Justin Hariz—the Los Angeles singer-songwriter behind HARIZ—has spent the last few months working on two things: a new EP and his ping pong game.
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“I don’t think I could get through this pandemic without the family and friends I have here [in LA],” HARIZ tells American Songwriter over email. “But also Netflix, food, and music have been helpful too—all of these things are keeping me semi-sane.”
“It’s been really nice to have this quality time with people that I care about,” he adds. “There wasn’t always enough time to do that before, so this quarantine kinda opened that possibility more. [I’ve] definitely been learning to cook a lot more. Oh, and ping pong—we set up a ping pong table in the middle of my living room and we try to play almost every day!”
“‘I Got You’ was written with the idea that life is full of ups and downs and it doesn’t always turn out the way you want it to, and in those times you turn to the people in your life that are always there to support you—your ‘I got you,’” he says of the song. “And sometimes it’s not always a person, it could also be your pet! Basically that one special being who always knows how to keep you going if you get down, or make you smile.”
HARIZ’s acoustic version of the track is a stripped-down, piano-driven affair that showcases his vocal chops. It’s a perfect format for the artist, a classically trained vocalist and pianist.
“My transition to pop started around 7-8 years old,” says HARIZ. “I started by playing covers of songs that I liked and then a few years later, I think around 11, I started to write my own songs. As far as influence in my writing, there is a lot of theory within classical music but the part that I really draw upon for my writing is the emotion that pieces convey—the way that certain chord progressions can make you feel.”
“I Don’t Feel Bad” shows the pop crooner’s alternative side. “I wrote [that song] after I just broke up with my ex,” he says. “When it happened I was surprised by how I felt—I thought I would have a really hard time coping but I actually felt kind of liberated, so I wanted to write a song about that feeling and share the message that it’s okay to love and put yourself first.”
Though HARIZ hasn’t offered too many details about his forthcoming EP, he confirms that it’s on the horizon. “I’m currently working on my EP and I can’t wait to get it out there,” he says, adding that “A good writing session for me is when I really feel like I’ve articulated my emotions and thoughts clearly. What makes me feel accomplished in a session is when I’m feeling the lyrics and ideas pouring out of me naturally. Then I can walk away from those sessions with songs and ideas that I feel emotionally connected to and am excited to keep building on.”
Asked about his recent influences and inspirations, HARIZ highlights Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia. “It’s so catchy, and [the] lyrics are on point,” he says of the album. “My summer playlist was just a giant mix of 70’s, 80’s, and Dua Lipa and The Weeknd. It’s always hard to answer what I’m listening to because I love listening to everything and finding new music everyday.”
Though 2020 isn’t over yet, HARIZ is already looking ahead to next year: “I’m excited to release a new single this year and finish up my EP,” he says. “Hopefully [in] 2021 we can all get back on the road and play some live shows!”
Until then, you can check out HARIZ’s “I Got You” acoustic video below and follow him here.