By Zach Collier
Tonight at Velour Live Music Gallery, Cory Mon, Matt Lewis, Donnie Bonelli + Jeff Stone, and Peter Harper will be taking part in Velour’s 10th Anniversary Celebration. While the first three acts are local, Peter Harper is coming all the way from California to take the stage at Velour. Brother of Grammy Award winner Ben Harper, some may wonder why, of all the places in the world, he’s stopping to perform in Provo, Utah.
But this isn’t the first time Harper has played here.
“Cory Mon, who I will be sharing the stage with this Thursday, sent me a message on Facebook,” Harper told Reach Provo about his first experience in the valley. “He said he loved my album and wanted to know if I’d like to play in Utah. Cory Mon and Corey Fox [owner of Velour Live Music Gallery] were friends and they set the whole thing up. I drove out and played a few shows in Utah and have been coming back ever since.”
Why? Harper loves the vibe. “Corey Fox and I hit it off from the moment we started talking. He is such an amazing human being and his creativity and unique sense of style shines as a major part of the club itself. I have played a lot of shows in front of a lot of people, but never do I have as much fun as when I play the Velour. The people come to listen and engage. It is one of the best, if not the best, crowd I have ever played for. Everyone is always so friendly! No egos! People are just playing music and having fun. After every show I make genuine new friends who I have stayed in touch with on a regular basis.”
Harper’s not kidding. In fact, he does more than just keep in touch. Last month, Cory Mon and Peter Harper held a benefit concert to raise funds for Tim Christiansen, a friend Harper made here in Provo who recently fell ill. “[I met] Tim Christiansen the first time I played there [at Velour]. He’s come to almost every show I have played in Utah since then.”
A compassionate, genuine individual, Harper has developed his sensitivity and love of life through years and years of sculpting – an art that requires patience, precision, and close attention to detail. Harper first fell in love with sculpting in high school, and his love for the craft only intensified when he spent a year in Africa. He took a course on formal figurative sculpture in Zimbabwe. “The ability to finally be able to transform my visions from my mind to a 3D space was life changing. Almost anything I could imagine I could create. I continued this training in grad school at NYU and have been teaching it to students at CSU Channel Islands for the last 11 years.”
Harper puts just as much sensitivity into his music as he does his sculptures and relationships. “I was so immersed in sculpture I rarely made time for music,” he says. “It wasn’t until about 5 or so years ago that what I was imagining couldn’t be replicated in 3D the same way as before. The sentiments were similar but the translation was missing. So, as all dedicated artists do when one medium won’t speak, I switched to another. In music everything clicked. For me, it is still sculpture, but instead of shaping bronze, a very solid present material you can touch and hold, I am shaping sound waves, which are things you feel with the hairs in your ears and electrical impulses in your brain, that resonate deep down in the soul.”
From a musical family, Harper learned music “the folk way,” never learning to read sheet music. His grandparents opened the Folk Music Center & Museum in Claremont, California 58 years ago. “My grandmother could play anything with strings. My grandfather could fix anything with strings and most things without, so they made a pretty dynamic duo.” Harper grew up watching his mother perform and spent every day in the music store after school, immersed in music.
Now, Harper uses music as a wonderful way to connect with people on a personal level. “Personally, I am all about meeting people. When someone wants to take the time to get to know me, I want to take the same time to get to know them,” he says. “That is what makes touring so fun and the Velour such a special space. Everyone is sober and eager to hang out and talk.”
Cory Mon can attest to Harper’s friendly, outgoing personality. “The thing I like most about Peter: He’s a genuine and original individual,” Mon told Reach Provo. “In the music biz you run into a lot of conceited ‘what can you do for me types.’ Peter is the exact opposite. He’s got a heart of gold. He’s a ‘think of others first type.’ This bleeds though in his music. […] I guess it’s safe to say I have a bit of a man crush on him. I just hope to be as good of a man as he someday.”
Since Harper will be going into the studio the first week of February to record some new material, concert attendees will be able to enjoy a handful of those new songs tonight. One song, “Break the Cycle,” is about the need to end violence and war. It was written after the terrorist attacks in Paris just months ago. Harper will also have Carhartt Beanies on hand. He says that because it’s winter, people need to keep their heads warm.
It’s that kind of charitable thinking that makes Harper’s music so enjoyable. To him, music is an expression of friendship and goodwill. About the concert for Christiansen he put on last month, he said: “We had the fundraiser at Blue Star in Salt Lake City. You would have to ask Tim to be sure, but not only were we able to raise some cash to help him pay his bills, we also had an amazing soul lifting night. Everyone went home feeling really good that night. Music has a way about it. Don’t get me wrong. If you are sick, go to the doctor. But on the way there, put in your favorite tunes.”
The show is tonight, January 21st at Velour Live Music Gallery. Doors open at 8PM. Tickets are $8 at the door (cash only). They are also available online at 24tix.com. Listen to Peter Harper’s self-titled album below.