Media Courtesy of jimmy harry.com
The best in Canada’s film, television and digital media industries were recently honored at the second annual Canadian Screen Awards
gala on March 9, 2014. One of the award winners was Jimmy Harry, who took home the award for “Best Original Song.” I had the chance to speak with the acclaimed musician a few days after his big win.
Jimmy Harry is an award-winning producer, composer, and songwriter. Harry, a multi-instrumentalist, plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar, programs beats and works on synthesizers. While he admits that his preference is playing the guitar, he says that he doesn’t get the opportunity to play guitar on records as often he wishes he could. Harry has worked with some of the biggest names in music, including Madonna, P!nk, Kylie Minogue, Santana and Kelly Clarkson.
Harry’s recent win at the 2014 Canadian Screen Awards adds to his list of accolades. The Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television recognized Harry for excellence in music, and he took home the award for “Best Original Song” with Serena Ryder, for the song “It's No Mistake” from the film The Right Kind of Wrong
. Harry has worked with Ryder in the past on a few songs, and he describes her as “a huge talent.”
In 2012, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association recognized Harry for the song “Masterpiece,” and he won the Golden Globe for “Best Original Song” with Madonna and Julie Frost. Harry was also nominated for a Grammy Award for “Best Female Pop Vocal Performance” for his production of P!nk’s hit song “Sober.”
Harry has had a very interesting and dynamic career. As a young musician, Harry had dreams of becoming a film composer. He began his career in the music industry by taking a slightly different path, however. When he lived in New York City he was involved in writing and composing music for theater productions and art installations. He joined rock bands and even run an art gallery for a period of time. The turning point in Harry’s career came after he met RuPaul, who was cast in an Atlanta run of Lee Bruer’s The Shaggy Dog Animation
, a production that Harry was involved with. Harry later co-wrote RuPaul’s iconic hit song, “Supermodel.” While Harry had never seriously considered a career as a songwriter or producer, following the enormous success of “Supermodel,” he realized that songwriting and producing would become his profession. Harry soon developed a reputation for his talent and versatility as a musician and composer.
I asked Harry about what inspires him as a musician. He explained that he loves music and is always trying to make something fun and different. “You get influenced by emotional things. If you are sad, happy, or brokenhearted those things will influence your music,” says Harry. He tries to make music that not only inspires him, but other people as well. Harry says that artists like Radiohead, Barry Foster, Prince, and Timbaland have inspired him. I also asked Harry which three musicians he would love to work with in the future, if he were given the opportunity. “Three artists! That is a very hard choice!” he exclaimed. We compromised and he gave four names: Drake, Frank Ocean, James Blake, and Rihanna.
Harry continues to actively work on songwriting and production projects with several artists, but his main focus at the moment is Girl Radical. He explained that his work with Girl Radical is going much better than he had ever anticipated, which keeps him very busy.
Girl Radical is an eleven-member girl group created by Harry and JC Chasez (formerly of *NSYNC). Harry first met Chasez in 2005, when the former boy band member was working on his second solo album. Harry and Chasez have remained friends and collaborators since then. The two were eager to introduce America to a fresh pop group concept that was inspired by the trend of giant girl groups, like AKB48, that have become popular in Asia. Girl Radical was originally conceptualized as an act that would have twenty-one members and be more of a musical show than a traditional girl group. Although performers like Katy Perry and Lady Gaga often have several dozen backup dancers on stage with them, the idea of a girl group with twenty-one members would provide some shock value and shake up the music scene, says Harry. After holding auditions and recording a couple of original songs, Harry and Chasez realized that the eleven ladies, who are currently members of the group, bonded well together. They decided to maintain Girl Radical as an eleven-member pop group. “The eleven girls have really bonded. It is way better than what we had originally expected. It feels like something very special” says Harry.
Girl Radical has made a big splash on the pop music scene since being introduced to the world in 2013, and the group has been compared to pop groups like the Spice Girls and the Pussycat Dolls. The wonderful thing about Girl Radical is that members have a lot of freedom. No limitations are placed on the group’s members, and they all have the opportunity to pursue their own individual careers in the entertainment industry, alongside their membership in Girl Radical. If any of the ladies need to leave the group for some reason, they are always free to return. As Harry explains: “Once a Girl Radical always a Girl Radical!”
I asked Harry what the most challenging and rewarding things have been about working on Girl Radical with Chasez. Harry admits that a lot of people were initially not supportive of the idea. They could not understand and appreciate the vision. “Everyone was like, ‘you can’t do it! It’s never going to work. The girls will all kill each other’” says Harry. Thus, for him, one of the most rewarding aspects of working with Girl Radical has been proving all the naysayers wrong.
Fans of Girl Radical have a lot to look forward to. Harry shared some of the ideas that he and Chasez have for the future of the group. There are many exciting things lined up, and he encourages fans to stay tuned. In terms of new music, Girl Radical has been keeping busy in the studio. The group has released a couple of catchy pop tunes already, and Harry tells me that a ballad will be released in the near future. He promises that there are “some pretty awesome, strong songs lined up.”
I ended our interview by asking Harry if he had any words of wisdom to give to up-and-coming musicians and producers. “Make sure that you are open to learning. Try and get a job or internship at a studio,” says Harry. “Don’t get discouraged. Identify what is special about yourself, what sets you apart from others” Harry added. This is excellent advice from someone who has had a successful career in the music industry, and still has more incredible things to offer.
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