In Harms' way
For 30 years, Joni Harms has told her stories and created her own special blend of country music
In a career thats spanned 30 years, Canbys Joni Harms still wakes up each morning feeling blessed and excited about whats next.
Country music has delivered experiences all over the world for Harms, experiences she holds precious as she continues to write and record her kind of country sound.
And much of that sound is rooted in the Century Farm she calls home just outside of Canby. It is often there that she finds inspiration and contentment.
And for her, its still just plain fun. Her latest CD release, From Oregon to Ireland, is an example of that kind of unexpected, delightful fun her music career has routinely delivered.
I do feel blessed to be able to wake up in the morning and really enjoy what Im doing, said Harms. As long as I do that, Ill keep writing songs and playing music.
Her latest project is a combination of new material and some of her most requested songs from her catalog done as a live album – with a twist.
She was doing some European shows more than year ago when a man called her and said that his parents were huge fans and was there any possibility of Harms coming to Ireland to play for their 50th wedding anniversary with the family band.
Well, Id never been to Ireland and kind of wanted to go, said Harms. I was a little leery of what working with the family band might mean, but when I got there we just really hit it off. They were unbelievable musicians nine of them they were very, very good.
We had such a good time together that I returned last July to do a live album with them, she added. Im going back this fall and will also be in Switzerland, France and England. Its crazy, but I have to tell you that traditional country music, the kind I do, is almost more popular over there than here.
That adventure was just the latest in a long line of adventures that Harms has enjoyed as shes walked the path of a professional singer-songwriter. And though the path hasnt always been smooth, she admits that it has all been part of a long learning process thats brought her to this point.
She has changed even as shes remained true to the type of country music she loves.
Since 1999, Ive learned so much, said Harms. Getting that record deal (with a major label) back then was almost like my college years. I got the opportunity to do things I never would have gotten the chance to do normally. I got to write with some incredible people.
Harms has always written music and enjoys taking the experiences of the farm or something she hears and turning it into a relevant musical expression.
But her trips to Nashville and the chance to work with some of the industrys top writers helped reshape the way she approaches her songs.
I think Ive always had pretty good subject matter, but theres just so much more to it to get that really good hook, so people will really grasp that one line and keep coming back to it and want to hear it again, she said. I learned about song structure and got a chance to really, really learn from those experiences.
Harms said that writing songs is as important to her as the performance piece, offering her a chance to express herself.
Growing up on a farm, I have a lot of things to talk about, she said. It has been a lot of fun to write songs about those things, or the people I meet or places I visit.
Harms catalog includes 13 releases now and she said that 99 percent of the songs on those albums are uniquely hers. Shes proud of that and the message and content she continues to deliver to her fans. Country music, she said, has changed.
What I love to do is get out and share my songs and I liked to do that before my first national record deal, Harms said. But I was so happy to have that opportunity and I was very adamant from the beginning about sticking to a wholesome reputation and family-oriented music, things that a 5-year-old or 95-year-old could listen to. It used to be country-western music, but theyve dropped the western part. As country got more pop oriented, I think it became harder for someone like me to fit.
Although shes had record deals with national labels like Universal, Capital and Warner Bros., Harms doesnt regret the path shes chosen and continues to be excited about her own little swath shes cut in the music industry forest.
Once again, shell do more than 100 performances this year and professes a continued excitement to be part of the industry.
I still make a good living at something I love to do today, she said.
In addition to the music, Harms said shes been working on a television show for a while now. Titled, Lets Put the Western Back Into Country, Harms has six episodes in the can and is hopeful it will be picked up either in the United States or abroad.
The shows premise is simple they highlight a country-oriented place or product thats located in one of the areas Harms is doing a show in.
Well have to see what happens here, but weve also had some interest from a UK station, said Harms. We may very well get picked up there first and have bits of the show shown there. Its all good, either way. It is something fun to do.
Adding to the fun is the burgeoning singing career of her daughter, Olivia.
A sophomore at Oregon State University, she already has one CD to her credit and mom and daughter enjoy traveling and doing shows together when the schedule allows.
It is a lot of fun having her involved, said Harms. Whether she makes it her career doesnt matter just performing gives you self-confidence and the chance to meet so many neat people.
Whether recording, writing or performing, Harms said she has no interest in stopping now. The show, as they say, will go on.
I just love what I do and the day I stop enjoying what I do, I guess Ill stop, she said. But with todays technology, theres no reason you cant live where you want to and make a living doing what you love.
To find out more about her new CD or get more information about what Harms is up to, check the website at www.joniharms.com.