Married in Song, the latest collection from Duluth, MN-based Nat Harvie (they/them), finds its origins in those events more akin to divorce. Following the release of their solo record, Nat Harvie’s Broken Record, Harvie told their then partner that the album was made for them. “I told him, ‘I know you know this already, but I made it for you. I did it for you,’” recalls Harvie of a confession to their then-partner on the precipice of their breakup.
Harvie recalls their partner’s reaction to Broken Record’s dedication. “He responded in the most cruel way he could have, but he wasn’t wrong: ‘You did it for you, too,’” they say. The relationship was not salvaged. In its wake, Harvie began writing and recording the songs that would eventually make up Married in Song, a short, yet concentrated affair that cannot help but invoke tenderness and reflection on the part of listeners.
In their words, the artistic payoff for Married in Song was “the process of my learning to write for myself, trusting my collaborators, and maintaining patience with myself as an artist.” The resulting songs harken to the avant-pop of Mothers, Arthur Russell, Cindy Lee, Lomelda, and early Perfume Genius, all tremendous influences on Harvie’s richly textured songwriting and production style.
The completed songs -- some of which existed with radically different arrangements in demo form -- offer reflections that might be personal for Harvie but universal to any who listen. In “Every Woman,” Harvie sings about “wanting to be taken care of when I don’t need it, giving and providing care as a way to bring myself closer to some meme of ‘traditional’ femininity.” At other points on the record, Harvie waxes about the necessity of moving on and persevering in the face of grief. “Longbody,” the collection’s first single, says Harvie, is about “reaching a point where you realize you want to keep feeling heartbroken but instead of getting back in your broken down car, you find another ride.” As with many songs on Married in Song, Harvie scratches at the timely and timeless, a rare quality for any artist let alone an emerging one.
Well before Married in Song was conceived, Harvie was no novice or stranger to collaboration. After beginning their recording career at eighteen with the bygone Duluth label, Chaperone Records (Charlie Parr, Retribution Gospel Choir, Lion or Gazelle), they fell deep into the world of DIY recording and began to produce and release their own work independently, starting with their 2015 debut solo EP, Snow is a Gift to my Fear. Following this release, Harvie formed their live outfit, Nat Harvie Trio, and quickly became a leading queer voice in the Duluth scene, garnering local and regional attention for their heartfelt songwriting, lush arrangements, and powerful live performances.
Production on Married in Song mirrors Harvie’s penchant for nomadism. Following basic tracking at the famed Hideaway studio in Minneapolis, Harvie continued to shape the songs in piecemeal form, moving to St. Paul for additional tracking with Hansen assisting with production duties at her Salon studio as well as through at-home recordings with auxiliary musicians who make up the record: vocalists Nadia Hulett (NADINE) and Rosalie Uggla, drummer Andrew Stevens (Lomelda, Hovvdy), as well as vocal contributions from Hansen and guitar from Grammy-nominated Low’s Alan Sparhawk on “Longbody."
The release of Married in Song is also a reminder of another absence in Harvie’s life, the death of their friend and mixing engineer of the project, Eric Littmann (Vagabon, Julie Bryne, Emily Yacina). “Eric and I talked constantly during this process and became friends,” they say. “He died unexpectedly last summer and I miss him very badly. I am very grateful for our short time together and feel honored to have gotten to work with him.”
Though loss is, ironically and coincidentally, a central theme of the record, the release is also symbolic of new unions and resurrection. The album will be the first release on Sparhawk’s Chairkickers’ Union label in fifteen years and endorses Harvie’s creative output alongside other Midwestern acts like Rivulets and Haley Bonar.
The partnership between Harvie and Chairkickers’ Union remarks Nat, “represents a geographical and artistic home for me in our shared hometown of Duluth and under the mentorship of a musician who has inspired me since I was a kid.” Harvie calls the label an “obvious home” for their music, “where Alan’s generosity and friendship have changed the way I think about music and community.”
Despite the support from a label with such a rich legacy, Harvie is hopeful that Married in Song will find purchase with a new set of listeners. “In a lot of ways, I am re-introducing myself as a voice with this release,” they say. That voice, at once familiar and Midwestern, also tends, in their own words, “to pull out the strange and mysterious out of the banal” by way of an “arm wrestling match” between “some fictionalized entity and the living, breathing person.” This tension, however ridden with contradiction, demonstrates that Nat is deserving of whatever audience comes their way.