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Catching up with Roberta Harrison of the Wild Strawberries

If you’ve ever listened to pop radio in the 1990s and early 2000s, you’ve no doubt heard a Wild Strawberries song or two (or four). The Canadian pop-rock group, led by husband-and-wife team Ken and Roberta Harrison, continue to be prolific studio musicians (but no longer tour regularly).

Over the past 20 years, I’ve been fortunate to catch up with the Strawberries upon every album release. So, good news! A new album titled Vesper 50 is on the way this year early next year.

“I just adore [Vesper 50] right now,” Roberta Harrison tells Popjournalism over the phone, near their home outside of New Hamburg, Ontario. “It’s pretty introspective. Lyrically, it’s quite beautiful and now we just have to get it out there. It’ll probably be a pretty low key release.”

Their last album, 2013’s independently-released Go Project, didn’t receive as much attention as their past releases, but represented a comeback for the band after an eight-year absence since 2005’s Deformative Years.

GeL EP album cover
   GeL EP album cover Supplied publicity photo, 2016

More recently, Roberta and Ken teamed up with musician Ashwin Sood under the name GeL and released a self-titled EP last year.

“Sadly, we didn’t get a ton of attention,” Roberta says of the GeL project. “Maybe people think it sounds too much like Wild Strawberries. Some people think it sounds too different, some people think it sounds too much the same. So you can’t really win for tryin’.”

Despite the muted reaction to GeL from pop radio, the Strawberries and Sood are moving forward with an album, release date TBA. Roberta says the group may release a cover of Passenger’s “Nothing’s Changed” as the album’s first single.

“We have a full album’s worth of material,” she says. “It’s just going slowly. Ken and I only have a day or two a week anymore to do music. Ash will fly out from Vancouver to work here in our studio whenever time allows, but then he mixes the GeL stuff out in Vancouver at his studio. It’s just time. We all love the project and we’re having a lot of fun.”

Outside of GeL and Wild Strawberries, Ken and Roberta have been working with numerous EDM acts in Europe, composing and providing vocals for singles from Richard Duran, Alex M.O.R.P.H., Matt Darey and others.

“We have a new four-song EP coming up with Matt Darey,” Roberta says. “He’s fantastic and so great to work with. We’ve been working with him for a couple years, but we’re finally going to get something out with him in the near future, he’s just finishing up final production.”

In the meantime, the Harrisons are happily nestled at their farm producing music in their home studios.

“We really do feel proud of the fact that with, literally, screaming babies and lack of sleep, we continued to produce stuff the entire time,” Roberta says. “We had some rough years there… especially when we had the twins, that was just bedlam. Ken would be downstairs trying to keep the kids happy and I’d be up in the studio. We have this big glass window where I could see the main room, it was soundproof, and though I couldn’t hear them screaming, I could see them wanting their mom and being upset. Obviously, Ken is an amazing dad, but it was just kind of stressful sometimes.”

“It’s easier now.”

Content Creator
Robert J. Ballantyne is a senior editor at Popjournalism and Creative Director at Artsculture.ca. Previously, he was a journalist at the CBC on a number of news programs including the fifth estate, Marketplace and The National. He also worked as a staff writer at the Toronto Star
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