After years of hard gigging, singer-songwriter Harrison Storm has found a moment of calm with new release Be Slow.
“That always baffled me actually, because I had this association growing up with Ibanez as this beautiful acoustic guitar,” laughs Harrison Storm from the other end of a socially distant Zoom call. Based just south of Melbourne, Storm has been making a name for himself over the past few years with tours across the world opening for acts like Snow Patrol, The Paper Kites and Ziggy Alberts, and his delicately emotive tracks that stream in big numbers.
Storm grew up on the Mornington Peninsula, an idyllic part of Australia that’s surrounded by nature and beaches. His passion for music was nurtured early on. His mother wrote songs on her acoustic Ibanez as a pastime, letting Storm help complete them. It was only later in life that he discovered the brand’s reputation for some pretty bold electric guitars. His father was a builder who wrote poetry for leisure, often reading his prose aloud. “Those two worlds almost seem the perfect combination for songwriting. It just happened really naturally and over the years,” he smiles. “I’m just constantly blown away by how lucky and fortunate I was to grow up in that way.”
Storm kept his musicianship quiet through school, instead preferring to play sports and surf. While his parents were listening to The Eagles, Neil Young and Joni Mithchell, Storm was taking influence from US pop-punk. “I actually stumbled on this video on my laptop of one of the very first songs I’d ever written, and it will never see the light of day, but I was just so angsty,” he laughs. “As time went on my musical taste refined a little bit to something that took appreciation from the greats. Obviously all the listening from my parents had sunk in.”
Storm graduated school and took a place at Swinburne University to study civil engineering, spurred onto the career by a fellow surfer he met on a trip to Indonesia. “He was living the dream, travelling round the world and he had heaps of money and just seemed like he had everything sorted,” Storm laughs. “I went down that path and found it wasn’t for me after spending countless hours on calculus and fluid mechanics.”
In his third year he was introduced to a reggae artist named Jimmy who in turn introduced him to the Melbourne music scene. “I would have my folk music opening up for his reggae band, it was a total mismatch of acts but he introduced me to that world and I got a taste of what it’s like to be an artist,” he smiles. “It’s where my musical journey really kicked off.”
Through Jimmy he met Justin, a fellow guitarist who was itching to perform. Together they dropped out of uni, quit their jobs, and began busking around Melbourne. “It was our job for years. Three of four times a week we were out there for six, seven hours, selling our little demo CDs and trying to make money, trying to pay bills, and it was really tough,” he explains. “But so much happened from busking.”
While busking plays an integral part in his journey, there was no moment of discovery or overnight success. Instead it all happened very gradually. From busking, playing weddings, and selling his demo CD, Storm saved up enough money to record a proper release, opting to work with a friend’s musician boyfriend, Hayden Calnin. “I think we were one of the first artists he’d produced outside of his own work,” says Storm. “Justin was there the whole way as a session guitarist, but also really helping formulate the sound.”
The real turning point for Storm came when a travelling playlist editor from the Netherlands caught him performing on a street corner and bought a copy of the EP, placing opening track “Sense of Home” at the top of his personal playlist. “It was from that moment on that it started to gain traction,” Storm nods. “I think it had been out for almost a year and a half, and by that stage I was really doing everything I could to push the music myself. I was really burnt out and financially under a lot of stress.”
Luckily for Storm the playlist attention came just in time and his music found its way into the ears of Nettwerk founder Terry McBride who reached out personally via a Facebook message. “I think it was in my spam folder,” Storm laughs. “That message came in and I was like, no. That’s ridiculous. I was so sceptical.”
Storm signed with the label and released a series of EPs to support his prolific touring, each winning him more attention on streaming platforms as he found more fans in concert halls. His music began picking up syncs on TV shows like This Is Us and The Blacklist.
But his most recent release, the EP Be Slow, finds Storm in a moment of enforced stasis. He began writing while on the road, with plans to record in the UK before the pandemic struck. Instead he found himself locked down at home with his band, setting up a home studio in their house and working with longtime producer Calnin via a livestream. The result is a change of pace that’s both impactful and serene.
Across the EP there’s a sense of hope and restoration, a new light that complements Storm’s frequent shade. Title track “Be Slow” is meditative and melodic, the production pared back, creating space for the track to breathe. Working with his band in Australia, you can hear the benefit of the live musicianship in places like “Sea and Fire” with its explosive chorus. Across the release Storm’s narrative-driven lyricism is allowed to lead, swapping centre stage with stripped back yet striking melody. It’s loaded with escapism and glistening in catharsis. Opening track “With You” sets the tone with three and a half minutes of tender romantic hope, a change from Storm’s often used themes of heartbreak and isolation.
“The past few years, just touring and everything, there’s a big strain on relationships and friendships and consequently things get tough and the songs just came out of some tough times,” he explains. “I definitely released a lot of despair and grief in my songs over the years and yeah, it is nice to write about something a little bit lighter.”