Meet Kevin Harrison

Ladies and gentlemen, buckle up and get ready to meet the one and only Kevin Harrison! Kevin Harrison, the artist known for his captivating soundscapes, is embarking on a new chapter. Under the moniker Sleepwalker, he's diving into an exciting musical journey.

Divine Magazine
Divine Magazine 13 Min Read

Ready to meet the one and only Kevin Harrison, ladies and gentlemen? With his most recent effort, Sleepwalker, this gifted singer-songwriter is creating quite a stir in the music business.

Under the name Sleepwalker, Kevin is starting an exciting new chapter in his musical career. This Cranford, New Jersey singer-songwriter is enjoying a new sense of freedom as he breaks free from industry limitations. He has a background in the folk-rock scene with bands Broken Compass Society and Kevin Harrison & True North.

sleepwalker press photo 1

What first got you into music?

My parents were really, really cool.

Music was ever-present in our house. My dad was a great singer and rhythm guitar player. He played by ear (like I do now) and would learn any song I asked him to so that he could teach me. And my mom liked to say she had “a song for every occasion” – even if her singing was a bit pitchy compared to my dad. I got my passion for performing from him and my super-fandom from her.

How did you discover your passion for music?

It started with a skiing accident that prematurely ended my surefire NBA career…

OK, so I would have eventually had to reckon with my athletic ability maxing out at the J.V. level. But until that injury derailed my junior year season, basketball was my passion; playing guitar was a cool hobby I’d approached with varying levels of commitment since I was six or seven.

I leaned into music hard when basketball went away, and when I began writing my own lyrics, that’s when it went from interest to passion.

As a teenager, you’re grappling with all sorts of complicated, existential feelings and suddenly I had this amazing way of expressing them. Those songs would feel painfully corny now, but they kicked off a lifelong outlet.

What sets your music apart? What is unique, or at least uncommon?

It’s a snapshot of all of the influences I have – and some I didn’t even know that I had! I think there are plenty of folk-rock artists who listen to pop or electronic music but don’t let it seep into their own stuff, and that was me for more than a decade.

On Sleepwalker, I stopped trying to fit the music into a box and the result – I hope – is that it will be as much at home with a fan of Pink Floyd as it does with a fan of Nine Inch Nails or even Harry Styles.

What is your creative process like?

Sporadic! I’ve always worked in fits and starts, going quiet for a few months then getting a spark and banging out three or four new songs. But having little kids and other grown-up responsibilities certainly makes it harder to carve out time to sit in a creative space.

For the Sleepwalker stuff, I did a lot of humming ideas into voice memos on my phone until I felt like I had enough material to justify ditching the family and renting a barn for a weekend to immerse myself in the music. It did the trick! I walked away with three brand new songs and what ended up being the final guitar parts recorded for “Burn” and another upcoming Sleepwalker track.

Who would you most like to collaborate with?

Man, it’s tough to pick just one person, but let’s go with Ariel Posen – his guitar work would fit so well with the Sleepwalker vibe, and he’s been a major recent influence on my approach to crafting songs.

Exiting dream world, I’m looking forward to featuring some local New Jersey musicians on future songs. The first set of Sleepwalker tracks feels like it sets a clear identity, and it’ll be fun to build upon that sound with other voices.

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How do you feel the Internet has impacted the music business?

On one hand, the access and exposure available to new or unknown artists is tremendous. I’m producing the Sleepwalker stuff at home and getting it on the same platforms at Atlantic Records. For $50 per album. Talk about a low barrier to entry!

On the other hand, it’s so easy to get lost in the noise. And I’m not sure that the current model lends itself to my vision of musical creativity. Artists are rewarded for constant output and content (ugh) more than for the dedication that goes into producing an album worth of top-notch material.

I love what I hear Jack Conte saying about shaking up the model and helping creators build community with their fans – but I think the jury is still out on whether Patreon or a similarly-focused platform can pull people away from the dopamine hits we get from the algorithm.

