Harpist Brandee Younger’s new album Somewhere Different, recorded with Impulse! Records, will be released on all streaming platforms on Aug. 30. We asked Younger to share her thoughts about the album.
How did you come up with the idea for your new album?
The idea for this record came about as a way to deal with the aftereffects of 2020. We recorded it in February of 2021, and all I really wanted to do was create something that’s very easy to listen to. My goal wasn’t to create music for other musicians or critics, but rather something that anyone could listen to. I do think that after the unplanned duo album Force Majeure that my partner and I released at the end of 2020, which has since been dubbed “Quarantine Sessions,” I realized how important that human connection is. Since that album consisted of our livestreams, we were talking to each other, shouting out when a modulation happened, talking to the comments on the screen as they came in—and what a difference that made in the finished product. It was human and it was social. I used to always say things like “It’s not about the notes, it’s about how the notes are played,” but now, I absolutely understand it. There’s a social aspect of music that is just so critical to our lives, and I want to keep that element going. Though there’s no banter on Somewhere Different, the music is approachable—even my non-musician parents can enjoy it.
Tell us about the different genres included on this CD, and why they are meaningful to you.
I’ve always preferred to not label the style of music that I play. Why? Because it always incorporates more than one particular genre, and to be in a tight box is never fun for me. However, I did stretch out slightly farther this go ’round. My entire career, I’ve recorded across genres in so many different styles, but when recording sessions for others, the finished product is always the vision of the producer. So I will send a dry harp file over and have no clue what the end result will be. So for this one, it was the first time I incorporated a bit of everything I do for others, but for myself. It makes me a feel a bit vulnerable, but after this year, what do I have to lose? So if I had to define it, it definitely has elements of jazz, classical, funk, soul, trap (go figure), latin and even a bit of rock. See why it’s easier to just not define it?
Do you have a favorite track on the album?
“Beauty is Black.” While it’s pretty clear that everyone else’s favorite track is “Reclamation,” this space—Harp Column—is probably the only place where I can say “It’s slow, so it’s hard,” and be understood. The harp’s inability to sustain notes, like a violin or a flute can, sometimes creates quite a challenge. So it was important to me to write a ballad without being hidden by horns, and make it “sing” without playing a bunch of notes. Also, this track features the legendary Sir Ron Carter, a huge hero of mine. Dream: Realized.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about your new album?
One conscious effort that I made with this recording was to use less horns and woodwinds. The majority of other records had saxophone, flute, and a bit of trumpet, so the core of this record was the trio: harp, bass, and drums. A lot of my students ask to play my music, so this literally forces me to make the harp front and center and then document it. I have begun working on some sheet music arrangements of the music, so that I can better teach it. Also, there are three tracks—one of them for solo harp—that didn’t make it because we can only fit so much on vinyl, so I hope that those can be released in the near future.