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Joy, age 7

A Conversation with Joy Eden Harrison (continued)

PM: So when you did your schooling, it was in California?

JEH: Yes.

PM: What part?

JEH: San Diego.

PM: Well, that's a nice place to be from.

JEH: Yeah.

PM: Did any of your brothers play?

JEH: My oldest brother played.

PM: The doctor?

JEH: Yes. He's about eight years older than I am. And we started at the same time. I was five and he was thirteen. And another brother played the trumpet. So we all dabbled. In fact, when I was starting out, I tried the clarinet and the violin and the piano also, but I just ended up staying with the guitar. And my oldest brother stayed with the guitar. And he still plays for fun and family.

PM: And are you close with your family, the brothers and the folks?

JEH: Oh, absolutely, absolutely. Very close.

PM: At what point did you decide that you would go to music school?

JEH: I guess I was in college and I was studying a lot of different things.

PM: Where were you doing that?

JEH: I actually went to UC Santa Cruz. And I started out in theater, and then went into environmental studies, environmental science. And then, by the last year in school--I don't know where I heard this, again, but it had a great impact on me--somebody said, "You need to spend your life doing what you love." And I heard that, and I dropped everything from school--finished up, of course, and then just went to music school. I said, "That's it. I've got to be what I know is the deepest in my heart," and that was music.

PM: It's interesting to hear a fellow musician say, "Finished up, of course"--

JEH: [laughs]

PM: --when many musicians didn't finish up, of course. But that's part of your story, "I finished up, of course."


JEH: I guess that's being close to my family--"I had to finish up, of course"--the language.


PM: And so at some point you heard that from some source--that you need to spend your life doing what you love.

JEH: Yes.

PM: Do you know what kind of a source you heard that from? Was it a new age source or a school source, or a family source, or--

JEH: It was definitely in school, but it was a passing conversation, something that you wouldn't think would be so big. It wasn't like a lecture or a grand statement. It was sort of said in passing. But it struck me like an arrow.

PM: Yeah, I hear you. And so then being a Santa Cruz enrollee, it wasn't such a stretch when one decides, "Well, I think I'm just going to study music, that's, after all, what I'm into"--it wasn't such a stretch to get to Musicians Institute in L.A.

JEH: MI, exactly. I had taken classical guitar in college and music theory classes, so I kind of kept it as a side thing that was bubbling up, but as an aside thing.

PM: So you were always a reader of music and all that?

JEH: Yeah. Not a great reader, but it was a skill I had. And yeah, so the jump of MI--I considered going to Berklee in Boston, I guess, but MI was a quicker program and more live experience playing and less theory.

PM: Right.

JEH: So it seemed to be a clear choice, although Berklee would have been grand, too.

PM: No doubt. And you would have run into some interesting people in the years that you attended, no doubt.

JEH: Yeah.

PM: Was that also true at MI? Did you run into people there, either on staff or contemporaries, who influenced you as a person or a player?

JEH: Absolutely! I got to do a clinic with Joe Pass--

PM: Wow.

JEH: --as well as lesser known players on staff, but equally wonderful. A player named Joe Diorio, for example.

PM: Right.

JEH: And Robben Ford, who was on staff, too.

PM: Was he nice?

JEH: Yeah, he's very nice, at least in my experience. I got to do a few one-on-one lessons with him, and he was just, yeah, very nice.

PM: One-on-ones with Robben Ford, that's pretty cool. Especially at certain periods, he did some of my favorite guitar playing. There's an early album that he did with his brothers--

JEH: Really.

PM: --as the Charles Ford Band, that was just phenomenal guitar playing. Did you like being in L.A.--again, not much of a stretch from San Diego, but--

JEH: Yeah, I did like being in L.A., especially the musicians. There were people there from all over the world. It was just a great--for me it was a great place, maybe not because it was L.A., per se, but because what I was doing there was just so exciting. I lived two blocks from school, and I walked to and from on Hollywood Boulevard. So that was the strip I knew, Hollywood Boulevard.

PM: So were you more of a songwriter type at the time, or did you get in, seriously, to the jazz thing?

JEH: Well, I was a songwriter type. My focus, first and foremost, absolutely, was as a writer. The other things didn't come as easily. I fell absolutely in love with jazz guitar playing at the Musicians Institute. I loved the luscious harmonies and--yeah, it was the harmonies. And as a writer, I gravitated toward those harmonies. Then it was a matter of being able to manifest it. And I think it was Joe Diorio who said, "Learn everything inside out, and then forget it. That's when you can really play."

PM: Hmm.

JEH: But learning everything inside out, that's a tall order.


PM: Yeah, right, "everything" is a lot.   continue

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