Star Interview: Har Mar Superstar

Har Mar Superstar
Har Mar Superstar

‘My live shows are like a sweaty celebration of good times,” explains Har Mar Superstar.

“It’s all about dancing and shredding. I’m in such control of my voice right now it feels really powerful. Anything can happen, I’ll be singing on my head sometimes, sometimes I’ll be in the crowd. I like to keep it interesting and entertain myself while I entertain the crowd.”

American soul singer Sean Tillmann named his flamboyant alter-ego after the Har Mar mall in suburban Minnesota where he spent his youth watching movies and writing songs about passers-by.

Currently in the UK, touring in support of his latest album, Bye Bye 17, Tillmann’s latest record was inspired by the excitement and the isolation of New York City.

“The winter probably had the biggest supporting role making this record,” he explains. “I just hadn’t had one for a long time.

“Walking around New York and seeing people constantly being together alone is, I think, a huge influence on the whole record. Compared to Dark Touches [his previous 2009 LP], I guess I’ve grown up a little bit.

“I took a different approach which I think is what sets it apart.

“I wrote it all on a guitar. I collaborated with a few people on a couple of songs, but for the most part it was just me chilling, doing it like I used to before I got into writing to beats. It’s easier to write for my voice a little more when I’m doing chord- based stuff.”

Recent single, Prisoner, epitomes the sound of Bye Bye 17. The collaboration with The Strokes’ Fab Moretti is a dark, soulful funk pop song with infectious brass riffs and a huge chorus.

And if that’s not enough, the video features Har Mar Superstar competing against actor and singer, Juliette Lewis, in a BMX freestyle contest in a club.

“It was a great video to make, Juliette is bad-ass. She came in, we rode about on dirt bikes together.

“There was a really funny stunt double who played both of us and it was a good time. Juliette only fell down once but got back. She’s a trooper. She looks more bad-ass on a bike, but I’m pretty graceful when I get on a BMX, I’m like a gazelle.”

Released on Julian Casablancas’ Cult Records, Bye Bye 17 was co-produced by Jim Eno, a long-time friend of Har Mar, in Austin, Texas.

“He’s a master of the drums, just having him there working with our drummer was awesome,” he explains. “There was no racing the clock, no pressure, no egos or anything.”

Focusing this time more on his voice, Tillmann said: “I was listening to a lot of Otis Redding and Sam Cooke at the time.

“I’ve always been obsessed with those guys, but I finally had everything click at the same time.

“I always knew I could sing like that but I didn’t really have the subject matter to back it up. This time I think I did.”

Away from headline shows as Har Mar Superstar, Tillmann has performed with the soft-rock inspired Gayngs and Marijuana Deathsquads, the latter of which saw him involved in month-long residencies in LA, New York and Texas around the writing of his latest solo album.

He has also appeared in films, including Starsky and Hutch as Dancin’ Rick, a disco dance champion.

In September, Tillmann was presented with an official Proclamation from Raymond Thomas Rybak, the mayor of Minneapolis.

September 20 was declared Har Mar Superstar Day in recognition of his achievements in music and film.

“The Mayor is a really good guy and really supportive of the music scene,” he explains.

“I didn’t know him but he Tweeted me saying he loved my song, Restless Leg. I Tweeted back thanking him and joked ‘give me a day’. Somehow it all came together and it all ended up happening.”

Looking to the future, Tillmann says: “I want to keep taking Har Mar Superstar down the same road we are at the moment, the soul direction feels really good.

“I’ve been writing a film script and a TV show which I’ll be hoping to pitch, sell and start making those two.

“Har Mar used to be a different person. It used to be my excuse to get away with the more fantastic things in life.

“The confidence I got from Har Mar translated into my real life so now we’re one and the same.”