Garrett Harris 4 p.m., Feb. 11
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- Blurt: "The Voice of the Streets" · Nov. 4, 2009
Influences: Stevie Wonder, Kirk Franklin, James Brown
Linda Perry might not be the only pop star to emerge from the streets of San Diego. In the late ’80s, the ex–4 Non Blondes singer was a homeless teen in Balboa Park. Two years ago, Joseph (he asked that his last name and the name of his father’s San Diego church not be included in this story “because I don’t want to cause any more controversy between he and I”) had a taste of that life as well after his father, a local preacher, kicked him out of the house following a disagreement.
“I was homeless for about seven to eight months.” Joseph says he crashed on a high school pal’s couch at first and then had no place to go.
“I stayed on the street for about a week,” he says. “I was calling and looking on the internet, trying to find a place, trying to find if there was any help out there, trying to get myself on my feet without telling anybody. I was embarrassed about it.” Some of his survival strategies included feigning drunkenness at parties and crashing at the host’s house. “Stuff like that.”
Eventually, Joseph drifted into the Storefront, an emergency shelter for homeless teens in the Hillcrest area. He says he lived there for six months. One of the educational programs offered at the Storefront was music lessons.
“I was already playing music when I came in there. I had more experience than a lot of the kids in there, so I was more like a teacher than a student.”
Joseph, who grew up singing in his father’s church choir, was brought to the attention of Storefront fund-raiser Jeffrey Sitcov. Sitcov included a segment of Joseph’s singing in a new Storefront promotional video. Later, Sitcov arranged for Chris Goldsmith (Blind Boys of Alabama, Chrissie Hynde) to preview the video. Sitcov emailed that Goldsmith “told me he had never heard an 18-year-old sing like this before.”
Twenty years old in 2009, Joseph scored a place to live, a manager, and announced plans to record his originals.
What would Joseph like to tell his estranged father now? “The only thing that I would say to him is that I’m sorry. I’m sorry. And the reason for being sorry is that [my parents] are good people and I love them dearly and I’m sorry that I caused them any pain…regardless of being who I am. I wish we could come to some kind of closure about this,” he says, “but we don’t talk.”