Rising artist takes a leap from rock to country and finds success in unexpected ways.

Raised in Clinton Township MI, RJ Harper grew up dedicated to rock. His devotion to music began at a young age when he would watch his father play the drums. At the age of six he started playing the guitar and as a teenager formed his first band with his best friend and current bass player, Chris Claes. The rock band Rebels Insight included the same members of Harper’s band today: Chris Claes (bass), Vince Rubino (guitar and vocals), Jay Connelly (keyboard and vocals), Kyle Muller (guitar and vocals), and Kevin Denk (drums).

Although Harper had grown up with instrumental talent, he didn’t start singing until Rebels Insight was formed and became gutsy enough to take on the role as lead singer. Having to learn and develop vocal skills on his own, Harper looked up to rock artists such as Jimi Hendrix. With a love and talent for rock, Rebels Insight never thought to take a chance on country until Jobbie Nooner.

Known as the Mardi Gras of the Midwest, the summertime celebration takes place every June in St. Claire, MI. Members of Rebels Insight began toying with the idea of country music and an album based on the summer party. Having to make the difficult transition to a new area of music, the band had to do some soul searching in order to transform into the solo career of RJ Harper with the strong and confident talent it portrays today.

“At one point I had stopped writing music because I felt like rock had almost handcuffed me. I needed something that I could really connect with again, so I found myself listening to old Cash and Jennings and getting lost in story songs by Alan Jackson. It opened up a whole new writing scope for me,” said Harper.

Thier music still amplifies their edgy rock roots and is classified by Harper as “Michigan country.” With a touch of Bob Segar and Motown, RJ Harper has a unique sound that speaks to its audience. Fans get an unusual country music experience that engulfs them in engaging stories. Each song is written with the intention of relating to everyone in a different way. Real life experiences serve as Harper’s inspiration. The song “Let’s Take a Ride” was inspired by the risk his wife took by going out with a “band guy.” The motif of risk is an underlying theme in not only his songs but also his life.

For Harper, his wife has been the biggest support system, encouraging him to step into a new genre and to continue writing. One of the biggest challenges Harper faced was having to turn off his creative switch and work a full-time job while having to pursue his dream in his free time. With that free time, however, Harper has released three songs and performed at distinguished venues such as The Fillmore and St. Andrew Hall in Detroit. Harper will continue to do shows over the summer in light of his upcoming album expected to be released in the fall.

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