Home Feature The Chat Room: Kyp Harness

The Chat Room: Kyp Harness

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There are few Canadian songwriters as consistently brilliant as Kyp Harness, and he’s sharing his latest collection, Kick The Dust, today, adding another chapter to an immense body of work that began taking shape in the Toronto indie scene of the 1980s.

The key seems to be that Harness never tires of taking aim at society’s ills, and the seeming reluctance to correct them, which has led his songs to be compared to the work of Bob Dylan, Billy Bragg, and others who instinctively infuse their music with a social conscience.

Harness took some time to tell us more about what went into the making of Kick The Dust, available now on all digital platforms and Bandcamp. For those in Toronto, he will be launching the album live on April 26 at the Cameron House.

Did you have any specific theme in mind as you were writing the songs for Kick The Dust?
The songs just come naturally out of the terror and beauty of being alive – singing to myself instead of talking to myself. Influences would be Bing Crosby, Nina Simone, Psalms, St. Teresa of Avila – all the usual ones. Freedom and bondage, truth and corruption, grace, desire, and telling the truth to shame the devil.

There’s certainly a contrast between despair and hope in a lot of the lyrics. Which side do you feel ultimately came out on top on the album?
Like everyone, I go to heaven and to hell every day. I figure that hope wins out by 10 to 30 per cent, or I wouldn’t be here talking about it.

Your catalogue is pretty extensive at this point. What keeps you motivated to write songs, and when you do feel the time is right to make a record?
Sometimes I think I won’t write any more songs, then they just keep coming around. I don’t chase them or try to force them. When I get enough of them, and if I think they’re any good, I record them. I generally think I’m breaking through to a new understanding with each bunch of songs, though I could be wrong.

It seems to be getting harder and harder to live in Toronto. What’s your view on the state of the city?
My view on the city is the same as my view on the world. It’s a reflection of who we are inside. I could live anywhere and I do in a way.

Looking back on your own career, do you have any specific highlights, or do you tend not to revisit your past material?
It’s all been a highlight. I put 18 records out of every kind of song: love songs, protest songs, story songs, funny songs, scary songs, pop songs, country songs, folk songs, rock songs, children’s songs. I feel all these things. In the end, it’s all one song. All my songs are country-children-folk-spiritual-protest-funny-scary-story-love songs.

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