Eartha Harris, who goes by the ethereal name of Living Light, has spent a lifetime sculpting sound spectrums, with enough intricacy and experience to spread to a global yet a very particular audience. Lifelong musician, Eartha Harris produced music as Project Sphere from 1998-2006 and toured as live keyboardist for electronica act Psylab from 2007-2012. However, her solo project Living Light was born on December 2012, bringing her enlightened vision to life while offering portals to ambiguous yet quite soothing melodic worlds, that one can dance to almost in a form of spiritual ritual at one of the many festivals she graces annually or at the privacy of your own sound system.
Living Light released a new album in February this year that is receiving wide global attention, Tales From the Karman Line 1: Hemispheres. Grab a copy of it on Beatport, and take a dub journey with the ‘Living Light’ inside of you.
We had the chance to have a chat with Eartha and get an insight of her inner mysterious world, here’s what went on.
Your music obviously transcends a diversely-formed background, and a deep connection between different musical and cultural worlds; how did your signature sound come to life?
Well I’d have to say that my musical history is the result of my personal history. As a baby, my parents listened to a lot of Pink Floyd, Talking Heads, Grateful Dead, The Beatles, and reggae. I still remember always jumping up and dancing when anything with a reggae groove was played – of course I didn’t know what that was at the time. Fast forward to me as a young child in the mid 80s, sitting in the backseat on road trips with Casey Kasem’s Top 40 blasting Talk Talk, Pet shop Boys, Madonna, Tears for Fears, Peter Gabriel, and Cyndi Lauper, which caused the birth of my obsession with synthesizers and electronic music. I still remember the first synth my parents got me – I was in the 3rd grade, and it was a Yamaha Porta Sound with half-sized keys and built-in speakers and a little sequencer. I played that board every day!
My love of the 80’s New Romantic era -that I was too young as an elementary school kid to really be a part of- lead to a love of goth industrial music in my teens, while being simultaneously still influenced by my parents’ more Earthy taste in music. This led to a strong predisposition to all the world inspired electronic music coming out in the 90s – like Delerium, Enigma, and Madonna’s “Ray of Light” album. Shortly after this, I started attending raves and discovered early Goa Trance (sometimes dubbed “ethno techno” back then), which led to a love for the early psytrance, and then when psytrance got too crazy for my taste, the discovery of psydub brought me back full circle to those moments grooving out to reggae as a baby on my Jolly Jumper.
Fast forward to me getting the travel bug, going to Honduras, and becoming a yogi and going to India, Costa Rica, Panama, and Guatemala. With Living Light, I’ve combined my many musical loves – dub reggae grooves, soaring 80s inspired synth lines, emotive soundscapes, psychedelic glitches, yoga mantras, and world music.
Do you have any ritual to get your creative juices flowing? How do you go about the layering of your sounds from the ground up?
Well, first I always clean the studio, followed by an hour of yoga. When it’s time to actually begin the track, I’ll often search for a pre-written drum loop that I am never going to actually use but to just throw in as a placeholder. I’ll then set my master BPM to that sample, set up a 16 to 32 bar loop to it, record a few chord progressions with a pad or strings patch, and then write my bassline.
Once the basic bassline is done, I write new drums using individual kicks, snares, hi-hats, etc. on different channels, and chuck the original loop. After that come melodies. Then I’ll start to arrange the song (so it’s no longer just a 16 to 32 bar loop). Once i have a basic arrangement, I’ll start to add in texturizers, things like the occasional timbal roll, glitchy noise, or risers, and sweeps for dramatic effect, and so on and so forth. I also constantly play with effects and perfect the mix as I go. When I finally get it to the last phase, I export all the midi and audio tracks individually and re-import them into the project so I can chop the reverb and delay tails to stop on a dime, and then start to add additional effects and crops that are only possible to do for these individual tracks as exported audio files.
Religion stigmatizes sexuality, spirituality doesn’t –it’s inclusive, after all. How would you describe your relationship with both?
I’ve never subscribed to any religion or spiritual belief system. That said, I have always had an endless curiosity and fascination with them all, I think in part due to my parents very freely exploring belief structures as I grew up (my mother is Buddhist, Wiccan, and Pagan and my father was in training to become a Methodist Minister before refocusing his attention towards Quakerism, Toaism, anti-war activism, and social justice causes.) As a child, I was always wondering which one was supposed to be right, and so, as a college student, I was determined to find out if they all came from the same place and set out studying and trying many on for size. In all the belief structures I delved into, there were always parts that struck me as “true” and other parts that didn’t resonate with me as much. I used it all as lessons to shape myself and my view of the world… and I find those core foundational beliefs to continue to ring true to me today.
