Based in Los Angeles, Corey Harper makes alternative pop/rock for sunny days, sad evenings, and all points in between. His newest release, Overcast, finds the Oregon native returning to his roots in Portland for a source of inspiration, creating a sound that bridges the gap between the music of his past — including breezy pop and West Coast blues — and its Millennial makeover. A modern sound for now, built from the best parts of back then.
“Sometimes, when you go through a rough spot in life, you need to go back to the beginning to rediscover, or discover for the first time, who you are,” says Harper, who left the Pacific Northwest at 19 years old and relocated to Los Angeles. “The vastness of the landscape in Oregon and overcast days reminded me that no matter the struggles, there is beauty in the journey and there is hope at the end of the day. Just because something is overcast doesn’t mean it isn’t beautiful or worthwhile in the end.”
Recorded in a home studio on the outskirts of Oregon wine country, Overcast features Harper playing nearly every instrument himself, co-writing all six songs, and splitting production duties with collaborator Dave Lubben (Halsey, Gnash). From the groove-driven swagger of “Crave” to the anthemic, arena-sized bombast of “Entertainment,” Overcast casts the widest net of Harper’s catalog. The result is a record that doesn’t just shine a light on the melodic hooks that earned him a career-launching tour as Justin Bieber’s opening act in 2016, or the elastic vocals and understated guitar heroics that have pushed songs like “On the Run” beyond the 10-million-stream threshold on Spotify. Instead, it shows the full range of his abilities, recasting Corey Harper as a musician’s musician whose meticulous approach to pop music is both personal and invitingly universal.
“Most of the record deals with things I’ve never talked about in my music before,” he says. “’25’ is about my best friend who took his own life several years ago. ‘Fade to Black’ is about my brother, who has struggled with drug abuse for a decade. I was able to come up with these songs because I was in my hometown, surrounded by familiarity and memories. It’s like I had home-court advantage. This music is about confusion and sadness and hope. It’s about what happens before the storm arrives, when you’re trying to find your direction through the fog.”
Overcast isn’t just about finding direction, though; it’s about finding a unique sound, too. Raised on the guitar riffs and timeless songwriting of Fleetwood Mac and Jackson Browne, Harper initially came to L.A. as an Americana folk-rock musician. His 2016 debut saluted those organic influences, while 2019’s Barely Put Together widened his approach. Overcast, which Harper recorded during a pair of trips to Lubben’s studio on the outskirts of Portland, finds him reaching a new peak of adventurousness, rolling his influences into a sound that’s honest, human, and healing. There’s an arc to these six songs, from the a cappella title track — which opens the record with a quick burst of stacked harmonies — to the acoustic closer, “25,” a stripped-down power ballad recorded in a single take. In between those sonic bookends, Overcast makes room for a rich tapestry of baritone guitar, Eighties synthesizers, pop melodies, and experimental sounds, including the atmospheric hum of the studio’s pinball machine and the innovative textures of his guitar pedal collection. Harper even ran his electric guitar through a homemade amp, creating a signature tone that still nods to his favorite players — from John Mayer to Lindsey Buckingham to Phoebe Bridgers — without losing its singular character.
“This is a project about finding myself through my music, and hoping I can leave a trail for others to find themselves within it, as well,” he says. “It’s music that guides people through tough times.”
A snapshot of a musician caught up in the rush of a creative and emotional growth spurt, Overcast represents a new high-water mark in an acclaimed career that began in the Venice Beach-based arts collective and concert series Winston House, which Harper helped launch by hosting supporting artists of all stripes (Cody Simpson, the Shins, Justin Bieber). These six songs are his most personal to date, yet the issues they examine — the strained bonds between loved ones; the mourning of friends who are no longer with us; the desire to live a life that’s honest, meaningful, and real, despite the distractions of modern-day existence — are common, turning Overcast into a soundtrack for all those who finds themselves caught beneath threatening skies. It’s music for a brief season of bad weather in someone’s live…with a promise that sunnier days lay just behind the clouds.