In the oversaturated and globalized music world, HARIZ is attempting to rethink how pop music intersects with love and heartache.
“HARIZ” has amassed a dedicated following through his emotive blend of pop music with an R&B flair. He first achieved breakthrough success with his single “Ovrbrd” (2017), a song that explores a passionate yet toxic relationship between two lovers. HARIZ drew inspiration for the song from his relationship with a close friend; while the pair are perfect as individuals, they are toxic together.
He divulged the inner workings of his hits in an interview with The Emory Wheel. With noticeable anticipation, HARIZ spoke confidently and excitedly about “What Tour Feels Like,” his musical upbringing and his music release strategy.
The Los Angeles singer-songwriter revealed that his current projects all stem from love: its universal appeal, whether mutual or unrequited.
“I think [love] is something that we all crave and need,” HARIZ said. “We all want to be loved. We all want to feel love.”
HARIZ added a caveat about avoiding the dreaded trite love song: “They’re still very boxed within like, ‘I’m breaking up with you,’ “I hate you,’ ‘I love you so much’ … But there’s other facets of love that exist, like the complications [on] ‘Ovrbrd.’”
HARIZ repeatedly explores themes of falling in and out of love, heartbreak and everything in between on past independently released tracks. For example, “Better to Lie” (2022) and “I Don’t Trust You Yet” (2022) explore themes of angst and the unknown waters of a new relationship.
He examines the fallout of a relationship on his latest single “X My Mind,” a track that depicts the post-breakup period where an ex will not leave one’s head. Similar to previous tracks, HARIZ took on a niche perspective here: the unavoidable nature of lost love and how it always finds a way to creep back into your head.
“When I’m waking up / When I’m getting drunk,” HARIZ sings on the pulsating and bouncy chorus of “X My Mind.” “When I talk about love, no / You don’t cross my mind.”
His journey toward his current mixed pop and R&B sound began through his formal education as a classical pianist, similar to fellow musician JVKE, who headlined the summer tour.
“When I was four, my kindergarten teacher told my parents that I was musical, and I was very active in class,” HARIZ said. “What they suggested was actually two things: One, to do acting classes; and then the other one was music class. It just seems kind of absurdly early for four.”
His classical piano upbringing would achieve its pinnacle at the age of 18 when HARIZ reached the highest level in the Music Teachers National Association through frequent recitals. The Music Teachers National Association is a nonprofit nationwide network of over 17,000 independent and collegiate music teachers focused on education and research within the arts. HARIZ attributed much of his current success as a singer-songwriter to his formal piano education.
Though he flirted with becoming a professional pianist, HARIZ would learn to embrace his suppressed interest in pop music — a genre he thought is deceptively effortless.
“As simple as the pop world seems, it’s actually quite difficult,” HARIZ said. “There’s a lot going on.”
He related that most people simply underestimate the craftsmanship needed to pull off compelling love songs. If a track sounds catchy and straightforward, that often is the result of tireless time spent in the studio.
“They worked so hard at [the track] for it to be easily attainable,” HARIZ said. “That’s the complicated part: ‘How cool can we get by staying simple?’”
Living in a musical house, HARIZ has a wide breadth of artistic influences, with early inspiration stemming from what his family members played around the house. Recently, he has drawn inspiration from Ruel and FLETCHER.
The singer-songwriter has also found success through his music release strategy. With an emphasis on releasing stand-alone songs rather than albums, HARIZ has been able to compile sonically different but thematically similar tracks into condensed EPs for his followers.
“The reason why I like doing singles is because you can really put your attention behind one song, make a moment of it, give it its life and its breath,” HARIZ said. “Once I have a certain amount of singles out, I package them together because most of the time they have some similarity of what I’ve been going through or the message that I’m trying to portray. I did that with the ‘Border’ (2022) EP.”
Now that he completed his tour with JVKE, HARIZ is gearing up to release his next single. The new track will also feature a coveted guest vocalist, which has yet to be revealed.
“I’ve been working on [it] for maybe six months now,” HARIZ said. “I’m really hoping that it snowballs into something that can get us an even bigger reach.”
The tour with JVKE exposed HARIZ to a whole new legion of fans and admirers. Though he is still not a household name, HARIZ was naturally a good fit to complement JVKE’s piano-driven music ballads.
By the end of the tour, HARIZ anticipated that he would get close to everyone involved because of the tour’s tight quarters.
“At the end of every tour, everybody gets super close because you’re on a journey together,” HARIZ said. “One person’s problem is everybody’s problem. One person’s success is everyone’s success.”
Ari Segal (he/him) (25C) is from Boca Raton, Florida, majoring in philosophy, politics and law and minoring in music. He is the Arts and Entertainment editor at the Wheel. He is involved with the Emory Conversation Project, Franklin Fellows and the SPARK Mentorship Program. If you run into Ari, he is probably talking about music, listening to music or playing music on the guitar.