In the end, I believe that love, curiosity, play, humor, passion, patience, kindness, and compassion are divine driving forces of our currently dual universe, balanced by death and destruction, weaving the sacred design of our existence… and that the ability to be in awe, and the ability to be still, are sacred virtues. To me, I see all the ways this is expressed : as myths, as biblical tales, gods, goddesses, constellations, and yoga poses, to modern day news stories, and personal experiences, as all just the Source of our existence telling the stories of it’s union and separation from self through us.
Considering your music to be interweaving ancient rituals, and your own approach to those rituals, what would be the world you’re trying to immerse your listener in?
Well, I don’t think I am trying to immerse my listener in any specific world, but I do feel that I am sharing my worldly fascinations as a landscape of sound in the hopes that it moves others as much as myself. For instance, I find space fascinating, as well as nature, astrology, myths, synchronicity, and, in particular, consciousness itself. I used to have an electronic solo project in which I was much more vocal about my specific beliefs, and sang lyrics in order to reach like-minded people and change the world, but I now know that everyone’s world view is completely unique, and that what is sacred and true to me may not necessarily be sacred and true to anyone else. So instead, I want to use my music as a space for people to experience their own truths and have their own divine journeys, without me telling them what to believe. Because, in the end, what if imagination is the only thing that’s real? I want to inspire imagination and exploration, not preach dogma.
Tell us about your life on the road, the people and lessons you carry along.
Life on the road is amazing and hard and beautiful and grueling – haha!
As an only-child that grew up in the woods of western Massachusetts, I learned to really enjoy my own company, but kind of missed out on a lot of the social interactions that people with siblings experience. I think this part initially made touring a challenge for me because I really like having my own space and would often get socially overloaded. After many years on the road, I’ve actually found some peace and balance with that now, and have been really enjoying connecting with everyone that comes out to hear me, or take my yoga classes, or nutrition workshops. As opposed to some artists that prefer a hard line between themselves and their audience, I now really enjoy getting to know them all, and having awesome long conversations. The only draw back to this is that I meet and talk to so many awesome people now, it’s impossible for me to remember everyone, which makes me sad. Where’s that neural memory upgrade! I need a solid state brain – haha
In an alternative universe your music is the facet of a complete new culture; how would you imagine it to be?
A world living lightly in the heart, mind, and on the land. A culture based on love, compassion, curiosity, and play. A world where we do not need to repress, suppress, or destroy others in order to feel safe and worthy… but quite the opposite, where we feel the most fulfilled by uplifting everyone around us to be the happiest and healthiest they can be. A “fulfillment-ocracy”, if you will, where everyone still works, but there is no currency, only competition for the jobs that you feel the most fulfilled doing. A place where commandments and manners and codes of conduct are not needed because everyone just gets it. Love your neighbor, do unto others, and (as Yogi Bhajan says) make yourself so happy that just by looking at you others become happy. A world fueled by green renewable resources, living lightly and in harmony with nature. A culture in which we remember the particles of light we came from, living symbiotically with the particles of light still coming to us. Yes, this is fantasy right now, but I don’t think it is all as far off as we might believe.
What are the albums that had the most impact on you as a person and as an artist?
#1 Would definitely be Peter Gabriel’s “Passion” soundtrack back in the mid 90’s, followed by Madonna’s “Ray of Light”, and the Saafi Brother’s “Midnight’s Children”. Just the other day I was also remembering how much Sasha’s “Expander” EP had an influence on me in those late 90s rave days, too. I also used to be a big Legendary Pink Dots fan, and their album “The Maria Dimension” was a huge one for me.
Somehow, your music embodies an ancient future. How do you think it will evolve from there?
I have a weird thing with time. As a child I felt very old, and now as an adult, I feel much more like a child. This led me to wondering just how much of time is in our heads, and just how much of it is a real thing. I have one fun idea that time is not actually the horizontal bar that we might belief it to be, but that it is instead much more like a sphere, with us sitting in it’s center nucleus, and purely imagining everything that is not currently happening right now. Since it is impossible for us to perceive life objectively, we are always subject to the whimsy of our imagination, which is in constant flux. The way I remember yesterday may be completely different than the way you do, or the way I remember it tomorrow. The way I imagine tomorrow changes moment to moment as well. So if the only moment that is real is the current one, and all other time is imaginary and infinite in its permutations, then the blurring of the lines between ancient and modern and futuristic might also occur as well, no? This is one of the hidden influences I try to blend into my music, because in the end, you, me, our past, present, and future… it’s all just living light.