Colin Harper graduated with a BA Hons in Modern History from Queen’s University Belfast in 1989, returning for a Post-Grad Diploma in Information Management (1997). He wrote professionally on music, and occasionally other arts, from April 1994 to September 2001.
He was most heavily published in the Irish Times, the Irish News, The Independent, Q and Mojo. He also contributed fairly often to Folk Roots, Record Collector and The Guitar Magazine, and was occasionally published in other titles including Acoustic Guitar, The Living Tradition, The Sunday Tribune, The Scotsman, The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian and The Sunday Times. In addition, he compiled and/or annotated a sizeable number of CD reissues and compilations for labels including SonyBMG, Windsong, Demon, Sanctuary, Hux, Snapper, Universal and others. He has also been involved in various TV and radio documentaries on the areas of his expertise, including Acoustic Routes (BBC2, 1992), Dream weaver (Channel 4, 2000) and Folk Britannia (BBC4, 2004).
Memorable interview subjects for newspaper or magazine features during this period include John McLaughlin, Peter Green, Jan Akkerman, Anne Briggs, Altan, Chris Smither, Andy Powell (Wishbone Ash), Ralph McTell, Roy Harper, David Gates (Bread), Emmylou Harris, Richard Thompson, Shaun Davey, Jimmie Rodgers, Leo Kottke, Arlo Guthrie, Clannad, David Gray, Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull), Davy Graham, Andy Irvine, Sean Keane, Martin Carthy, Gay Woods, Steve Tilston, Ashley Hutchings, Sharon Shannon, Jez Lowe, Martin Hayes & Dennis Cahill, Paddy Keenan, Stockton’s Wing, Frances Black, Something Happens, Eleanor McEvoy, Paul Brady, Gary Moore and Colin Reid.
He has written/co-written two books: Dazzling Stranger: Bert Jansch and the British folk and blues revival (Bloomsbury, 2000; revised 2006) and Irish Folk, Trad & Blues: A Secret History (Collins Press, 2004) – the latter a ‘patchwork narrative’ on selected pioneers of Irish music in the rock era, co-written with jazz and blues expert Trevor Hodgett and drawing together in one place much of the work on Irish music and musicians which each writer had had published in an array of newspapers and magazines over the previous number of years, alongside work done specifically for the book. Additionally, in 2003 North Down Borough Council published Seaside Rock, an affectionate monograph on pop music in the North Down area of Northern Ireland.
He was the driving force behind two multi-artist live albums that document Belfast‘s mid ‘90s live scene: Alive In Belfast: The Warehouse Sessions (2CD, 1995) and Live At The Belfast Empire (1996). Similarly, he co-ordinated the 2CD tribute album, People On The Highway: A Bert Jansch Encomium (2000) and the two wildlife charity albums The Wildlife Album (2004) and Live In Hope: The Wildlife Album 2 (2005) – all three released via Market Square Records.
Harper essentially retired from writing about music in June 2007, although he contunues to write occasional CD notes for the estimable Brian O’Reilly’s Hux Records label, and since 2009 has been delighted to be involved in an ongoing series of Quintessence and Quintessence-related projects on the label.
Throughout his writing career he has also been involved in writing and recording music of his own, often in collaboration with others. Aside from odd tracks on a number of various artist CDs, releases include the cassette album Nothing Is Easy (1997) credited to The Legends Of Tomorrow; the nationally released Janet Holmes album The Road To The West (2004), co-written and co-produced by Harper; the limited edition Brian Houston EP New, Live & Rare: The Colin Harper Projects (2007); and Freedom & The Dream Penguin credited to the Field Mouse Conspiracy (2008) – being essentially a collection of Harper songs and instrumentals spanning 1995-2008 with numerous guest artist collaborators.
His most recent musical projects are the first to be released, via www.CDBaby.com, under his own name: Titanium Flag Vol. 1: The Ice Museum Suite (August 2010) and Titanium Flag Vol.2: Songs Of An Empty Room (late 2010, TBC) – the former being an instrumental set, the latter vocal.