Love his music. An original
Maja - U s a
COLORS showcases exceptional talent from all around the globe, focused on the most distinctive new artists and original sounds.
Southampton, UK-born singer-songwriter Saint Harison draws from the depths of his soul to craft his personal, heartfelt, and cathartic music
As a child Saint Harison was inspired by the radical honesty of the powerful noughties pop icons—including Whitney Houston and Amy Winehouse—he was introduced to by his mum. Fast forward to 2023, and the Southampton-born creative is now an emerging, and extremely honest, musical talent in his own right. Since going viral on TikTok in the midst of the global pandemic, Saint has garnered the acclaim of artists such as Justin Bieber and Timbaland, and is well known for his deeply personal R&B style tracks that he crafts through therapeutic and cathartic processes.
In line with his debut A COLORS SHOW performance of ‘ego talkin’, lifted from his debut EP ‘lost a friend’ we spoke to Saint Harison about his time spent teaching kids choirs, leaving his tracks open to interpretation, and why we need to remember old methods of music discovery outside of social media.
Where does your artist name, Saint Harison, come from?
I’m from Southampton, which is nicknamed Saints. My real name’s Harison, so I just put the two together. I went through quite a lot of names in my teenage years when I wanted to be Christina Aguilera.
What is your first musical memory?
Adele’s ‘Chasing Pavements’ was the first song I heard and loved. I really connected with it when my mom and I were in a bit of a situation.
Who were some of the first artists that inspired you growing up? We read that you were into, R&B and Pop…
My dad’s side of the family, especially my grandad, was very into Motown and big voices like Barbra Streisand and Whitney Houston. My mom brought me up on noughties pop music, playing songs by really powerful women such as Amy Winehouse. It was a time when these artists were coming out with big statements in their songs. Music shifted and became more honest, because artists realized that people really resonated with that. When I’m writing I sometimes question what I’m able to say, but then I remember the music I grew up listening to and how honest and inspiring it was.
When and why did you start making music?
I started writing songs when I was 13- or 14-years-old. At that time, it was a way for myself, my mom, brother, and sister to channel our feelings. ‘Chasing Pavements’ made me realize that anyone can write a song. I had all these things to say and just started writing. Shortly after, I won £1,000 at a local singing competition. I used the money to buy a Mac, which I downloaded GarageBand onto to make music.
The drive to make music professionally came in waves. I felt it most strongly when I was 17- or 18-years-old, but, as I got older, I realized that it wasn’t an easy thing to do. I needed to make money, so I started teaching choir.
Tell us more about your time as a teacher.
I studied musical theater at university, but then dropped out and used the money to live in London. All I wanted was to be an artist. I started teaching kids choirs back in 2016, then I taught music in schools. Eventually, I worked in a pupil referral unit. My friend worked at the choir before me. She invited me to join because someone else had dropped out and she knew I needed a job. I’d never thought about working with kids before, but I loved it. I continued singing on the side and doing gigs here and there, including weddings, because music was too big of a passion for me to give it up. I love teaching though. I hope I get to do more soon in a musical way.
How would you describe your musical style?
It’s got an R&B and jazz core due to what I grew up with and continue to love. As a teenager, I listened to so many different artists like Paramore and Bon Iver, so I’m aware that my influences don’t fit together in one box. I try to write tracks without thinking much about them being released, and use music as a cathartic tool instead. I want to draw from all of these artists and moments that I’ve had in my life and fuse them together. My sound is R&B, but it’s very personal. It’s from a real place.
You gained a lot of traction from TikTok, with celebrities like Justin Bieber and Timbaland applauding your music. How do you feel social media has impacted the music industry?
Hugely. Growing up, I always had a specific idea about what sort of artist I would be and how I would get discovered. I didn’t expect it through an app! In December 2020, during coronavirus lockdown, I posted a TikTok singing ‘Pick Up Your Feelings’ by Jasmine Sullivan. It went viral. Then I found my management team and distribution and it all snowballed from there. TikTok has been huge for me, but I think it has pros and cons. It’s an amazing tool for artists, but we need to remember the way we used to discover music in the past as well. It’s a great tool, but it’s not life, you know?
“We need to remember the way we used to discover music in the past. TikTok’s a great tool, but it’s not life, you know?”
You prefer the audience to come up with their own interpretations of your music, rather than to give them definitive meanings, like with your popular single ‘why didn’t you call???’. Have any interpretations surprised you?
I wrote, ‘why didn’t you call??’ when I was into someone who wasn’t calling me back. I spiraled, and thought about all the worst case scenarios. When the song was released, people came forward with stories relating to the song about people they’d lost. It was so beautiful, but also unexpected. Leaving my music open to interpretation has allowed me to view it with an open mind. As a creative, you can get so in your head about what you’re writing, but people are always going to relate to it in the way that’s most valuable for them.”
Tell us about your songwriting process.
