THE BLOG

The Weird and Wonderful Billy Harvey: Turning the World Into His Taiwan Oyster

10/11/2013 05:38 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014
  • Myra Chanin Author; aka 'Mother Wonderful'; Radio/TV Personality, Former Producer, 'The Joey Reynolds Show'

When Billy Harvey was 19, living in Texas, playing a mostly self-taught guitar for five years, he formally set off on his first artistic life journey because, "My body was telling me to move to California." Billy found a vehicle he thought could handle the trip and made the owner an offer she couldn't refuse. One used Yankee dollar. No Mafia consigliore, horse's heads or hoofs were involved. The seller happened to be Billy's mom.

Billy not only got to Los Angeles in Mom's van, he lived in it for several years with his girlfriend, who was not happy with their habitat. Fortunately lust conquered all until Billy found enough paying gigs to vacate the van. "I just wanted to play guitar in a rock band. I didn't consider myself a musician. After the band made some records, I was asked how I pictured my future, and I realized that I wanted to write lyrics and songs."

The first song he wrote? "Hilarious!" he howls, "but I still have a cassette of it and I liked it at that time, when I lived in the obliviousness of an aspiring young musician, when I could write songs that sucked and think they were the best things ever ... for a while. The first song I wrote that doesn't embarrass me now was Love at War. It was about two people who fight all the time but can't break up because we need friction in our lives until we learn our lessons and move on."

A year later technology -- a laptop and a video camera -- broadened his vistas. "Editing came easy to me, because there's a musicality to it." Billy's videos have been YouTubed and eventually coalesced in www.billyharvey.com, a website that's won countless kudos including South by Southwest's Interactive Design and New York City's Flash Forward awards. If you click Albums on Billy's website, you'll see a rumpled Billy point to a wall on which he's hung his six framed platinum records. Not! He's kidding. But his six albums have gained him considerable media visibility plus a devoted fan base, an extensive federation of paying for playing peers and fans who have a high regard for his soulful lyrics and soothing melodies. Psst, Billy no longer lives in a van. Income from his music "pays the rent."

His greasiest adventure, a cross-country national expedition after the release of his fourth album Bear Sick, culminated in a documentary film, Everywhere Now. Filmed by him entirely on his laptop camera, it intimately chronicled his 7,000-mile tour in a car powered only by discarded vegetable oil. "I had an onboard filter and a pump, drove right up behind McDonalds and sucked their used frying oil out of their waste bin." Billy's filter removed any leftover chicken bits still in the oil, so no yowling cats chased his car, "but a few fast food managers came after me with a broom."

Since then Billy Harvey has continued to play his own brand of Post-Modern Pop, working also as a producer for artists like Charlie Mars, Bob Schneider, Slaid Cleaves and Steve Poltz. A prolific writer, he's received an International Songwriters Award for Best Rock Song, "Frozen Through," and broke into the Top 100 on the CMJ Charts with Bear Sick. His songs are being showcased in films and TV. "Heading for the Hills," from his latest album was featured on ABC's Private Practice. "The Greatest Escape" won a Best Song Award when it was highlighted in Strings, a multiple award winning festival release in which Billy starred as a troubled musician, who in the wake of his daughter's death is duped by an experimental therapist who convinces him to leave his old life behind and take on a new identity until the musician realizes the therapist is using his patients to commit vigilante crimes and sneaks back to visit the life he left behind.

For Billy Harvey acting has become another fruitful form of expression. The Taiwan Oyster, the second independent film Billy's starred in, opens in New York City this week. It's a quirky, darkly humorous, buddy, bender, road movie about two American, stoned and wasted, expat kinder garden teachers, who, after what Variety calls "one of the strangest and most invigorating heists in ages," embark on a quixotic trip through the Taiwanese countryside looking for a suitable burial place for the stolen corpse of a fallen countryman they barely knew. To see Billy and his film cohort Darin, played by Jeff Palmiotti,-- Playgirl's 2010 Hottest New York Bartender, check out www.thetaiwanoyster.com, which starts its theatrical run at New York City's Cinema Village Theater on Friday, Oct. 18, 2013. It's also on Indiewire's list of 11 films to see this month on VOD and available on iTunes, Comcast, TimeWarner, Cox, Amazon with others to come.

What's next for Billy? Would you believe a book of poetry? the day the ORIENTEER is available on Billy's website.