Even with the rapid encroachment of digital technology on the business of snapshots, if one were to mention the name “Kodac” in most any major city in America, the vast majority of folks would still assume the conversation was about photography.
However, in Georgia, one might get a much different response.
That’s because anyone in this state with even a passing interest in spoken word, acoustic blues or the Bohemian coffeehouse scene will surely have heard of Kodac Harrison. A lanky singer/songwriter with a gruff, raspy voice and an almost impossibly wiry shock of dark hair perched atop his craggy, hard-traveled countenance, Harrison has – over the past few decades—earned quite a name for himself in the Southeast, and has even made inroads into the European literary community as well.
Often conveniently described by critics as a distinctly Southern cross between Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen, Kodac’s bottomless creative drive alone makes him deserving of closer inspection than such an easily digestible encapsulation—but bird’s-eye portraits of that sort are usually based in truth. Truthfully, Harrison’s eye for subtle details, storyteller’s demeanor and rough-hewn stage persona would seem to place him squarely at the crossroads between those two idiosyncratic, iconic artists.
Those attributes also demand that he straddle the line between author, raconteur, poet, singer, guitarist and songwriter – a delicate balancing act that he’s rather excelled at over the two fistfuls of indie albums he’s released since the mid 1980s. It’s a tougher row to hoe than most performers who find a niche and stick with it, but Harrison’s a journeyman who goes where his muse takes him. He wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’m comfortable being a multi-hyphenate,” he explains. “But I always wanted to be an artist, so if I had to choose a label it would be ‘artist.’ I’ve spent more time being a singer/songwriter than anything else. Lately
I’ve gotten more notoriety as a spoken word artist, but being a writer—period—means the most to me.”
Still, while crafting an especially fine lyric or poem in private may be the most fulfilling type of art Harrison engages in, he’s quick to add that without the stage as an outlet, the work might somehow feel incomplete.
“There is no better feeling,” he admits, “than to be in the middle of a band of great musicians performing one of my songs.”
While the native of Jackson, Ga., has lived in New Orleans, Texas, California, New York City and on a Virginia mountain ridge, he ultimately settled in Atlanta. These days, he’s a singular figure in that town’s ever-growing live music world, regularly hosting poetry showcases at venues like Decatur’s Java Monkey—and on the road at regional outlets like Savannah’s Sentient Bean Coffeehouse. He also books an impressive roster of acclaimed poets as part of Atlanta’s annual Dogwood Festival.
Over the years he has watched the poetry scene in Atlanta improve greatly and says he’s proud to take “a very small amount of credit” for that change.
“When I first got involved, there were no places where a poet could make any money, unless it was at a college and that was a very academic scene…. Of course, spoken word has gotten much more popular in general, but it’s thriving here. Now there are many places where a poet can make some money—not much, but much better.”
Although after six tours he’s found greater acceptance for his live show in Europe (and says he’d move there “in a second” if he could figure out how to make it work), Kodac Harrison is not about to let ageist American notions of what constitutes commercial viability slow him down.
“Not long ago, an A & R person in L.A. was wild about my music,” he relates. “He said it needed to be exposed to a wide audience. Then he found out how old I was and said basically, since I was over thirty, that I was unsignable.”
“I realize there are many older acts out there doing it, but they made it before they were thirty. Hell, I didn’t start until I was almost thirty!”
For more information, visit kodacharrison.com.