It started in my bedroom. I haven’t quite gotten out of that habit yet! When I was writing my new EP, ‘lost a friend’, I collaborated with other people and found a family in the process. That was a breakthrough moment, and it helped me to open up. Normally, I come up with concepts and lyrics by myself before showing them to the larger group so I don’t feel so insecure. It’s hard to share what I’m working on, especially after lockdown. Making music is such a personal experience. I’m drawing from the depths of my soul to write these songs.
You’ve addressed the subject of mental health in your music. Do you think songwriting can be a therapeutic experience?
Definitely. I had no idea what mental health was until I started university. There, I first experienced anxiety and depression, and went on medication for it. I didn’t really plan on it being a big subject in my music. The track ‘james (bleeding alone)’, which addresses mental health, was never going to be on the EP, because it was a song I wrote as a letter to a friend. That song was definitely therapeutic. I needed to write it. It’s a great track because it’s so personal, heartfelt, and every single lyric is wholeheartedly meant. Mental health’s been a massive part of my life for a while now, so I’m really glad it’s a theme in my music.
Your debut EP ‘lost a friend’ is out now. Tell us about the concept behind it.
The project was not planned, I would say all seven tracks are unintentional. We put the best songs together, which coincidentally had a similar theme and formed a story. I was listening back to the songs and thought: “Do you know how many times I say ‘friend’ or go through the motions of losing someone?” I had another title in mind for the EP, but it wasn’t what the project was communicating. The title track, ‘lost a friend’, summed up the whole narrative and themes of the project. I even got a little tattoo from the music video of ‘lost a friend’.
You featured Tiana Major9 on your single ‘homies’. How did this collaboration come about?
I wanted to feature someone from the UK R&B scene on ‘homies’ because I feel like it doesn’t get as much attention as it should. Tiana Major9 is one of my favorite artists. Funnily enough, I joined one of her live streams during lockdown. She talked to people in the audience, and I told her that I loved her song ‘Same Space’. Fast forward a bit, I went to meet her and share ‘homies’ to see if she liked it. Then, she sent me her verse for the track and it was amazing. My family and I sat together in the living room and listened to it six or seven times.
Do you have any dream collaborators?
I would love to do a song with Jazmine Sullivan, maybe a remix of one of the songs on the EP. I’d also love to work with FINNEAS, Mark Ronson, and SZA, obviously!
Tell us about the song you performed for COLORS.
‘ego talkin’’ was created during a Zoom session, believe it or not. I think it was one of the first songs we made for the project. I wrote it with Boy Matthews, and it was produced by Deputy, who also produced on Riahanna’s ‘Bitch Better Have My Money’. I went into the session and said: “this track is going to have a little bit of sauce.” There’s a lot of spice and energy in it, a bit like my other track ‘TMF’. I wanted to be able to show that performance wise. It really translates differently live.
“People are always going to relate to music in the way that’s most valuable for them.”
Is there one lyric in the song which is particularly meaningful or important to you?
The lyric “I’d rather push your buttons to start a fight” came from an ongoing argument where I knew I should be the bigger person. This was my way of saying: “I know that I need to but I won’t yet. Give me another 24 hours of being petty before I give in.” I didn’t even save the Logic folder from the session because I didn’t think we’d get anything from the idea, it was just such a fleeting moment. There are certain songs that happen at a certain time and really timestamp your life. ‘ego talkin’ is definitely one of them.
What do you enjoy doing outside of music?
Reading! I really enjoyed ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ by Margaret Atwood. Recently, I’ve been reading the sequel, ‘The Testaments’, which is such a gripping story. I’d love to be in a book club. I’m also a massive TV show person. I just got up to date with ‘Yellow Jackets’ and it’s so good! Aside from that, my friend and I like to go to the cinema and drive to the New Forest to chill out, listen to songs, and stroke donkeys. I also like shopping!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I was looking at all the looks from the Met Gala and thought it would be fun to attend myself. Career wise, I’d love to go on tour. I hope that I’ll have an album out in five years. I feel like that’s a really good timeline! Honestly, I’ve really just enjoyed putting out this first project, and I hope I can keep putting out music I write. My main wish is to collaborate more and extend my friendships. I want more friends! I lost them all! I lost all of my friends by being an artist!
If you could send one message to your fans right now what would it be?
To my fans: thank you. I didn’t expect my music to resonate with so many people. I genuinely didn’t expect so many people to like me. I’m very thankful. I’ve got a little Instagram group, if anyone wants to join. We’re called the Saints and we just talk about stuff.
To aspiring musicians: whatever is in your soul and spirit will manifest itself. As much as I was happy with my job and teaching, music was something unexpected. I hope that gives some relief to someone who’s really stressing themselves out and trying to reach their goals. Whatever is meant for you will happen and come to life. That’s what I learned, and that’s what I wish someone had told me.
Saint Harison is a Southampton, UK-born artist whose debut A COLORS SHOW dropped on 19th May 2023. You can watch the full performance on our YouTube channel.
Text: Emily May and Maryam Tuggar
Videography: Lucie Leichsering
Video Editing: Katia Fisenko
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Love his music. An original
Maja - U s a