A certain Beatle once sang that it don’t come easy. That was Ringo, but in this case, he could be referring to the steady career climb of Dhani Harrison. As the son of George, Harrison could have easily been saddled by the weight of his famous last name. Instead, he’s quietly cobbled together a career that children of Beatles would be envious of.
In late July, Harrison did something that many would have suspected he’d done a long time before. Though fairly mundane in terms of being a major shock, Harrison performed under his own name for the first time. His show at the Echo in Los Angeles was an intimate affair, but it was also sold out instantly with little fanfare ahead of it.
“I don’t get too nervous, but I’m a perfectionist,” Harrison says as he’s cruising across Los Angeles on a late afternoon following a haircut. “The first shows are always a little bit frustrating but everyone had a great time.”
For years, he was just a face in the crowd as a member of rock outfit thenewno2. There, Harrison learned how to work within a rock band on his own that put together some stellar albums. They toured and performed at festivals like PJ20 (where Harrison sang “State of Love and Trust” with Pearl Jam) Lollapalooza and everything else of that sort. He also jammed with Ben Harper and Joseph Arthur in Fistful of Mercy, a band that rocks as heavy as its name would indicate.
Thenewno2 also provided the score for Beautiful Creatures. Living in Los Angeles and having opportunities to land films and TV syncs, Harrison has spent most of his time working behind the scenes composing when he isn’t managing his father’s estate. He released his first solo album, In Parallel, last month.
“It’s hard to get people to see who you are,” he says. “I’ve built such a body of work that people who don’t know about what I’m doing, it’s easy for them to find out what I’ve been up to. I’ve been dying to get back out playing live since I’ve been composing so much. I’m coming from a place that I’m really excited to get back out on the road.”
Since that first show at the Echo, Harrison and his band have done multiple stops in Berlin, New York City and London. As fans of Harrison can attest, his background as a musician is grounded in the blues. Yet, he’s touring with a band that has a heavier edge (“They’re more metal than me”) that’s added a layer of toughness to his sound.
“Every player in the band is better than me,” he says bemusingly. “Even my keyboard player plays guitar. They’re all classically trained and metal, shredder kind of guys. I sit around and listen to them play a lot. It’s a nice feeling to have because you don’t want to be in a band that isn’t tough enough.”
On the cusp of his album’s release, Harrison was met with tragedy as Tom Petty, someone he considered a second father, died unexpectedly. Having spent time with the late-rocker’s family after his death, the younger Harrison has been through the same anguish as when his father died in 2001.
“It’s heartbreaking — no pun intended — he was very, very close family to me,” he says. “It’s a huge, huge gaping hole. Plus he was having so much fun on the road and I was having fun playing him the new music. He is such a supporter of mine he would have been at these upcoming gigs. To be missing having such an amazing cheerleader like Tom Petty, you couldn’t have anyone better than that.”
Harrison’s schedule won’t slow down after the calendar is turned. With plans to go abroad and perform at festivals, the singer/songwriter is doing his best to carry on the family name for a new generation.
“I’m looking forward to this West Coast run,” he says. “By waiting to release a solo record, you can trick some people after honestly speaking about what you want to talk about, then it’s definitely worth it.”
Dhani Harrison performs with Summer Moon and Mereki at the Constellation Room on Tuesday, 8 p.m.. For full info and tickets, click here.
Daniel Kohn is a writer based in Southern California. With bylines in an assortment of outlets, Kohn primarily specializes in music with other interests ranging from sports to food. As a transplant, Kohn loves the beautiful weather and is glad he no longer has to deal with brutal winters. If you see him, say hi and of course, he’s always willing to down a beer or two…if you’re paying.