"My musical discovery of 2016!" Tom Robinson BBC6 Music
For Nick Harper, renowned singer-songwriter, 2016 has been an exciting year with a sell-out UK Spring tour supporting the third and final 'retrospective' vinyl LP of his Wilderness Years collection and a new live album, 'Hark!' - a recording of songs from his award winning shows at the Edinburgh Fringe accompanying an extended run at the Edinburgh Festival in August. This winter Nick is on tour with a band for the first time in ten years. With no Nick Harper solo tour planned for 2017 these shows are sure to sell out early and round off this celebratory year in style.
Nick's other recent work has seen him appear in the studio alongside Lana Del Ray playing on her cover of Leonard Cohen's hit Chelsea Hotel no 2 from her acclaimed 2014 album Ultraviolence as well as featuring on recordings by Newton Faulkner, Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree) and The Levellers.
Son of the legendary UK singer-songwriter Roy Harper, Nick was born in London and raised in Wiltshire. Having played the guitar from the age of 10 and surrounded by the likes of Keith Moon, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and Dave Gilmour as he grew up, it was no surprise when Nick made his recording debut on his father's Whatever Happened to Jugula? in 1985.
Nick's talent and energy entranced Roy's fans and it was inevitable that he would begin touring and recording in his own right. The 1994 EP Light at the End of the Kennel was swiftly followed by his powerful 1995 debut long player Seed prompting The Independent to describe him as "hugely talented".
After a chance meeting with Squeeze frontman and songwriter Glenn Tilbrook in 1996, Tilbrook was so impressed that he offered Nick a job playing with and supporting Squeeze and promptly signed Nick to his own label, Quixotic Records. Following tours in the UK, USA and Japan, Nick recorded the 1998 album Smithereens with Tilbrook as producer. This album and subsequent 40 date solo tour, including dates in New York and Glastonbury, confirmed Nick as a formidable talent in his own right. "If imagination, energy and bags of talent were the only factors in making a successful pop career, few would deny that Squeeze man Glenn Tilbrook has backed a winner in Nick Harper…Splendid stuff" - MOJO magazine.
He teamed up with Tilbrook again on 2000's highly acclaimed album Harperspace. This is the album that confirmed his position at the forefront of a new generation of British Acoustic Performers. "Nick Harper has a quality that stands head and shoulders above anything else you are likely to encounter…The Verse Time Forgot from the new album 'Harperspace' is as close to a perfect song as you are likely to get." Edinburgh Evening News
To call Nick a superlative singer/songwriter could put his highly lauded guitar talent in the shade, and to call him a guitarist's guitarist might slight his distinctive, soulful voice and passionate songs. Not forgetting the wild ride that is one of his live shows - from personal introspection to biting political satire via a charmingly caustic wit that would make Groucho Marx proud. He often segues from his own compositions to well-loved covers he makes his own - he takes on Presley, Zappa, Jeff Buckley, Led Zeppelin, Monty Python and Public Enemy (yes, on an acoustic guitar). He also has the alarming ability to break guitar strings almost by sheer force of will… and then change them without dropping a beat. For over a decade, he has been dazzling audiences and reviewers alike with this heady mix of virtuosity, boyish charm, showmanship and sheer bravado. His talent and showmanship were recognised in 2003 with a (Glasgow) Herald Fringe Angel award for excellence in live music during his Edinburgh Festival run. "Harper has so much musicianship in him that it just leaks out all over the place." The Times
Between albums Nick is known for touring with a vengeance - he's now appeared at Glastonbury Festival six times - but also for his charity work devoting energy to fundraising projects as one of the organisers of Avebury Rocks in Wiltshire, raising substantial funds for a hospice near his home. In 2007 Harper's charity single Blue Sky Thinking from the album Miracles for Beginners went to No.1 in the iTunes charts with proceeds going to the Love Hope Strength Foundation (LHSF). Nick had just returned from Nepal after helping the foundation set a new world record for the highest gig on Earth near Mt Everest Base Camp. Nick has been on two further treks with LHSF in Peru and Tanzania fundraising for local medical centres.
