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Gillian Harwin is a vocalist, performer, composer, educator and multi instrumentalist living, breathing and hustling in New York City. She sings with the soulfulness of the 60s, slaps the bass with the funk of the 70s and plays a mean musical saw…all because she must! Gillian knew from a very young age that she wanted to be a singer. Little did she know, all of her dreams would come true…
Influenced heavily by Aretha Franklin, Mahalia Jackson, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and Prince, Gillian’s sound leans toward a gritty Janis Joplin vibe with a twist of Motown and a hint of Gospel. Raw, sensual and soulful, her voice pulls you in with sensitivity and keeps you hanging on with meaningful lyrics and great songwriting. She is currently in the studio working on her second album “Lost n’ Found” (to be released Spring 2014) which includes some of New York’s finest musicians; Drummer Allison Miller, bass players Fred Cash and Rene Hart, keyboardist Erik Deutsch among many other notable players. Gillian has had the privilege to work with some of the world’s top musicians and learn from some of the leading educators of music today. “Lost n’ Found” showcases a diverse mix of soulful and passionate singing, song writing and playing and reminds us of a time when all music was good music.
In 2009, Gillian took the Super Top Dog title at the historical Amateur Night competition at the world famous Apollo Theater in Harlem, USA…A childhood dream come true. She is on the faculty at Jazz and Jam Camp West in Northern California and performs and educates regularly from coast to coast. She is currently involved with many projects in New York. She is the vocalist and musical director for her own 10 piece R&B band, Reverse Double Clutch and The Bumpers, plays upright bass and sings with Activation Trio and Ideal Orkestra, performs regularly in Phaedra’s Cabaret and has a full roster of music students.
It all began in a small town nestled in the hills Northern California. On January 8th, 1974, as Elvis Presley and David Bowie (who would incidentally influence Gillian) were celebrating their birthdays, Gillian Harwin came out of a lady. The youngest of three girls, Gillian was always the black sheep that bleated to the beat of her own drummer. She would spend hours setting up tins and pots and pans in drum kit formation, had every word to every song she could find memorized, choreographed dances to any worthy event and daydreamed of singing to the whole world. As soon as she could put pen to paper, on the hopes and dreams page of her first diary she wrote, “I want to be a famous singer!” From then on, she knew what she had to do and she got right to work!
She would go to work with her dad on weekends and spend all her allowance at the Tower Records next door to her dad’s office. For her 10th birthday she got her first stereo system and was spinning vinyl at a blistering rate! She took some piano lessons at a young age, but it wasn’t until her early teenage years that she really started to take an interest in playing guitar and studying with a voice coach. She studied with a pop vocal coach who was pushing the Star Search/Disney route, a classical coach who was pushing the Opera route and a jazz choir coach who was pushing ensemble jazz. None of these styles felt right to Gillian. She tried out college and sang in a few blues bands in the Bay Area, and eventually Gillian decided to travel the world for a while and see how other people were living, widen her world view and get some fuel for the music she would write in the following years.
Over the next ten years, Gillian traveled all over the world and worked for a public health organization, attended school in Montana and Puerto Rico, learned to speak five languages, studied music and dance of Latin America, North Africa and the Caribbean, finished a degree in classical voice, lived aboard a sailboat for three years in the Caribbean, hiked from Maryland to New Hampshire and then from Southern California to Washington State, made her first record, Whiskey Sandwich, learned to play a plethora of instruments, played in a blues band with Archie Lee Hooker (nephew of John), washed dishes at a jazz club until the infamous calling came. She eventually packed up her bass and moved to New York City.
Almost ten years later we find Gillian Harwin a polyglot, multi-instrumentalist (Classical/Pop/Jazz vocalist, Upright and electric bass, musical saw, guitar and ukulele, drums and percussion, piano, etc.) educator and world explorer. Many say Gillian has lived the lives of ten people, but her calling has always been the music. And so she heeds the call and shares with us her talent, humor and stories to make us all forget about our troubles or worries if only for a moment as we get lost in the groove and feel the body start to move. Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride…its all we’ve got.