BYU student songwriter helps listeners connect

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BYU student Mak Harris prepares to appear on stage at The Boardwalk music venue in Orem, Utah. Harris is a Provo based singer, songwriter and producer. (Derek Joseph)

BYU student Mak Harris loves to embody connection and relatability through songwriting, her preferred of choice of art medium.

“I don’t know how to answer people when they ask ‘how did you get into music?’ Because it’s like, well, when did I learn to walk? I just did it,” Harris said. 

Harris is from Bear Lake, Idaho where she grew up in a musical family who gave her the ability to innately create. While music has always been a part of her life, Harris said the desire to make songwriting a part of her life came at age 12, when she wrote her first full song and played it at her middle school talent show. 

“It made people cry,” she said. “After I got down off the stage my eighth grade teacher asked if I was planning to do this for my life, and I was like, ‘That’s a cool concept!’” 

Harris originally aspired to play the French horn in professional orchestras, but decided if she could write music, which she could, she might as well fully embrace the art of songwriting.

Ever since, Harris has been using her gift to create music that provides an emotional experience for all who listen. Harris takes all the opportunity she can to perform and to connect with people through her music. 

BYU student Mak Harris performing at The Boardwalk venue in Orem, Utah. (Derek Joseph)

“I want (my music) to be relatable, I want it to strike a chord,” she said. 

Harris said much of her work is inspired by the raw, emotive lyrical style of artists like Taylor Swift, Sara Bareillis and Billie Eilish.

Particularly regarding Eilish’s repertoire, Harris said she was strongly inspired by the way Eilish wrote not just about love, but about life in her 2019 album “When we all fall asleep, where do we go?”

“So much of music now only talks about love, so hearing something that (talked about) life was kind of earth-shattering for me,” she said. 

Harris said she uses this style of writing to discuss a myriad of different topics and experiences through her music, such as mental health struggles, falling in love, falling out of love and societal issues such as the objectification of women. 

“One of my favorite songs that I’ve written recently is called ‘Mr. Nice Guy.’ It’s about being able to distance yourself from people who are really toxic, and the message of the song is not allowing people to walk all over you,” she said. 

Harris said she enjoys producing her own songs as well. 

“One of the main motivations for me to learn how to produce my own music was that I don’t want to have to rely on other people, I want to be able to have full control over the creative process,” she said. 

Harris was able to take her producing skills to Nashville in the summer of 2021, where she interned at the revered Blackbird Studios: a studio which has produced albums for a huge array of artists, including Taylor Swift and Dolly Parton. 

Through this internship, Harris got hands-on producing experience, including helping produce country singer Thomas Rhett’s upcoming album.

“This was one of the most ‘wow, I made it’ kind of experiences,” Harris said. “Everyone in the room thought I couldn’t do it, and I proved them wrong.”

According to Harris, interns usually just set up and take down the equipment before and after studio sessions. However, in this session, she was entrusted to assist as an audio engineer. She was the only woman in the room and she said she was met with laughter and skepticism. 

“The reason they thought I couldn’t do it was because I was a woman. But, we just hopped right on the session and nailed it,” she said.

The unfortunate truth is the music industry, along with being extremely difficult to break into, is also very misogynistic, Harris said. 

“It’s a lot better than it used to be, but female songwriters and producers still suffer a lot in the industry. They don’t get a lot of credit. I know a lot of female producers that have been in the industry for years, and people will come up with excuses for why they were on a project. No, they got on the project because they are good,” she said. 

Despite how difficult the music industry is, Harris still has high hopes for her songwriting career. She has a studio set up in her house and is continuously writing songs to put out into the world.

“I write pretty much everywhere I go,” Harris said. “It’s a pretty continuous process. It’s always happening, and my brain doesn’t really shut off.”

In the end, Harris wants others to know that her music isn’t for herself, it’s for others.

“That’s the whole purpose,” she said. “The whole purpose of me going into this is about other people being able to have a connection and feel something.” 

Harris plans to move to either Los Angeles, Nashville or New York City – all cities which are known for playing a strong part in the music industry – once she graduates from BYU’s commercial music program in April. She’s even planning a mini West Coast tour for the summer of 2022. 

“Stay tuned,” she said. “I’ve got a lot coming! It’s going to be a ride.” 

More information on Harris can be found on Instagram and TikTok @makharrismusic. Her music can be found on Spotify and Apple Music.

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