'The Last Guitar Tour' saw Nick touring
the UK throughout spring 2010 supporting his 7th studio album 'The Last Guitar' This album had more than a few songs inspired by Nick's travels and treks with Love Hope Strength and with legendary producer Tchad Blake at the helm the album took on a new, bold and forthright sonic quality.
After the success of 'The Last Guitar', Nick once again teamed up with Tchad Blake to produce a classic recording, 'Riven' in 2013. Nick also called on old friends Jeremy Stacey ('Blood Songs'), Ben Jones ('Harperspace') Jon leveller ('Blood Songs') Jakko Jakksyk and his daughter Lily to add to his own performances.
2014 saw Nick go right back to the beginning and produce a recording made in 9 days of 9 songs called NIX, his 9th studio album. This album pleased long time fans of Harper for its unadulterated style, featuring Nick on acoustic guitar and vocals with nothing else added- that is more immediate and closer to his live performances.
After 9 studio albums, a double live CD, 2 EPs
(including Instrumental, a stunning display of his guitar
talents) and a rockumentary style DVD 'Love is Music' Nick's work is still as fresh and vital as that of
his first solo release in 1994 but as evidenced by his highly personal 2004 "family album" Blood Songs, he still has time to sing about the most important things in his world - family, friends, love and ife.
THE REVIEWERS SPEAK:
"Frank Zappa would have been impressed… he deserves
to become a major figure in his own right."
- Robin Denselow, The Guardian, 14 June 2000
"Nick Harper has successfully emerged from beneath that paternal shadow in recent years, gaining widespread recognition as a gifted singer songwriter in his own right, as well as a singularly skilled and inventive guitarist."
- Sue Wilson, Metro (Scotland), August 2001
"Double Life - two CDs capturing his concert performances in all their prodigiously rocking, soulfully operatic, tenderly concerned, politically disaffected, waggishly witty, virtuosic magnificence… New listeners should prepare to be captivated by a colossal talent." *****
- Herald (Glasgow), May 2002
"Harper assumed the role of Alice. In place of verse/chorus/verse he took us through the looking glass into a kaleidoscopic world of his own making. It's as much about the exploration of a guitar as the playing."
- Michael Mee, Berwick Advertiser, 26 April 2002
"Nick Harper is a force of nature… the sheer weight of ideas in his music makes him irresistible and unstoppable... Harper the performer is a fearsome weapon. Phenomenal? You bet your life."
- Southern Reporter, 16 May 2002
"If you've never seen [Harper] live, you're missing out on one of the musical phenomenons of our age."
- Rob Adams, Herald (Glasgow), 17 October 2003
"[Blood Songs] finds [Harper] coming closest so far to capturing with a band the energy and sheer good-to-be-aliveness that have made his one man and a guitar concerts such devout places of worship for believers over the past decade." ****
- Herald (Glasgow), 28 February 2004
"Album of the Month: Son of '70s poet/singer Roy
Harper, dubbed 'the acoustic Hendrix' and the 'English Jeff
Buckley', Nick Harper's fourth studio album [Blood Songs] rises
above this (albeit favourable) baggage… With this amount of
melodic and sonic ingenuity, Nick Harper could be dubbed 'the
new Beck' - but that would be a bigger compliment to Mr. Hansen
than it would be to Harper."
- Guitar (UK), April 2004
"Dylan for the iPod generation...Betjemen with
- Guitarist (UK), February 2006
"One of the finest guitarists of his generation,
his soaring vocal range and propensity for epic song place him
somewhere between Rufus Wainright and Jeff Buckley. Thus far,
however, putting his musical freedom before the demands of career,
his talents have gone largely unrewarded. Miracles For Beginners,
his most focused, warm and triumphant album to date, could right
- Mojo, July 2007
"If anything Nick Harper is the closest thing we've
got to Lewis Carroll. His songs are the musical equivalent of
Carroll's Looking Glass, peer through and you find a fantastical,
magical world. Not always sugar sweet but forever different."
- Maverick, August 2007
As well as being a highly accomplished singer and songwriter, Harper is also a hugely talented instrumentalist, capable of coaxing the most glorious of sounds from the apparently humblest of guitars and able to turn his hand to a bewildering mix of musical genres. - The Buteman 2013