James Harman: Those Dangerous Gentlemens
I've been nominated for best song, best single, best band, best harmonica player etc. but never the one that would mean the most to me: male artist of the year. That would make me an artist, not just a guy playing harp in a band. I don't play live in America enough anymore to get that one. I have won best album, best artist, best song and best harmonica player awards from Canada's Real Blues Magazine. In 2003 I won the coveted #1 spot on the French Blues Collective. That meant all the blues writers and all the radio folks in France voted me as #1 that year.....that's mighty cool! I always have a ball in France. As a matter of fact, I just found out yesterday that I have won that one again, with this re-release of my 1985 live album. Strictly Live in '85...Plus (Rivera, 1985).
AAJ: Also, in your time you have gotten into licensing songs you've written to the film industry. Do you recall your first reaction to being contacted by them for your music?
JH: OK, I guess you don't know how that stuff is done. See, my songwriting and publishing are administrated by Bug Music, in Hollywood. They have a team who plug songs from their catalog to the teams who buy songs for movie and TV projects. That's how that's always done; I had nothing to do with that end of it at all.
AAJ: You have licensed seventeen songs to the film industry. What were they and in what films did they appear?
JH: OK, it's not licensing songs. Movie producers ask these song brokers for songs, listen to several and pick the ones, or just parts of songs, they want to use in movies, and TV. It's not at all like when somebody licenses a song for release on a product like a CD.
Hey, I don't ever think about that stuff too much. Let's see, I'll try to name one you might recognize. OK, The Accused (1988), with Jodie Foster. If you saw it, there is a rape scene in a biker bar, that's my song, "Kiss of Fire," playing in the background. I've never seen it, but that's what they tell me. The checks have all been good, so that's all I know about that. My song "Jump My Baby" has been used in three movies. I remember the name of one was Trouble Bound (1993). I don't remember who was in it or when it came out. My songs end up in lots of movies where a couple of southern kids steal a car and go on a crime rampage and when they stop at a roadside cafe he gets into a fight and they crash into the jukebox and my song comes on for the rest of the fight or they make love against the jukebox, and my song comes on; type-casting I guess.
AAJ: You have been a prolific composer and lyricist. Where do you get your inspiration for what you write?
JH: I get it all from watching people and listening to things they say in everyday life. Blues is a folk music, a storytelling idiom. I'm just writing short stories about the human condition. The main difference in stories for songs and stories for print is they must be really short stories and to the point, in order to fit into songs. I see it as short storytelling. A lot of my sense of humor came from my parents, who were a couple of wise-guys, quick of wit and always with a funny yet profound meaning. I inherited most of it, then went around the world chasing more adventures and collecting stories to tell. I've been at it most of my life....no...hell, all of my life. I can't imagine my not doing this. Other than cookin' and drag racin', it's really all I know.
AAJ: Most recently you played the harp playing with Billy Gibbons on the soundtrack for the movie The Dukes of Hazzard. Tell us about this experience.
JH: Ah, just the same as always. Old Billy F. called me up, asked when I'd be off. I told him, he told me what studio, we chatted about records, cars, guitars, women etc for a few minutes, then went to the correct studio and played all the music for another movie.
Billy F. Gibbons is a very good buddy; we've had many adventures around the world. I played all the harp on their last seven albums. We go way back, meeting as blues record collectors a thousand years ago, in another era and dimension, down on our knees lookin' through boxes of old records.
AAJ: How does someone go about selling their stuff to the movies, or television?
JH: There is only one way I know: Have your songwriting and publishing administrated by a good firm, like Bug Music. Remember: you cannot do it yourself, it's virtually impossible. Just like festival talent buyers do not hire bands, they go through serious agents who represent talent. Movie and TV buyers do not want to talk to songwriters, they only work through song placers from good publishing houses. Movie and TV music is bought by people who do only that 24/7/52, from people who only do that 24/7/52 except holidays.
AAJ: Talking of movies, you have been asked to play the part of a pirate in an upcoming movie for which you have grown your hair and beard. Tell us about this. When can we expect to see this movie?