In your opinion, how do artists in this industry stay on top of the game when faced with so much competition? What is the secret to making yourself noticed?

If you get a good answer to that question, send it my way!

It’s definitely some combination of incredible talent and incredible PR that keeps artists in the limelight, but I go back and forth on which one seems to carry more weight these days.

I’ve yet to crack the code for breaking through to gain significant notoriety for a new project, but the purist in me thinks that just means I haven’t written that song yet – the one that is impossible to ignore.

What is the best advice you have been given?

“Don’t try to outdo that guy. Just be you.” – My dad, as I was getting set to follow a killer player at a blues jam in college.

It loosened me up that night and I crushed it. I might not have been as technically proficient as the guy before me, but I was me, and it sounded and felt great.

I’ve tried to carry that over into everything I’ve done in music since. I can’t sing or play like my heroes, but I can be me. And my home studio recordings and mixes won’t sound like a $100,000 session at Capitol Studios, but it sounds pretty damn cool nonetheless. It’s easy to get sucked into comparing yourself to others, but music is art, and there’s no “best” in art.

If you could change anything about the industry, what would it be?

The way that music is valued.

Millions of artists worldwide devote the same amount of time to honing their craft that, say, a plumber does – and yet musicians can’t reliably make a living just by selling or performing their music the way a plumber can by plying their trade.

Whether it’s streaming royalties or the amount a club pays a local band on a Saturday night, I’d love to see music creation valued as a career – not a side hustle or a hobby.

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Vibrating with an electric chemistry, “Burn” is a sultry ode to keeping the flame burning well into a relationship. Launching with an explosive and fuzzy electric guitar riff, perfected after Harrison tested multiple pedals in search of the perfect sound, it’s the kind of sizzle that will no doubt launch into something explosive. And it does. It’s a melting pot of 70’s-esque anthemic rock meets sultry blues grooves, with vocals that provide a supple, warm, yet undeniably seductive place to land. Written as an authentic reflection of his relationship with his partner of 10 years, Harrison strips it down to bare his soul in brand new ways as he asks, “Do you still have that fire? Can I still make you burn?” 

What is next for you?

A Sleepwalker EP! I’ve got a six-song EP set to follow “Burn,” and have begun sketching out some ideas for a more songs to follow – maybe a set of cover tunes with a Sleepwalker spin on them.

If you could have any superhero power, what would it be and why?

The ability to eat limitless pepperoni pizza without concern for heartburn or high cholesterol.

Does that make me sound old? Okay, let’s go with invincibility.

I have no desire to live forever, but having Superman-level invincibility would at least make sure I don’t die prematurely from something stupid (like another skiing accident).

What would you do if you were the only survivor of a plane crash?

Immediately try to recall everything I learned from the book Hatchet in middle school.

Am I on a desert island? Deep in the woods? Either way, I guess step one is to try to throw up a distress signal of some sort. Then might as well use the opportunity to write a song as I wait. Hope my phone survived the crash so I can use my voice memos to record.

What would be a good theme song for your life?

Had to give this one some thought and landed on John Prine’s “Pretty Good.” I’ve had some relatively high highs and low lows, but I try to keep a relatively even keel exterior – Pretty good, not bad, I can’t complain / But actually, everything is just about the same.

Do you have any superstitions?

I knock on wood a lot! It’s always done in jest, but I do it often enough that this question is making me wonder if it’s an actual superstition.

I also have an old Budweiser handkerchief that belonged to my dad that I stuff in my back pocket for every gig in the hopes it brings some sort of mojo.

If you were talking to a younger version of you, what advice would you give yourself?

Take risks sooner. Life may seem really serious at twenty-two, but it’s not. If you screw up, there’s plenty of time to right the ship at that point. So, take the big swings while you can. It’s harder to drop everything when you have babies and a mortgage.

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