Soul musician Curtis Harding on keeping with tradition and staying current

BY Victoria Fleischer  July 30, 2014 at 3:33 PM EST

Curtis Harding spoke to Art Beat about his debut album, “Soul Power.”

Soul musician Curtis Harding originally wanted to be an oceanographer. He loves the ocean, but growing up in a musical family left its mark.

“My mother’s a gospel singer. My sister plays piano. We all sang in the church, sang on the road, traveled around a lot to different cities,” Harding told Art Beat during a recent tour stop at DC9 in Washington, D.C.

“I’ve always loved music, so I just kind of fell into it… Just like if your mother’s a doctor, your father’s a doctor, you might become a doctor. Keeping with tradition.”

Harding released his first solo album, “Soul Power,” in May, which he describes as “slop ’n’ soul.” “Slop” is a southern term for “leftovers,” and alludes to the way he incorporates different musical elements into his songs.

He says his style is essentially gospel, but his mother didn’t always see how his music was connected to that genre. “Gospel music is soul music; blues, all that, it comes from gospel,” said Harding. “It takes a while for, especially, someone who comes from a religious background to understand certain things about secular music… She likes it now.”

While Harding is working on his solo endeavors, touring the East Coast through the fall, he also makes music as part of the band Night Sun, along with The Black Lips’ Cole Alexander and others. But Night Sun is a very different project, unrelated to what many have described as the retro sound of “Soul Power” — a label that Harding doesn’t necessarily embrace.

“I don’t think of myself in any terms. If someone wants to relate my music to the past, that’s cool, too, but I think you should remain relevant to the times. It’s 2014 — unless I had a time machine — you know what I’m saying.”

Watch Curtis Harding’s performance of his single “Keep on Shining” from his concert at DC9:

Videos by Victoria Fleischer and Justin Scuiletti. Live concert audio mix and recording by Randy Lancelot/DC9.