Being Justin Beiber’s music director for over 10 years speaks volumes to your character and talents. Insert Harv, who’s born and raised from Kansas City, Kansas but now calls sunny Los Angeles his new home. Hailing from a musical family and having been around music his whole life, music is simply all he knows.
Being a musician encompasses a lot of roles, from producing to composing to songwriting to playing multiple instruments. Beyond Bieber, he’s collaborated with the likes of Sevyn Streeter, Summer Walker, Omarion, Eminem, and Gucci Mane. For the latter, who’s heard Guwop’s “Lemonade”? Best believe that’s Harv on the guitar and keys, laying down the foundation for what would become Gucci’s greatest hit to date.
We caught up with Harv at Poo Bear’s office in Studio City to discuss how he landed with Justin Bieber and the making “Lemonade.”
Kansas City, is that where Tech N9ne is from?
That’s exactly where Tech N9ne is from! I grew up on Tech N9ne. Tech was the fucking man growing up. All the high school dances, everything was Tech N9ne.
How did you land in this pop world?
So from Kansas City, I moved to Atlanta, Georgia. While I was down there, I was working at studios as a musician and doing co-productions with a lot of major producers down there. I bumped into Scooter Braun and at that same time, he had just signed Justin. I auditioned to be in Justin’s band just as his bass player. From there, I started playing Justin my beats. Justin’s like “oh I like this,” he started writing songs. One thing led to the next, that’s how I got in it.
What does being his music director entail?
It’s me arranging his whole show in the live world. Any time you got to his concerts, the intros, the outros, the musical moments. Hiring the band and making sure that the band sounds good. Making sure the concert in the musical form is one of the best concerts you’ll ever go to.
How long have you guys known each other now?
I’ve known Justin since 2010, when he was doing the hair swoop at 14.
How has your relationship changed as he grew to be who he is today?
I always think the same. Because we’re not that close in age, but we’re close. We’re always cool musically. He’s a little bit older. He acts older, he doesn’t act his age so our relationship has stayed the same all through his growing. His ups and downs, we’ve stayed consistent in our relationship. We’re always positive around each other. We always have that bond so no matter if I’m having a down season, he’s always there telling me “it’ll be okay.” If he’s having rough patches, I was one of those people there for him telling him “things’ll get better.” Our relationship stayed consistent throughout all of that.
I was with Lil Twist the other day, did you guys kick it?
Yeah, Twist used to come out on tour with us. On the Believe tour. Twist used to come out to shows and hang with us. He was around us for 2 years, Twist’s a cool dude.
How long have you been in LA?I’ve moved to LA going on 2 years now this May. From Atlanta, I lived in Atlanta for 2 years. I could’ve moved here a long time ago, but I didn’t like it coming from the East Coast. I didn’t understand that once you live here, it’s better than travelling and staying for a couple days. You don’t really get the feel of LA until you actually live here. Now that I’m here, I’m finding that out. LA’s pretty cool.
What do you like about LA?It’s accessible. Everything’s here. Me being a producer, all the artists and writers I want to work with are here. They’re a phone call away. “Yo, pull up to the studio.” It’s no more “let me catch a flight and see when I can get there,” it’s “oh, I’ll be there in 30 minutes.” Everybody’s accessible here and that’s cool.
What are your beats like?It honestly depends on who I’m working with. You really can’t put me in a box because I’m a musician. If I’m working with a rapper, it’s going to be some rap stuff. If I’m working with a pop artist, it’s going to be a pop song. I can pick up a guitar and play some country stuff. It really depends on the moment and the artist I’m working with. I wouldn’t really say I have a set sound.
In your heart, what do you love the most?Pop/R&B. Not full R&B and not full pop, so right in that medium.
How did you get a placement with Eminem?I didn’t actually get to work in a session with Eminem. I did a lot of work with the producer Bangladesh in Atlanta. Because I’d play bass and I’d do co-production with him, so I got co-production credits with that a while back.
What about Gucci Mane?
Same thing! Gucci’s “Lemonade,” that’s me playing the bass and the piano. That was my first major placement. That was fucking crazy for me. I had just moved to Atlanta at that time, in 2008. That’s the first thing that made me really know that I can do this. Just having a dream, coming from a small city in Kansas. Being in Atlanta, a major city, and having a song with one of the dopest Atlanta rappers, and it’s on the radio nonstop. Every time I’d turn on the radio, it’s me. I’m like “oh shit.”
Bangladesh had a really good relationship with Gucci. He’s like “we’re working with Gucci tomorrow, we have to cook up something crazy.” So I started playing the bassline, added some drums and keys. Next thing you know, it was “Lemonade.” Good times.
Have you and Gucci talked?
Besides that time working on that record, I haven’t talked to Gucci in a minute. After that, I met Justin and I’m gone. I was on tour.
What’s the greatest memory on tour?
When we did Wembley for the first time in London, that venue itself is iconic. Looking out in the stands and seeing 3000 people, feeling that energy come at you on stage was the craziest thing ever.
What are some goals for yourself as an artist/producer at this point?
To really expand my brain at whatever capacity that may be. I want to get into fashion. I want to get into other things outside of just music. I want to get into branding, doing collabs with different companies. I don’t want to be the producer, I want to be more. That’s one of my main goals, to not be just the producer.
What can we expect next?
Next, I’m getting ready to drop a series of singles as me, as Harv. I have a single coming out at the end of March called “Hail Mary.” Followed by that in the summer, I’m gonna have a single come out called “I Know.”