Peter Harper Is Ready for the Road Trip and a Summer filled with Live Jams and his Unique Blues Style
Peter Harper is enthusiastic. For someone who spends a lot of time on the road and thrives on the connection between music and people, the pandemic stopped all of that. However, with shows and festivals blooming again, Harper and Midwest Kind are embarking on a robust summer and fall schedule. Testing the waters out with a couple of shows in Northern Michigan, as well as a recent stop at the Blues, Beer, & BBQ Festival in Cumberland, Indiana, this is just the beginning.
“It’s been great getting the band warmed back up. Hell, it got to the point that I didn’t know what I did in the band,” Harper says jokingly.
Backed by Austin Johnson on guitar, Lee Lewis on bass guitar, Bud Smith on drums, and Bobbi Llewelly on backing vocals and percussion, the group is excited to showcase their progressive blues and roots sound.
Harper and Midwest Kind—Welcome Home
Moving from Australia to northern Michigan, Harper has impressively released ten widely acclaimed albums, won countless awards, and has provided tour support for artists like John Mayall, Muddy Waters, Koko Taylor, Little Feat, Buddy Guy, and Robert Cray.
“Blues was huge in Australia,” said Harper. “There is still a blues club in Perth where I grew up. You do a Thursday there, and it’s packed to the rafters. All they focus on is blues. Since 18, I have been doing that particular club, and to this day it is still a big deal. There is a healthy blues aspect to Australia that has influenced me.”
Harper has always viewed the blues as this fluid, ever-changing body of art.
“I always listened to blues because I found it honest. Yet, it’s not as simple as you think. I’ve heard jazz players try blues, and they could not do it. For me, I will add a touch of soul and funk because that is the music I grew up listening to. Parliament was one of my favorites. I also have a love of the old school blues. . . the early stuff. It was easy for a harmonica player to play that style. But I feel my work as a musician is constantly changing and morphing.
“In its essence, blues has to have a lot of passion. You also have to have a fabulous drummer who knows how to bring it back and sit on it. Smith is the best rhythm and blues drummer I have ever heard. He’s just a natural for it. When you have someone like that, it just falls straight in.”
Origin of Midwest Kind
His work with Midwest Kind has been a growing experience. When he first came to the states, the band was signed to Blind Pete Records. The label wanted him to start touring immediately, so he quickly solidified a lineup in two weeks and hit the road.
From the beginning, Harper was determined to write original songs. It was not easy for him to convince people to accept original music, but he felt that it was important for him and his career. Perseverance paid off. With his career, he has received fourteen Blues/Roots Music awards from around the world and a Detroit Music Award for “Outstanding Vocalist.”
Ten albums later including his most recent album Rise Up (Access Records), his latest work—released right before the rise of the pandemic—may be his best to date. Filled with optimism and an innovative blues and roots sound, the album has given Harper a refreshed approach that has carried him through. Like riding a bike, Harper and the Midwest Kind fell right back into place and the blues never sounded better.
“Blues is chosen because of your love of it. I have always liked that about it. Positivity in the songs is needed because we get too much negativity. I feel optimistic about everything.”