Starbucks was not just a place to grab a coffee and go on Friday April 1, but a hot spot for musical performances. The stage—which frequently acts as home to Mics & Mochas performances—hosted none other than singer, songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist Brett Harris. Based in North Carolina, Harris has completed four albums that have received overwhelmingly positive feedback––his most recent album, Up In The Air, was called “… a near perfect album from start to finish” in Blurt Magazine.
Student performer and communication major sophomore Allison Altschiller opened for Harris and the two made an excellent pairing. Playing with just an acoustic guitar, Altschiller had a very powerful, yet soft sound. She played both original songs and a cover of James Bay’s “Let It Go.” Her songs were elegantly written and relatable, often reminding listeners to stay true to themselves with lyrics such as, “Why not fly? Forget to try?” and “I can’t lose myself to find you/I will help you find your ground, but I am not your gravity.”
Altschiller attracted a crowd that stayed to see Harris. Armed with just a guitar as well, Harris took the stage shortly after her performance. With his smooth, deep voice, Harris transported attendees to the peaceful small towns of the South. Taking inspiration from real life events, Harris performed songs from his new album as well as his older songs. For example, “Lies” is inspired by his Southern upbringing, whereas “High Times” is about his time spent waiting out Hurricane Sandy in New York City with his old college roommate.
Harris’ voice is hard to exactly pinpoint, but Mayer Danzig from Twangville—a popular music blog—accurately described it as “a voice that is magically warm and inviting,” and that his songwriting is “brilliantly crafted.” With lyrics like, “I make my home wherever my feet hit the ground” and “caught in between the serene and distress,” Harris’ songs evoke a feeling of comfortable wandering and exploration.
Harris was extremely friendly with the student audience, telling jokes and anecdotes and asking questions. He mentioned that this was his first time in Geneseo and that the town charmed him. This added a further authenticity to his already sincere songs.
Harris’ sound is reminiscent of folk artists like The Lumineers and Jack Johnson. This makes sense, since Harris has said that his goal is to keep his songs honest without being completely autobiographical. It is this idea that best describes how Harris is able to fill his songs with whimsical imagination, all while keeping them close to the audience and relatable.
Harris is connected to Big Star—the band who is best known for performing the theme song for “That ‘70s Show”—and he has been touring all throughout the United States, United Kingdom, Spain and Australia with the band. In Geneseo, he honored the group by covering one of their songs.
Other songs that Harris performed that night included “Out of the Blue” from his album Mr. Sunshine and “Up in the Air.”
According to Robert Ross, “It’s simple: Brett Harris is Durham, [North Carolina’s] best kept secret.” Well, now we here at Geneseo are in on the secret. It shouldn’t be long before we’re all hearing Harris’ warbling voice from a myriad of headphones across the College Green on lazy spring afternoons after class.