Words by Ethan Jones
Growing up in Santa Barbra, California, Holly developed her feelings for music while listening to a variety of angsty influences as a teen, from Radiohead and Lou Reed to Talking Heads – it’s certainly a pipeline that is set to stir something within your soul for sure. Drawing on these influences, she has been able to craft her debut EP and create a stunning music video for her song ‘Where you are’, a project she made with her brother.
Hailing from The Golden State of California is Holly Blair, a multi-instrumentalist and filmmaker who is stepping out with her debut EP ‘One Step Away Is Too Far’ that’s ready to show you exactly who she is and what she’s about.
With credits from Tim Carr (Perfume Genius) and David Burris, there’s no surprise whatsoever that there is an incredibly mature and complex sound to the production of the EP and a huge authenticity behind the story telling of the EP. Read our conversation below to dive a bit deeper into the project and what’s to come from Holly Blair!
– Hey! So nice to get the chance to talk to you today, I wanted to start off by saying congratulations of the release of your Debut EP – personally speaking, I think it’s amazing and I’m very excited to see how this launches you to the world. How are you feeling now this project is out there for everyone to explore?
It’s funny, leading up to it I was asked a lot “how are you feeling about it?” and it was strange because I wasn’t really feeling a whole lot about putting the EP out and I was trying to figure out if I was disassociated and trying not to have expectations or if I was just at peace with putting it out there and honestly I feel like it’s a bit of both. Now that it’s out I kind of don’t feel like it’s mine anymore, I feel like it moved through me and thinking about whoever might find it feels really exciting to me. My music has been so personal for so long and so now having it be consumed by others is kind of trippy. It’s exciting and I’m feeling grateful and now that it’s out there I can move forward and make new stuff.
– I’d love to hear about the beginning of your journey that’s lead you to releasing music, what sort of roots have you got in the field and how has this influenced you while creating this EP?
I’ve always been very musical, ever since I was little. Even though nobody in my family is actually a musician or an artist, I feel they’re all artists in their own right even if they didn’t pursue it as a path. I was singing a lot as a small child but it was never really something I had considered as a career until a couple of years ago. I was always listening to Death Cab For A Cutie and Taylor Swift in middle school in my room and playing my guitar so it’s something I’ve always done. Honestly it feels kinda cheesy but exploring through music is the first time I felt God in a way, so I was kind of like ‘there’s this intense spirit that moves through me through music’ and I was pretty angsty and emotional in high school so music was like a way I can feel not so alone and I could hang out with some misfits and feel understood. Out of college I was working for musicians doing cinematography and music videos when I lost my voice in a freak medical thing that honestly I still don’t really understand and during that year, shit got really hard, it was really gnarly. I had to ask myself ‘what I’m meant to learn from the universe from this?’ and I decided that if I get the chance to sing again, that is what I’ll do. The melody for ‘See This Through’ was in my head and I was able to transpose it on to piano so when I got my voice back I was able to go full force with making music.
– Speaking on influences, tell me about some of the influences you lean on sonically, who’s in your playlist when you’re writing?
I have a hard time with that question because I know who I listen to and honestly a lot of my music sounds nothing like that. However I would say my all time favourite songwriter is Carole King, I just love the way she tells stories and weaves her songs through story. She has a really strong sense of honesty and gentleness and there’s something I really relate to in her work. Another one is probably Neil Young, he was one of the first people I listened to and was like ‘oh shit, this is some other thing and some spiritual vessel’ and was probably the first time I was moved to tears by music. Outside of the classics, I like a lot of weird shit like some hyper pop stuff, and you won’t hear any of this in my music, but stuff like Suicide Boys and Caroline Polachek and people who are out here bending genre are super inspirational to me. Talking Heads is another inspiration that allows me to lose fear and really go there.
– Anyone dead or alive, who would be your dream collaborator for a musical project?
Probably David Byrne or Thom Yorke, they are two minds I’m constantly blown away by and I would love that.
– What can you tell us about the production process of this project? Who worked with you and how did this shape the outcome?
So I got connected to a great producer called Tim Carr, from Perfume Genius, and I felt like I could breathe when I was talking to him. Being so new to the music world I was kind of thinking ‘I have these little demos and I think I want to make them’, so I would drive up to Tim’s studio as I wasn’t living in LA at the time and we would work on the songs. The first half of the EP was pretty much fully finished so ‘Make It On My Own’ and ‘See This Through’ were mainly the songs I would bring to his studio and after writing them quickly on my parents piano. We also brought in David Burris who was originally mixing the music but also works as a producer, he came in and enhanced ‘Make It On My Own’ sonically with Tim. David then also ended up producing ‘Where You Are’ which worked out so well. As for ‘Friday 13th’, I made that with my friend Charlotte in her basement and it was super fun to be just hanging out and I totally think you can hear it in the song and then Tim finished it up with the guitar solo at the end.
– How would you say, if at all, you manifest your sexuality/gender fluidity throughout your work?
I think the main thing that comes up for me is the concept of fluidity in general kind of makes up every aspect of who I am. I’ve never felt like I had a box to fit in to, humans are super complex and I feel we can be quick to affix a binary to things in any sense of the phrase. It’s never felt super at the forefront of who I am but it’s certainly influenced who I am and the way I move through the world. I assign this to my music to by bending genre a lot, this way of thinking has shaped my ability to be fluid in music for sure. The older I got, the more I realised I could be honest about being who I am in my gender fluidity and my sexuality and that would be helpful to others feeling the same way. I guess I’m interested in the space in between.
– The EP tells a lot of stories and has pretty strong narratives throughout, what draws you to this way of making a project?
My background really is in story telling, I was always practicing creative writing as a kid through short stories and poetry and then went on to start out college as an English major. Story is everything to me, it’s so healing I feel to get into stories even of other peoples, it feels like empathy to me. I don’t feel like I have an option, it just starts coming out that way, sometimes they’re not even my stories! It could be a dream I had or a conversation with a friend or even a daydream, it’s so interesting to me how they unfold in front of me. These are the best ones as they come to me and I get to tell them through my truth and show different parts of myself, it can feel very therapeutic.
– Which song was your favourite to make?
Oh that’s a hard one, I think ‘Where You Are’ because it’s such a personal story to me and its about someone I love so much and it feels important as a bookmark in time and to have that chapter documented so I’m really grateful to have that. I worked with Charlie Adams and David Burris who helped me pull the story out and bring it to life. I also made the music video with my brother in personal spots in my hometown so it feels special to have that in the form it’s in and it was almost cathartic to make.
– Lastly, what can we expect from you moving forward? A long play I hope!
Yeah for sure, my background is in film so I hope to marry the two at some point but yeah just more more more!
Holly’s new project ‘One Step Away Is Too Far’ is available to listen to here: