My whole message board pooled together for my
Christmas present. It was a Simon Card, a gift certificate that you can spend anywhere. It was an
insane amount. That was really, really sweet. They all sent me personalized cards and letters. That
was a really good Christmas gift.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.