George Hartline, an Orange-by-way-of-Alabama singer/songwriter, is a man on the grind. By night, we know him as the front man of the roots/rock ensemble the Harmless Doves, who released a solid self-titled debut EP this spring. By day, Hartline, an Iraq War veteran, hammers out real-estate litigation and is set to begin his final year at Chapman University School of Law. We talk to Hartline about finding time for school, work and music and how he crafts his sound.
OC Weekly: Aside from playing music, you're going to law school and brokering real estate. Do you sleep?
George Hartline and the Harmless Doves open for Tim Reynolds and TR3 at the Coach House, www.thecoachhouse.com. Wed., 8 p.m. $15. All ages.
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George Hartline: Yes, I sleep from time to time. I got into real estate when I first moved to California six years ago. Law school was a plan from way back that I finally decided to go for since the post-9/11 GI Bill came out. But music has always been my passion since I was a kid. I moved to California to play music, and my other activities just kind of fell into place.
Tell us about your time in the Armed Forces.
I was in the Marine Corps Reserve and did one tour in Iraq; I got out in 2008. It was intense. When I was in Iraq, I decided that if I could put up with war, I could follow my music dream, so I packed up and headed to California in 2005 after two weeks of being home [in Alabama]. That month, I met Steve Denning, my drummer.
The law stuff you're doing now—it looks like you're helping real-estate owners take on banks?
Well, yeah. I got my start as a residential real-estate agent with a local firm. When I got my broker's license, I went out on my own. In terms of taking on the banks, one example would be when I helped a client get back a big cash deposit when the bank, another broker and escrow company said it wouldn't happen. Otherwise, I don't just "take on" the banks. I work with them and with clients to find solutions.
What's on your recording radar?
We finished up our seven-song EP at 17th Street Recording Studio in Costa Mesa in May and released it in June on iTunes. We're looking at recording a full-length album, probably toward the end of the year.
Sound-wise, you wear your influences on your sleeve—Dave Matthews, U2, Counting Crows. What about your sound is all your own?
I usually say we are a rock/roots/blues/acoustic band. Lots of people hear "acoustic guitar" and "guy from the South" and automatically categorize it as country. Nothing wrong with that—country music is a great genre. I'm from Alabama, true, and Southern soul and blues are undeniably etched into my heart, which comes out in my music. However, we have band members from California, Las Vegas and Maryland, so it's a pretty eclectic mix, and everyone brings his own style to the arrangements.
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Are you now writing with your band lineup in mind? How do songs come together?
It started where I would sketch out an acoustic song and they would translate it, but now [it's about how we] can create a song for the band's instrumentation. And there are a lot of songwriters in the band, actually. I have written the music and lyrics to most of what we play now, with the exception of co-writing with Jason Hensley on a couple, but Zach Pagter [lead guitar] and Paul Bouyear [bass] write, and we are starting to look at some collaborations in the songwriting.
This column appeared in print as "Straight From the Hart."