An Artist's Role
STARPOLISH: I think this touches on the whole issue oftherole of the artist in society, and artists using the platform they have to advance their own political agendas. I know that you've been working on behalf of the Landmine Free World, and have come from a background where political commentary is part of the songwriting process, so I was wondering how you feel about artists voicing opinions on social and political causes?
HARRIS: I've always been very reticent about that, particularly in the first part of my career, even though I came out of the 60s and the early 70s and Vietnam. But I was very ambivalent about it, because I come from a military background where I have a great deal of respect for the military. My father was a prisoner of war in Korea, and it was a very ambivalent time because we were told one thing and it turned out it was not true. So you go through that cynical period. But I do consider myself a patriot, and I love this country and what we stand for, and what we can be. But that doesn't mean... it's like loving a child and letting it do anything it wants — you can't do that. To be a true patriot, one must be ready to dissent at any given moment, and to be ever careful and ever vigilant to make sure that we are the best that we can be. But I always did feel a little self-conscious. I never supported a politician because I thought, "I don't really know all the issues." The landmine issue was different because that was totally non-political — it was [like], "Don't Litter."(laughs) Except it's not trash that can just be picked up, it's something that will completely shut down a country, so it was beyond politics, and it was a way to use my celebrity for a good cause that has no down side, to me, at all. So it wasn't really taking a chance.
STARPOLISH: The music industry loves to put artists into neat packages, yet your music is very hard to so clearly define. Does that desire to categorize artists affect you?
HARRIS: Well, I'm not played on the radio anyway, except on mainstream radio I'd be an oldie on a country oldie stations. I am played on [satellite radio stations] Sirius and XM, and on Americana stations where they still exist. So the only problem is where to put the record in the record stores. And that was a little problem when Wrecking Ball first came out, where there was this thing where "country" was a bad word. That bothers me a bit, because I bought into it, too. It was like saying, "Well, I was country but I never inhaled." (laughs) And yet country is so important to me: that's what gave me my focus, and my direction. I embraced it, I loved it — I still love it, at least my definition of it and what I listen to. I mean George Jones still makes me weep. And yet I find so much of what they're calling country now offensive in its mediocrity and its complete lack of redeeming qualities other than its blandness. It's uniformly without any kind of creative... anything. And it's like this whole amazing form of music has been hijacked.