Ace Harper Speaks Her Mind On ‘Mouth Wide Open': PopCrush Presents
Now is not the time to remain silent.
Electro-pop singer Ace Harper knows the feeling of wanting to speak out desperately and not finding the appropriate words to express her feelings. So, she went through a tireless "process of observing myself and unlearning certain behaviors and beliefs that society has put upon women," she shares. "It has just been wanting to grow as a woman over time. Reading [Facebook COO] Sheryl Sandberg's book, Lean In, was incredibly eye opening for me. She has done all these incredible studies on how we unconsciously hold ourselves back as women. I don't want to do that. I want a seat at the table."
This revelation led Harper, a musician based in Los Angeles, to pen her gritty dance-club anthem "Mouth Wide Open," a decidedly cheeky play on words. "What's in my head is on the tip of my tongue," she sings. "I tell you what I really mean / Come here, boy, 'cause I got a little secret..."
The psychedelic video for "Mouth Wide Open," Harper's second single, is inspired by old zines, Andy Warhol and Dadaism, as well as feminist collage artist Linder Sterling. the song is the follow-up to the luscious "Neon Heart" and anchors a forthcoming EP.
"I definitely have enough material for a full album, but I will be putting out another single at the beginning of the year and an EP," she teases, noting she plans to cover topics like "battling perfectionism as a woman, depression, self-sabotage."
"Even if some of what I write about is dark," she muses, "I turn in into something empowering, and I think that's important."
Below, Harper discusses her personal journey to self-realization, the patriarchy, her wide-ranging aesthetic influences and addressing politics in art.
How did you get to a point where you felt comfortable speaking your mind?
I have to get in a lot of pain before I am willing to change anything. So, it was actually out of necessity. I became so uncomfortable that I was forced to let things out that I was keeping pushed down. Writing is such a therapeutic thing for me. It isn't easy for me to speak my mind, and that's why I wrote ["Mouth Wide Open"] as a sort of cheer for myself and other women. It's easier for me to see my feelings on paper once I start writing music or journaling than to get them to come out of my mouth. It has been a process of walking through the fear. However, now that I'm here it's hard to get me to shut the f--- up.
Does the patriarchy play into fears of speaking out?
Absolutely, but I think the fear comes from a place of how society, as a whole, always expects women to be perfect. It's not an even playing field. We aren't allowed as much error as men. I believe as women we are expected to look perfect, act perfect, and say the right thing, always. We also put this pressure on ourselves. We and others hold ourselves to a completely unrealistic standard. My sister says, "perfection is a unicorn," and I love that! So, here's to just going for things and getting a little messy. We are all perfectly imperfect.
How is your music reflective of your evolution as a person to this point?
Everything I write about is completely personal. My vision is to constantly be evolving as a woman and an artist. They are one in the same for me. It's great to write about things as they are happening, so I can look back and see where I used to be. One of my favorite sayings is "this too shall pass," because it's so true. If I am in a bad place, it won't last forever nor will it last if I'm in a great place, emotionally. Change is the only constant.
As a woman, what have you had to endure in this business?
I think that I always have to tell myself I'm not a b---h because I want things done right or if I'm pushing people and things to be better. I don't think that is something men worry about. Women get labeled pushy or bossy; men get to be called assertive or just good in business.
Have you had these difficult discussions about feminism and women's rights with people in your life?
All the time! I have the privilege of surrounding myself with a lot of incredible women in this business. I love working and collaborating with strong women. We talk a lot about how we want to change things, and I think st being ourselves adds to the greater good of the world. I love learning from women that are older than me and have so much life experience. I also think it's important to talk to the men in our lives and give them a female perspective. I love my feminist male friends.
How do you navigate all of the bad news coming out of Hollywood? Does it fuel your music?
This is something that all women have known and dealt with since the beginning of time, so I think it's actually a positive thing that we are having this discussion on a national level now. I hate that so many women have experienced this pain, but I'm hopeful that they are coming together and supporting one another to make change. I think this is an incredibly important time, and we are gaining strength and will not be victimized any longer...I truly believe that it is all positive. I'll always continue to write from my female perspective to add to the conversation.
Because of the sexual assault allegations leveled at Trump, too, will you address politics in any of your music?
I think that art and music should be an escape from reality, so I think that I prefer to keep my writing subjects away from politics, specifically. However, I do like to make a statement within my visuals. You can see within the artwork of my video for “Mouth Wide Open” the feminist statement I am making and pushing buttons by layering images of '50s housewives and beauty queens with overtly sexual mouths, business men in suits and phallic images of lipstick that stand for society and the beauty industry pressuring women. However, because this administration is so divisive and because of the absolutely horrible things he has said about women and because he admitted sexual assault against women on tape, I think we have a responsibility to say what we stand for. I stand for equality, women's rights and positivity.
Have your personal experiences directly influenced your songwriting? If so, in what ways?
I only write about my personal life experiences. I have been through so much in my life already. I live as a sober person and had to go to rehab for alcohol and drug addiction at a very young age, so there is obviously a lot I have to say about that. I'm lucky to be alive. So, a lot of my perspective comes from navigating the craziness in my head that comes with being a sober alcoholic.
Coming off "Neon Heart" and "Mouth Wide Open," musically, where do you want to go next?
The next music I'm putting out is a lot more aggressive sounding, which makes it a lot of fun to perform live, too. My live show is so over the top with my two dancers, visuals and super high energy. I can't wait to get back on stage.