HomeInterviewsSXSW Artist Spotlight: Native Harrow

SXSW Artist Spotlight: Native Harrow

Native Harrow is a Philadelphia-based folk-soul duo comprised of singer/guitarist Devin Tuel and multi-instrumentalist Stephen Harms. They have released five studio albums to date, garnering rave reviews from Uncut, MOJO, and The Guardian, among other publications. Native Harrow has toured internationally in more than 20 countries. Their sixth album, Divided Kind, is slated for release later this year.

During the 2024 SXSW Music Festival, Native Harrow will be performing a showcase set on March 15 at 8 p.m. at the Stephen F’s Bar on Congress Avenue (complete gig list at bottom of article). In this exclusive 360°Sound interview, Tuel and Harms discuss their forthcoming album, living in England, the warm sound of vintage gear, and more.

Editor’s Note: This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. Find the full video interview at the bottom of this article.

360°Sound: Please start by giving us a brief history of Native Harrow and the music you make. 

Devin Tuel: I was a dancer for years. But then in my 20s, I became a poet of sorts. And that led to me also playing guitar and eventually writing my own songs. I was living in New York City at the time, just playing all of the old haunts in Greenwich Village. I was on the path of doing a very folk tradition type thing.

I had a friend in Brooklyn who was in a band, and Stephen played bass for him. And we all actually went to SXSW together. This was in 2014, and that’s where we met, and we started playing together. Stephen was playing with me and kind of just sitting in and hanging out. And then that very quickly became Native Harrow. We just really liked playing together. Stephen wanted to help me record my music and then we built on that. I think within probably a year we were doing Native Harrow.

Stephen Harms: We played a lot of shows in Brooklyn that summer, where we were both living, and we did a 10-week east coast into the Midwest tour that fall, so we definitely fell into it.

Devin: We’ve been doing it ever since. We have done five albums with a sixth on the way. We’ve toured all over the United States and Canada, and in recent years, Europe. We even lived in the UK for the last three years before coming back to the States recently. It’s pretty much just the two of us. We play on our albums. Most of the instruments are Stephen and I. Our friend Alex Hall plays drums on, I would say, 98% of our records. The live band is primarily the two of us, and then sometimes we’ll have friends. We have a couple of friends in England who play with us as well. This is our 10-year anniversary.

You’re from Pennsylvania but I saw where you were living in England for a while. How was your experience in the UK?  

Devin: It was really great. We had been touring over there more because we got signed to Loose Records. We had a booking agent over there. We were spending more and more time there leading up to 2020. And then obviously, with everything going on hold for a little while we decided to go over there. Whenever things opened back up and we were allowed to do gigs again, it’d be really beneficial to be near our team. So that’s what we did.

Our first gig back was Green Man, the festival in Wales, and then we’re on the road constantly after that. We supported The Eagles at Hyde Park, which was the coolest thing we have ever done. It was a really amazing time. We have some very, very incredible lifelong friends there. We put out an album while we were there and did a big record store tour and supported that and got to really meet and spend time with our fans over there, which was incredible.

We could have stayed there forever, but we’re American and all of our family is here and our roots are here. We’re just craving being on the road here again. I feel like we go wherever we feel we’re being drawn; we’re very much nomadic in that way. We got back about a month ago. We’re back in Philadelphia and it feels really good to be back.

Stephen, I understand you use some vintage gear like archtop guitars to get the sound you desire. In general, what is it about those retro instruments that you like?

Stephen: Well, I think of myself as a bassist first and foremost. But I mean, I play a lot of guitar in this band. I play the lead guitar on all our records, and I play a lot of guitar live and drums and keyboards as well. I think a lot of it is the sound. We both like a darker kind of muffled sound. We use flatwound strings mostly. We use old strings; we leave our strings on forever. The strings on the main bass that I use in the UK have been on there for more than a decade.

Devin: There’s a warmth we like because we’re both super sensitive. Anything that sort of sounds like somebody like drug it through the mud in Mississippi we’re like, “That’s the sound.”

What can you say about your forthcoming album, Divided Kind?

Stephen: I’m not sure how much we’re supposed to say or not yet. I’ll get in the trouble with the people. But it’s more soul I would say.

Devin: I definitely think it’s more soul. There’s some songs on there that when I first wrote them, I thought, “Oh, God, we can’t put this in. This is like a different level.” But we went with it. And I’m so glad we did. Because they sound like us, to me. And I think when I listen to our records, I always want to make sure that it feels like we’re being represented by our music, and it’s not representing something we aren’t.

I think even with the folk songs, sometimes I hear them and I feel misrepresented by them, especially as I get older and my sound changes, and I change and evolve. I feel that this stuff with a little bit more grit and honesty and soul, feels right for me. There’s definitely a lot more of that in this record. There’s a song that I wrote when I was 23 that we completely reworked, and is now on the record, which I’m very excited for everyone to hear. The 20-year-old in me is very excited that this ended up on an album that people are gonna get to stream. And there’s obviously lots of good guitar solos. There’s lots of good keys. There’s some killer drum parts, Alex just killed it. And yes, some surprises as well.

SXSW Gigs
Thursday, March 14 @ 12pm — Music For Listeners Dayparty @ Lazarus Brewing
Thurday, March 14 @ 4pm — Nine Mile Records + Export Memphis Dayparty @ The ABGB
Friday, March 15 @ 8pm — SXSW Official Showcase @ Stephen F’s Bar at The Stephen F Austin Royal Sonesta Hotel
Saturday, March 16 @ 1pm — Sign of the Times by To’Morrow Records Dayparty @ The ABGB
Saturday, March 16 @ 3:30 — New West Records Dayparty @ Sagebrush

Learn more about Native Harrow on nativeharrow.com

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