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Bells Larsen and Georgia Harmer

“Our friendship is embedded with a shared love of each other’s music”



Bells Larsen and Georgia Harmer met in the foyer of their high school in Toronto. Since then, they have become close friends and musical confidants, sending voice memos of their songs to each other back and forth over the years. Some of which have made their way onto their debut albums Good Grief and Stay in Touch, both released this year.

Larsen has lived in Toronto, Montréal, and Halifax, embedding inspiration from each city into his music. Good Grief was weaved from the threads of a period of tremendous loss and transformation. Following the death of his first love, Larsen sought to create an album that was both a record of this transformation and guiding rail throughout.


Bells Larsen by Howard Bilerman, Georgia Harmer by Gemma Warren

In her own words, Georgia Harmer’s debut album Stay in Touch was created through a “hodgepodge of DIY situations.” The record is the product of four 13-hour days at ArtHaus, a garage turned recording studio in downtown Toronto, followed by recording sessions at Harmer’s home as well as her aunt’s farmhouse. The result is an intimate collection of memories sieved through various genres including folk, country, jazz, and rock. Likewise tackling themes of loss and remembering, Harmer invites listeners to reconnect with their inner selves by staying in touch with the people and experiences that have shaped them.

As two emerging Canadian artists, Larsen and Harmer have relied on the people in the artistic communities around them to help navigate the industry. From Harmer’s harmonies on Good Grief to songs expressing empathy for Larsen’s loss on Stay in Touch, the two albums are bridged together through years of artistic collaboration and genuine friendship. Larsen and Harmer join smArt Magazine to talk about their new albums, their friendship, and finding the good in grief.


Bells Larsen by Monse Muro

sM | You did two album release parties for Good Grief—one in Toronto and Montréal. How has each city shaped this album?

BL ─ I have a friend who is a dancer and they once talked about how the city choreographed them. I thought that was really beautiful. In between living in Toronto and living in Montréal, I also lived in Halifax. So I consider myself a maritime-coded artist, just based on how much I talk about water in a lot of my songs. I’ve also always felt so at home in Montréal. I love the speed of Montréal. I love the culture, the vibe, everything. So I feel very Montréal-y in theory. But I think in practice, my heart will always be very Torontonian.

sM | What’s the story behind the album cover?

BL ─ I’m very close with my grandmother. She is one of my best friends. She makes really beautiful quilts, such as the one on the cover. I picked a whole bunch of cool-looking old pictures of little me that either my mom or dad had taken and then dumped them into a folder, gave it to the designer that I was working with, and he picked out the picture. This quilt for me does represent a welcome-into-the-world present from my grandmother. So in a lot of ways, releasing Good Grief is welcoming myself into the world of music.

Album Cover for "Good Grief"

sM | As a young Canadian artist coming up, what was your experience navigating the music industry to record your debut album?

BL ─ In my first year of university, I experienced a pretty huge loss. My first love died by suicide. I lived under a rock for a while in terms of not making any music. I was making music, but just not putting it out, not playing gigs. When I recorded Good Grief, I was very much not active and unknown and figuring out how I was going to take these songs that I really believed in and really liked and bring them to a wider audience with very minimal resources. Ultimately, the answer to that question has been looking at the people who have been around me for years and years.

Georgia and I have been exchanging voice memos back and forth for years and years. Our friendship is embedded with a shared love of each other’s music. And that’s just one musical friendship. What has gotten me through navigating the Canadian music industry as a young person, with not that much experience, is just looking at the people around me who are really kind, who are really good, who love music, who love me, and just going from there.

sM | What did this album help you process?

BL ─ The record is taking my grief and my anger and my sadness and my heartbreak and my relief and making it good through songwriting and asking questions. I took my own grief and then brought it to people like Georgia, with whom I can collaborate, who understands where I’m coming from, is also so healing. The process of making this record has been how I have healed. It’s been so cathartic for me to do this.

It’s really strange now, getting myself back in the mindset of how I was when I wrote all of these songs when I was first grieving the person I lost. But my grief has made me more thoughtful. It’s made me more aware of how the people are around me. It made me more aware of what to look out for. Should I have had to go through what I’ve gone through to be a thoughtful, kind, caring person? No, not at all, but I love that I am. I feel at the point now in my own process where I’m able to look at the things that it has brought me rather than the things that it’s taken away from me.


Georgia Harmer by Gemma Warren

sM | How did you get involved in Good Grief?

GH ─ Bells just asked me to sing on their songs and I love singing harmonies. We’ve sung harmonies since we met so it felt really natural to get to do that on these songs. I’ve known these songs for a while from their early stages from sending voice memos back and forth. I’ve sung on a couple of my other friends’ songs and anytime anyone asks me, I feel so seen. I love making up harmony arrangements and singing on other people’s songs. I get to listen to them and think about what they could possibly need, because they don’t need much.

sM | Where did you record your debut album, Stay in Touch?

GH ─ I recorded it at ArtHaus in Toronto. We spent 13 hours there each day and banged out all 11 songs in four days. After that, I did the overdubs at home with my band and I did the lead vocals at my aunt’s farmhouse. It was a hodgepodge of DIY situations.

Album cover for "Stay in Touch"

sM | What’s the story behind the album cover?

GH ─ When I was thinking about the cover of my album, I just had this mental image of me sitting in the sky. One of my oldest friends, Ella Hough, is this brilliant painter. I described this idea to her and she made this huge oil painting of a super realistic drawing of me in a sunset. The reason why I’m sitting is because the title of my album Stay in Touch is something that my friends and I said to each other all the time. Then my friends started saying “SIT” because that’s the acronym for “stay in touch.” And then the symbolism became a chair.

sM | Loss and leaving seem to precipitate the songs on Stay in Touch—how has writing songs about these experiences allowed you to move on?

GH ─ Often when I’m asked what my album is about, I say I don’t know. I just wrote these songs to process what I was going through as a teenager. Every time I write a song, it’s usually about a particular person or a particular theme that multiple people I know are experiencing. It’s my way of expressing empathy but also communicating what I’m experiencing.

Loss in so many ways is embodied in my album. One of the songs is about watching somebody experience intense grief. And although it is an undercurrent of my album in terms of having all these vivid memories with my closest friends and having to let go of a time when we were all in the same place, I also use music as a way to preserve those moments, and as a way to stay in touch with what I, and everyone else, was going through.


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