Har Mar Superstar: Soul From An Unlikely Source

Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.

Few artists personify the spirit of the independent music world as well as Har Mar Superstar.

In fact, only the indie world could create this musical mass of contradiction. He's a chubby white guy from Minnesota who likes to merge disco beats with soul-inflected, straightforward R&B vocals. He then takes this sound on the road in his underwear, opening for the likes of Incubus and the Strokes.

His media kit boasts that he is not above offering sexual favors for positive reviews and that he looks like porn icon Ron Jeremy, while his lyrics include such jewels as "deeper, deeper I can feel your beeper," while his Web site jokingly speaks of him accompanying Kelly Osbourne to the MTV Video Music Awards.

Surprising, what emerges through all this jest is a record that is hip enough for musical trendsetters and R&B enough for Har Mar. Through all the madness, he has found a way to make music that has the same spark as Prince's early releases. His second album, "You Can Feel Me," was released Dec. 10 via Venice, Calif.'s Record Collection and distributed through Alternative Distribution Alliance and WEA.

Har Mar (who takes his name from a mall in Minnesota as well as the combination of his real name, Harold Martin Tillman) has actually been making a name for himself in the independent world for some time, as part of the in-demand bands Calvin Crime and Sean-na-na. His eponymous first album was released in 2000 on the Kill Rock Stars label. Now, he's with a larger label with bigger distribution.

"I was getting ready to hand in the master for the new record to Kill Rock Stars, my first label," Har Mar reflects. "It became clear that some hopes I had for it weren't going to be possible, so they asked if I wanted to shop it around. I did, and signed with Record Collection."

Record Collection president Jordan Tappis recalls being introduced to the artist at a party in Los Angeles and being immediately intrigued.

"He slipped me a CD on the sly. As I listened to it on the way home, I wondered how this little white guy did this. It's an odd coupling, the music vs. the person. Since my partner is a filmmaker, our first thought was to make a documentary about the oddness of Har Mar, a chubby white guy who sounds like Stevie Wonder and Prince. But, as the record label came to be, we decided we wanted to run with him as one of our artists."

In addition to treks with Incubus and the Strokes, Har Mar has also opened for the Hives and Peaches. The live exposure has helped draw people to a set that boasts several commercially viable tracks, including the funk-laden "Power Lunch" and retro-flavored soul jam "Brothers & Sisters."

"I made this record -- as I will make every record in my life -- for myself," he says. "I want to move people's feet, that's all I care about. I have no message. People should just have a good time and lighten up. My music is about moving. I'm not going to worry about credibility. I'd rather focus on another record. Who knows? In two more albums, it could get serious. But right now it's about having as much fun as possible."

Excerpted from the Jan. 18, 2003, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com members section.

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