Strumming the Strings of Success: Unearthing the Melodic Mind of Harry Kappen

Can you tell us about your background in music and how you got started as a singer-songwriter?

I’ve been playing guitar since I was 10, but I started playing seriously in many bands from the age of 15. Lots of rock music, sometimes a bit more funky, at school parties, small gigs, sometimes as a support act for well-known bands. I lived in Groningen in the north of the Netherlands, that city was known for its rock bands, generally bands with heavy guitar music.

From an early age I composed my own music. I wrote hundreds of songs and I never really stopped since. Writing songs is in my blood and I couldn’t do without it.

How do you approach songwriting and what inspires your lyrics and music?

I am usually inspired by everything that happens around me; in my environment, in my relationships, through the news, through the media. I like to comment on current topics, with or without an opinion. For example, I made ‘Wargames’ in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, I made ‘The Freedom Inside’ in response to a lot of negative news in social media (change the world, start with yourself). And my latest single ‘Not all of us agreed’ is a response to the development of, for example, A.I. and the lack of influence that normal people have on this processes. The new technology continues to develop and people have to try to keep up with everything as best as possible, while it is becoming increasingly unclear what is real and what is fake.

Can you walk us through your creative process, from writing to recording and performing your music?

I always make the music first, with a lot of attention to melodies and arranging. I like the puzzle process. When I’m satisfied I put it on mp3 (in early days on cassette :)) and play it a lot in my car for example. By singing along a lot (first phonetically), I ultimately determine how the vocal part and accompaniment complement each other best. Then comes the text. I used to be easily satisfied with what I made, nowadays I am much more critical and I especially love the process itself; thinking about how all the puzzle pieces fit together.

I hope to perform with this repertoire again, I think it is very suitable for live-performances. For the songs of my last albums a well-equipped rock band is needed. We’ll see how it goes, if the question arises, we’ll get to work on it.

How do you handle criticism or negative feedback about your music?

Music experience in general is very subjective per person. Everyone has their own taste. So criticism or negative feedback doesn’t bother me that much, because before I release something I’m always sure it’s right at the time. I am always open to constructive criticism, especially from people I appreciate as a musician, or from someone who I am sure listens objectively.

Can you share a particular challenge you faced in your career as a musician and how you overcame it?

I used to be in a number of bands and all bands stopped at some point. There were musicians who immediately stopped making music. I could never do that. So you could say that the music itself has helped me through lesser periods. Perhaps that was also one of the reasons for deciding to become a music therapist in addition to my music career. Because I understand the healing power of music.

How do you stay current and relevant in the music industry, and what steps do you take to expand your fan base?

I make the music I like and do it my own way. If someone else likes it and can appreciate it, that’s a bonus. But I don’t adapt just to stay ‘relevant’. I am who I am and someone likes it or not. I don’t decide that for others. The only thing I can do besides making music is to hire other people who are good at making my music more known. MTS management group does that for me. And they are very good at that.

Besides that I run my own website:

Can you tell us about a particularly memorable performance or collaboration you’ve had as a musician?

What I always enjoy doing is performing with my sister Hanneke. I always find that special. Because you share the passion for music together, but also share a family and have experienced the family history together. From an early age I also played with my best friend Hajo in a number of bands. That too can be compared to a family bond, because you know each other through and through. Unfortunately he passed away last year, I miss him very much.

How do you balance your artistic vision with commercial success and the demands of the music industry?

I usually give up at the word ‘demands’. Fortunately, we live in a time when as a musician you can work very independently; I decide what, when and how I perform. I don’t let my artistic vision depend on others, I determine it myself. And if it brings success then I’m happy about that. If it doesn’t work, I’m happy too.

Recognition and susses are no guarantees for the future, but the pleasure and fun of making music is!

How do you prioritize and manage your time and resources as a musician?

In addition to being a musician, I also work as a music therapist in youth care and teach at a master’s degree in music therapy in Rotterdam. So I need good time management. In addition to being limited in my time, I also have to be flexible with my time. I usually succeed in that. I am much less in a hurry than I used to be and accept my limitations, as a teacher, as a therapist and as a musician.

How do you envision your music and career evolving in the future, and what steps are you taking to realize those goals?

Since I have MTS management group (Michael Stover) as my management, my music carriers are developing rapidly and energetically. It encourages me to continue recording new songs. My new album will be released this summer and I am now busy finishing songs in my own studio. Time will tell how it will continue. I will never stop making music anyway, I always have and it’s part of who I am as a person.