"Simon Cowell asked if I'd ever seen The Exorcist": How Harper went from America's Got Talent to next-gen metal star

(Image credit: Press)

Harper is remembering when she appeared on America’s Got Talent in June. The 10-year-old from Somerset arrived on stage in a flowery black dress, only to shock the judges and audience by launching into a full-on rendition – complete with screams – of Spiritbox’s Holy Roller

“Simon [Cowell, one of the judges] asked if I had ever seen The Exorcist!” Harper says with a laugh, speaking to Hammer today via Zoom from her home, with her stepdad Ben Lumber byher side. “I was like… ‘What’s that?’ So now I want to watch it!” 

The response from the judges was unanimous – a resounding yes from all three (Simon, Heidi Klum and Sofía Vergara), although they were a little flabbergasted by the whole thing. “That was brilliant. It was like a mouse turning into a vampire bat or something,” Simon said of the performance, while Sofia added: “And it was so effortless. Something coming out of her that was so crazy.” 

“I was so nervous,” Harper says. “When I was younger I used to watch America’s Got Talent and think, ‘I really wanna go on that.’ I didn’t have a talent, but then I got this talent!” 

The video of her on the show has now had more than two million views on YouTube. Though America’s Got Talent made her a global sensation, Harper was already known to much of the metal community for her YouTube cover videos. She started last year, tackling songs like ArchitectsNihilist, Emmure’s Smokey and, of course, Holy Roller, which now sits at almost 250k views. 

She now has over 10k followers on YouTube, a blue tick on Instagram and people have made reaction videos to her songs – unable to believe that a child could scream like that. “Most of them are being nice!” she says with a laugh. “It felt amazing that I’d get reaction videos to my songs. Inever thought that would happen.” 

Harper discovered her mighty voice by screaming along to Ben’s songs – he’s in the metal band Acres. “When his new songs came out, I would shout along, so that was like a practice for me,” she says. “Then we started trying other songs. It was just a bit of fun. I was thinking, ‘How did I do that?’” 


(Image credit: Press)

Harper namechecks Currents, Metallica, Olivia Rodrigo and of course, Spiritbox as some of her favourite musicians. And she couldn’t believe it when Courtney LaPlante herself, the vocalist of Spiritbox, saw her cover of Holy Roller and asked her to perform it with them onstage. Harper did so in London in June, the same night that America’s Got Talent aired. 

“Imagine meeting your biggest hero – that’s how it felt!” Harper says. “When I got onstage, I definitely had more energy than on America’s Got Talent. You could see it. I think it was because the band and Courtney were there, and they hyped me up.” 

But she says that the most exciting part was the audience. “I loved the crowd so much!” Harper exclaims. “The people there knew this kind of music and wouldn’t hate on me. There was one girl in the front who was so sweet, saying, ‘Go Harper, go!’ I nearly teared up onstage.” 

Now Harper is becoming a star in her own right. She’s signed to a label (Pale Chord in partnership with Rise Records, Spiritbox’s own label) – “It’s mind-blowing how a 10-year-old got a record deal,” Harper says, still in awe – and has just released a single, Falling. It’s a rousing metalcore anthem that Harper says is a response to her critics. 

“It’s mostly about haters who say that my songs aren’t real,” she says, adding that her stepdad wrote the lyrics. “Some people have said [my screaming] isn’t real, that I’m just shouting and Ben’s editing it.” 

Any doubters have been silenced by now. To help keep her incredible pipes in check, Harper has lessons with Melissa Cross – the legendary vocal coach who specialises in screaming, with a client list including Slipknot, Lamb Of God and Trivium. Since Hammer spoke to Harper, she returned to the USA and made it to the semifinals before being eliminated. 

Now she’s working on her next single, with more input this time: “The new song is even more like me.” You have to wonder how all this fits in with a kid’s schedule, but Harper is taking it in her stride. “My friends didn’t even know [about all this] until I told them!” she laughs. And as for dealing with any unwanted attention, she has a technique. “We have a high school nearby, and when I walk past they all ask, ‘Are you Harper?’ I’m like, ‘No! Who’s Harper? My name’s not Harper!’ It’s weird [being recognised].” She might not be able to fool them for much longer.

Falling is out now. Follow Harper on Youtube at https://www.youtube.com/@Thatyellaharper

Hannah May Kilroy

Hannah May Kilroy has been writing about music professionally for over a decade, covering everything from extreme metal to country. She was deputy editor at Prog magazine for over five years, and previously worked on the editorial teams at Terrorizer and Kerrang!. She currently works as the production editor for The Art Newspaper, and also writes for the Guardian, Classic Rock and Metal Hammer.