For Stephanie Harpe, playing music is a family — and cultural — affair
By Cory Schachtel | August 18, 2022
You open for so many big bands (Trooper, Tom Chochrane, Blue Rodeo). Do you ever get starstruck?
I don’t often get starstruck anymore, but I still get a thrill. But this year when we opened up for Big Wreck, I got pretty starstruck with Ian Thornley, who was a really amazing and very kind.
What kind of experience is Stephanie Harpe Experience?
I would describe us as high-energy, old school, rock ‘n’ roll with a lot of joy, and a message.
What’s your message?
I think with everything going on with Indigenous people in this country, with everyone knowing the truth of what’s happened to us, you know, we’re getting a lot more love out there, more unity, and we’re being more respected and recognized. We just wrote a new song called “Devious Eyes” — well, it was an old song that we re-created — and that’s for our murdered and missing Indigenous peoples. And when I yelled last night at the crowd, “This really matters to me — does it matter to you?” they roared. And then I told them, if we’re gonna get through this, we’ve got to do it together, and they all yelled back “Together!” I think we all need each other, and we all need music, more than ever. So putting those kinds of stronger messages in our songs and seeing how they have been so embraced is so important.
Is your message more well received today than in the past?
Yes. You know, it’s really unfortunate that it took ground-penetrating radar to find these children in the ground to have people know the truth. And now, they believe us. And as a residential school survivor, that matters very much. A lot of Indigenous people are going through a lot right now, and we’re still fighting. But ever since Canada has known this truth, things have changed and we’ve been receiving support and been elevated into spaces where I would never be before, in last few years especially.
I just watched a video of you covering “Move Over,” by Janis Joplin. That’s a high bar, vocally — how do you pull that off?
When you’re singing Janis, you know — I get pretty wild on stage, so I have to really, sometimes tame myself back to be able to execute the song, instead of going wild all over the stage. So, I’m trying to keep the power up because she’s powerful, and not easy to cover.
Most singers don’t even try to cover her.
No, not many people hear Janis Joplin covers anywhere. And you see it in the reaction of the crowd — people jumped out of their seats and ran to the dance floor like it was the fucking Price is Right!
But she was one of the first female records that I had, and she’s my favourite, so when I got a killer band that could do some good covers, I was like, hey, we have got to do some Janis Joplin.
Is another favourite vocalist you like that you think is a bit underrated?
I’m a big Concrete Blonde fan. I think they’re so underrated. And I love love [Johnette Napolitano’s] voice. But yeah, the greatest of all time to me is Janis Joplin.
Your husband has been your manager since you started. What’s it been like forging a musical career with him?
It’s wonderful. I I feel so protected. And I don’t want him to hear it, but he’s usually right, about a lot of stuff, ha ha. I’m very grateful that we’re able to do this together. And our sons used to play guitar — they were our opening act and we used to tour and open shows as a family — so my sons got to open up for Rock and Roll Hall of Famers, CCR!
What can people expect from you and your killer band?
They can expect some great new songs, and some really exciting, amplified energy. They can get a really strong message from what we’re trying to say, but also have a lot of fun. This is going to be quite an epic lineup, and we’re so honoured to be a part of it. It’ll be great seeing everybody again, and they can expect to have one hell of a show.