by Sean O. Murphy
Apr 05, 2012
I wander into Campus Corner’s The Deli on a Thursday night and the place is jumping. The crowd is a motley mixed bag of colorful regulars and college kids enjoying the end of their break from classes. An attractive woman with a guitar slung over her shoulder on a strap that declares “Harp” is on stage and making some comfortable chat with the crowd. She has a genuine smile on her face, which attests to an ease and grace in front of a bar crowd. It is clearly not her first time on stage.
“Selling many papers, Calvin?” The woman says relaxed across the bar to Calvin Steves; a very familiar face on Campus Corner or just about anywhere in Norman. He is wearing his bright red OU helmet covered in signatures of Sooner players and has left his newspaper wagon at the door. He is well known as an independent carrier for the Norman Transcript (who has sold papers for the past 36 years off a little red wagon at local restaurants and bars).
“I only have 12 left,” Calvin calls back with a shrug.
“Well, maybe we can help Calvin out, folks,” Harp says and her grin widens even more as she sees a few people move Calvin’s way. It isn’t long before Calvin has sold his last stack of papers. The dance floor begins to fill up as her fingers strum some chords and she breaks into a rendition of an old “Jane’s Addiction” song with a bit of a country twang.
The woman on stage is Camille Harp. She comes from a musical family as the daughter of Garry and Shirley Harp. “My parents have had a band since before I was born. Momma played bass and Pop played guitar. My dad always tried to push me toward piano as we had a guitar player in the family already,” she said, chuckling. “I just gravitated to the guitar and feel like it came naturally to me.” Camille joined her parents on stage at red dirt rodeos while still a toddler of four. She was playing guitar by the time she was thirteen and wrote her first songs as a teenager. “I don’t think I so much chose to play music as much as it chose me.”
She plays a free show at the bar every Thursday night starting at 7 p.m. with what she calls a “revolving door” of accompanying musicians. “My most common player is John Calvin, who plays guitar and contributes his own songs to the set as well. Lately, harmonica player Adam "Biggie" Rittenberry has been sitting in. I still play with my parents sometimes. Momma does harmonizing vocals. Pop plays guitar and sings some of his own songs as well as fun, outlaw cover songs such as Merle, Waylon & Willie. My fiancé is Tom Young, the drummer for the Damn Quails, and when we move in together, I am going to make him give me lessons. I have close friends from the Damn Quails, Bryon White and Gabe Marshall, who sing with me sometimes as well as another sit-in guitar player, Nathan Lanier.” Almost pink with pride, she says. “I am blessed with loads of ridiculously talented, humble rock-n-roll friends.”
“My friends seemed to have monopolized the Woody Awards this year. John Fullbright, The Damn Quails, My So Called Band, and Ali Harter are all people that I've played with. I sang back-up vocals with Ali Harter on ‘Lonely Man’ off of her album ‘No Bees, No Honey.’ I am blessed be yond words.”
While Camille finds it easy to praise the people she plays with, she doesn’t have to say too much about the way she sings. There is sincerity to her songwriting, and warmth to her vocals that is immediately comforting. She can go from swinging country to folksy, heart-wrenching songs of lost love, without missing a beat. “I like rock ‘n’ roll. I love to sing the blues. I like country but not most of the stuff on country radio. I write whatever comes to me, whether country, folk or whatever. Some of my songs are about love. Some of my songs are about running away from life I play because I love it. It keeps me outta trouble,” she says. “Well…sometimes.”
Harp’s album will be released sometime late spring or early summer with new videos coming to YouTube soon. The record was recorded in Norman as well as in New York City with “musical guru,” Luke Dick, engineering and producing. “Luke also directed the music videos that will be released with the album. We shot several locations in New York City. It was a great experience for me. It was a lot of fun but hard work. I am glad to be home in Oklahoma.”
The website is camilleharp.com. The upcoming show list is available on the website—and sign the mailing list to receive a free download of a brand new song, "One by One," from the new record.
Note to enterprising investors: “We would like to play Moore. Your city needs a few more venues. There are people dying to play there.”
When I asked her for any final words, she provided me with these: “Lastly, I would like to say I am so thankful for anyone who supports local music. Our local music scene is brimming with talent, and it's so nice that Oklahoma is recognizing and promoting original music! Way to go, Oklahoma!”