Spreading the iPhone jams

Most of Jimmy’s tracks originate in his bedroom. Photo Samuel Baiguerra.
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Singer-songwriter Jimmy Harwood is making waves in the Melbourne music scene. Samuel Baiguerra reports.

Tattoos come in all shapes and sizes in today’s music scene. However, Jimmy Harwood’s ink is particularly unique. The 20-year-old singer-songwriter has three words etched on his left wrist: “just make tunes”. It is a constant reminder of his priorities. “You just got to keep being creative,” he says with a grin.

On his right arm is a small, blue Gatorade bottle, a tattoo which always confuses onlookers. However, his listeners know that it represents his most successful song to date. ‘Blue Gatorade’ has over 40,000 plays on Spotify alone, however Jimmy isn’t one to dwell on the past. “Part of being an artist is looking forward to your next track, you don’t tend to look back too much,” he says.

Inspiration for these future hits can be found in his suburban Melbourne home. Lyrics, set-lists and song ideas are stuck all over his bedroom walls. This organic style of song-writing is reflected in his music, particularly with his latest release ‘iPhone Tape’. As the title suggests, the entire EP was recorded and mixed on his iPhone.

Fellow singer-songwriter Davy Simony is one of Jimmy’s best mates “It’s really inspiring,” he says of the EP. “The sound he can get just off his phone shows how resourceful you can be in this day and age, he put out such a good product.”

Apart from the EP release, Jimmy’s busy last month has also included being signed. The Hien Mytee Entertainment group is more than just a music label in his eyes. They are a group of best mates, and Jimmy wouldn’t have it any other way. “We all just love making tunes together and motivating each other. It’s just a great environment to be in, it’s like a little family,” he says.

Jimmy’s music is a blend of soulful acoustic guitar with a hip-hop flavour, and his unique sound has been influenced by a vast array of artists. “I love the old stuff like Jack Johnson and blues guitar, but at the same time I’m loving all the new hip-hop and all those sounds.”

Jimmy’s mother Debbie says she could see the performer in him at a very young age. “When he was about two we filmed him with a blow-up guitar jamming to Crocodile Rock. “I think that was the start of it all,” she laughs. “The tapes somewhere in the house,” adds Jimmy. “If I find it I want to use it for a music video or something.”

When he was 12 Jimmy took a year of guitar lessons from a family friend, but since then he has been completely self-taught. While guitar came fairly naturally to him, the same could not be said for the vocals. “I definitely had to work on the voice,” he admits “…There was definitely a point where it all came together.”

At 16 his song writing ability began to shine through. “When he started writing his own music I just thought, my God, this boy of ours is pretty handy. Since then he’s got progressively got better over time,” says Debbie. “I love the fact that he writes his own lyrics and music. I think that’s amazing.”

The backing of his parents Debbie and Chris allows Jimmy to continue pursuing his dreams.

“My parents have always been supportive, they encouraged me to play guitar in the first place, and now they’re digging the new tunes,” says Jimmy. “I think at first his dad thought there was a bit too much swearing,” says Debbie. “But whether it’s our son Jim or Jimmy Harwood the artist, I absolutely love his music. He’s got a unique style, I just love his groove.”

Jimmy kicks back with a beer at his Melbourne home. Photo Samuel Baiguerra.

Jimmy spent about six months busking on the streets of Melbourne, but soon moved on to open mic events. Meeting like-minded people at these events eventually led to gigs, and Jimmy hasn’t looked back since. “It’s certainly a snowball effect,” he explains. “I meet people at gigs who enjoy the music, and then they in turn give me another gig, and it just goes on from there.” Supporting singer-songwriter Tyne James Organ is Jimmy’s career highlight to date. “He sold out the show so it was super sick,” he beams.

Jimmy plays gigs about three times a week, mostly at pubs and bars around Melbourne. He is not fussed about big crowds and is just glad people are listening to his music. “You get your big and small crowds, it all depends,” he says “I know good things take time. All I can do is play to the best of my ability and at hope that people dig what they hear.”

Jimmy’s trademark loop pedals are an integral part of his sets. They allow him to be a one-man band on stage, as he loops guitar chords and various vocal noises into a vibrant backing track. “I first got one when I was 15, mostly because I was inspired by Ed Sheeran,” he recalls. “I just learnt how to loop the guitar chords then eventually started adding my own stuff to suit my style.” Davy Simony has also conquered the loop pedals, and therefore is aware of how tricky they are to master. “Jimmy’s looping is really impressive,” he says. “He’s always throwing little pieces in there, it creates such a rich sound.”

Jimmy is thriving in the Melbourne music scene, but is passionate about growing the industry as a whole. “There are so many good bands and so many good artists,” he says.

“It’s crazy that a couple of years ago I was looking at bands and thinking how much I’d love to play with them, and now they’re all my mates. It’s a really good community, it’s like a big old family.”

This year promises much for Jimmy Harwood. Not only does he have a bunch of singles in the pipeline, he plans to tour nationally. He also wants to establish some international connections, however admits to his wish list of artists being very ambitious. His mother has her fingers crossed, hoping that he can achieve his dreams. “He’s only 20, time is on his side,” says Debbie. “I just really wish that his music could be broadcast out there to the big time. He deserves it.”

Meantime, Jimmy is content with what he has got. “I obviously want music to be my profession, but I just like making tunes that makes people feel something, whether that’s good or bad,” he laughs. “I just want to get an emotion out of people and see how far that can take me.”