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Harper imparts advice to MSA students

“Your art becomes a part of who you are. All the beautifulthings inside of you that want to come out,” said Mississippisongwriter and musician Rochelle Harper. “It’s kind of aphilosophical thing – you just do it.”

That was the advice given to Mississippi School of the Artsstudents when they got a special concert and question-and-answersession with Harper and members of her band Friday afternoon atLampton Auditorium. Harper encouraged students to listen to theirinner voice, and they’ll know the right time to take a chance ontheir art.

“The most important part is embracing that thing in you thatmakes you different,” she told them. “Listen to that inner voice,then bite into it, and be yourself.”

Harper and her band members talked to the group about what ittakes to get into music for a living, as well as to put a bandtogether and keep it going.

“It’s a labor of love,” said Harper’s husband and guitarist Gary”Boz” Boswell. “You have to play a lot to support yourself. A lotof people do it by touring, but that keeps you away from home alot.”

The students asked questions across the board, from what artistsinspired the band members’ careers to what contemporary songs theband played.

“We’re kinda stuck in the ‘60s and ‘70s,” Harper said. “But wecan do some Tracy Chapman …”

Boswell interrupted her with a laugh.

“These guys are like 16 or 17 years old,” he said, almost inresponse to some of the blank looks the audience gave her when shementioned the folk rocker whose fame peaked in the late ‘80s andearly ‘90s.

Harper told the students that she got her start songwriting inhigh school, whether she knew it or not.

“I had a journal that I kept my poetry in,” she said. “It wasprobably 10 years later that the melodies came, and even then Istill didn’t play guitar.”

Boswell explained, however, that different musicians havedifferent processes.

“With her, the song just floats right out,” he said. “Peoplehave all kinds of styles and methods. I’m more structured, but hersis more feelings. It just happens.”

And it’s a part of being an artist that sometimes there areinternal questions, Harper said.

“Every six months or so, I retreat and ask, ‘Is this mypurpose?’ but nothing else comes up,” she said. “I just finallyhave found a voice.”

Harper and her band performed Friday night in downtownBrookhaven as a part of the festivities surrounding the annualMississippi Gran Prix Race.