Photo by Shervin Lainez
Photo by Shervin Lainez

Soul singer/songwriter and guitarist David Ryan Harris has had a steady and storied musical career; since the 1980s, Harris has been in several bands on various labels, produced artists like India.Arie and Dionne Farris, written and performed with a star-studded roster of musicians, was John Mayer’s touring guitarist from 2004-2012, and released his fourth LP, Lightyears, in 2014.  Even with that mind-blowing resumé, Harris says it’s still only the beginning: “You’re always making new fans, new impressions, and you’re only as good as what you’re doing right now,” he says.  “I’m not a household name.  I’m still hungry and I want people to know what I do, and I feel like that’s a youthful approach that allows me to reinvent myself and do new things.  I still feel like I have tons to learn, I’m humbled to be doing it.”

Harris doesn’t recall ever really making a decision to pursue music as a career–“I just started doing it and was fortunate enough to be able to continue doing it,” he says with a laugh.  His diverse and never-ending talent is undeniable, yet he attributes the success he’s had to one important lesson: “Be nice to people, and strive to be someone that people want to be around.  There are people who are far more successful than I am who aren’t very nice; you kind of have people who don’t root for you.  My career has been able to sort of simmer from mid to high-level, and I think part of that is not making enemies.  I’m not too self-important about it all,” says Harris.

Acting as producer for other artists is a particular passion for Harris; “I love helping somebody articulate their vision. From my first studio sessions as a kid, I was always the one standing over the engineer’s shoulder asking ‘what does this button do’ or ‘what does that thing do’, I really love being a bridge between the technical and the artistic.  I try to spend as much time as I can with the artist and try to  get inside his or her head and guide where guidance is needed.  It’s just helping them paint this picture they have,” he says, adding, “I love it as much as I do making my own music.”

He somehow found the time to craft Lightyears, a beautiful collection of eleven soulfully swoon-worthy songs that make a beeline straight to your heart upon the first listen. Initially, the goal was to create a hopeful record;  “When I started making it, there was an overwhelming feeling that it wasn’t cool or hip to be joyful or hopeful, and i wanted to make a record that was almost the idea of coming out of a very dark place and stepping into the light, like a storm has passed and you’re looking out into the world at the damage and moving on to a new thing.  As is often the case, you have to let things have a life of their own and not try to make it something it’s not supposed to be.  There’s definitely that spirit in songs like ‘Our Day’ and ‘Shelter’. I love the sentiment of ‘Shelter’; it’s hard to write a non-romantic love song, and that isn’t necessarily a love song, but it is one you could sing to your parents or your brother or your significant other, to anybody you care about,” he says.  “It’s a useful sentiment to have in today’s culture.  It’s soulful and reminiscent of older things.”  In today’s musical climate, it seems that reminiscent sounds are the newest trend; when asked his thoughts on the recent resurgence vintage soul, he pointedly states, “I love the aesthetics of it, but it needs to be more than dress up.  The songs have to be great too.”

As of late, Harris and his trusty guitar have been on tour from coast to coast supporting Lightyears.  “It’s been great. I feel like I’m sort of building a fan base because by touring for the last few years has been very sporadic.  I would tour with John Mayer for a long time, I’d produce a record, or do something else.  I’d play cities and not get back to them for another year, and it’s hard to sustain anything like that.  Everyone seems to love the record, and I know I’ll be back to these places in a few months,” he says.  “People come, then next time they’ll bring their friends.”

You can catch David Ryan Harris on tour with Tyler Lyle for the next couple of weeks:

11.12 Bend, OR @ Astro Lounge

11.13 San Francisco, CA @ Brick + Mortar

11.14 Sacramento, CA @ Torch Club

11.15 Santa Cruz, CA @ The Catalyst Atrium

11.17 Long Beach, CA @ Federal Bar

11.18 San Diego, CA @ Soda Bar

11.19 Los Angeles, CA @ The Satellite


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