In the past few years, musician Jake Harms has lived everywhere from Marlboro to Minneapolis to Martha’s Vineyard. But a few months ago, in his hometown of Cold Spring, N.Y., he said he started to feel stagnant.
“Cold Spring was dead and culturally blue-balled,” Harms said. “Everybody there is 50 and writes songs about their kids.”
While searching for a place that allowed him to play music at any time, he stumbled upon a New Paltz apartment on Main Street, where he said he was able to grow as an artist and boil out of his restlessness.
Now living in New Paltz for four months, Harms can currently be heard at Oasis Cafe, Snug Harbor, Slash Root and Cafeteria. Described by fans as “lyrically driven acoustic rock,” he said his music actually falls under the category of pop.
“I play pop but it’s confessional singer-songwriter stuff – a lot of words,” Harms said. “I think the real important part of it for me is being able to feel good about what I’m saying and that it’s resonant, not cheap or stupid.”
Harms said his initial impression of the music scene in New Paltz was that it was “a little all over the place” in terms of style and artists. At first, he said, he was somewhat judgmental of it for that reason, and unable to pinpoint who “the tastemakers of the music scene” were.
He said seeing some of New Paltz’s most popular bands perform has given him an opportunity to be less critical of himself and feel more free in his performances.
“Bands like Godchilla, they don’t expect much from you other than that you show up, shake your ass and have fun, and to me that’s what music really is,” Harms said. “In a weird way, I’m more encouraged by that to do my own thing, which is a bit more demanding on the audience in terms of content, without thinking too much, just doing it.”
Since settling here in New Paltz, Harms has been regularly treading in the open mic circuit, and has recently played shows set up by Adir Cohen, a staple of the New Paltz music scene.
He also performs with New Paltz-based band Nelsonvillains, of which he is a vocalist and guitarist. The band is currently recording an EP and scouting out venues both in and outside of New Paltz.
With a good turnout to many of his shows, Harms said he is appreciative of the many people that come out to support local musicians in New Paltz.
“I had forgotten people being enthusiastic and not weird and cagey,” Harms said.
Currently, Harms has released two albums – both unofficial. His first album, That Big Sad Thing (That You Can’t Quite Put Your Finger On), was recorded last winter. His more recent work, The Things I Missed When The Year Dried Up, was recorded in both Marlboro and New Paltz. Both albums can be downloaded for free at mediafire.com/jakeharms.
Harms said since arriving in New Paltz he’s recorded plenty of music, and while New Paltz is a bit of a small town “bubble,” he’s enjoyed performing for people who enjoy his music and building his fan-base.
“There’s a crowd all the time and it’s way better than trucking down to the city to play a show that’s kind of limp, where people are sitting down and kind of half-hearted,” he said. “[I’m] playing a lot of shows in one place for lots of people who are having fun and seem to enjoy it. I’ve been more comfortable here than anywhere else.”