By Gabriella San Felipe, September 29, 2015
Holly Miranda, the charming, down to Earth Indie artist is on tour after releasing her self titled album in May. With an almost five year hiatus after her last album, "The Magicians Private Library," she is back with a vengeance and a lot of self knowledge.
Gabriella San Felipe: What was the beginning of your music career like? How did you get here?
Holly Miranda: Well I started writing songs when I was 14, and then I went to New York to visit my sister and played an open mic night at The Sidewalk Cafe. I had only written two songs, but I was offered a show and then decided that I was going to move there the next year. So I wrote a bunch more songs, told my parents that I was going to visit my sister for two weeks, packed up two suitcases and called them when I got there and told them I wasn't coming back. I started gigging around the West Village, the lower east side, and pretty much anywhere that had a mic in a corner of a room. I started doing that when I was 16, and I just turned 33, so I've been doing that for more than half my life.
GS: You scored a major record deal when you were only 17. How did that affect you positively or negatively?
HM: I think it was my first time seeing how jaded the music industry could be. It was surprising to me at the time so I ended up walking away from it, and I never heard the record that I made then. We weren't completely finished, but we were about 80% done with it. I don't know if it was positive or negative, it was just kinda my first foyer into how messed up the music industry was.
GS: Recently in the Chicago Tribune you talked about how you overcame writers block by going to Joshua Tree. Can you tell me about that experience?
HM: It was really isolating. I had never been to Joshua tree before, and I didn't really see any people for the first two weeks I was there, which was what I needed. Coming from New York and L.A. you can never really see much further than a city block, and I needed that expansiveness. I was just kinda over humans, and so after a couple of weeks I was like "Oh wait I like people, I miss people" so I went to open mic night at the Joshua Tree Saloon and met everyone in town. I wrote Desert Call the first night I was there, and I think that I just needed the space. It's like what I would imagine being on Mars is like, where you can just see forever. It was very beautiful and desolate and isolating, and I think it allowed for me to feel what I was feeling and be vulnerable, instead of being so self conscious and sort of stifled by my surroundings.
GS: What have been some of your favorite places to play?
HM: I think the Sydney Opera House in Australia was pretty fun, and I got to play there for like a week. I love playing Schubas, and I love playing Chicago. I don't really remember venues as much, I only remember venues after I'm outside of them. But I think you can tell a lot about a city from the crowd. Chicago is always very fun, St. Louis, Philly. I love playing in Europe. I feel there's a different appreciation and respect for music and the arts there. I love playing in Italy. There's a place in the Ravenna thats right on the coast that's an outdoor stage. I can't remember the name of it, but Ravenna is very beautiful.
GS: Do you still get nervous on stage or have you gotten passed that?
HM: Not really. I'll be more nervous if I'm feeling tired or if my throat is bothering me, that kinda stuff. But no I don't really get nervous anymore. When I do it's like "Oh I'm nervous," and it feels like a novelty at this point. I'm just having a lot of fun and I feel very free. I kinda don't really give a **** about a lot anymore.
GS: Do you believe that your religious upbringing had any affect on your music?
HM: Yeah for sure. I hear a lot of gospel influence. I still love choirs. I love that sort of vibe. And I'm still like a very spiritual person, definitely not religious, but I love when my shows sort of feel like church. Like a come to jesus vibe where I don't remember all of it. Those are my favorite shows.
GS: How would you say your new self titled album differs from "The Magicians Private Library?"
HM: I mean I think they're really different. I think production wise The Magicians Private Library is very layered, very kinda cloudy and reverbie. I think this one is very contrast, and very stark. It's kinda like in your face with the vocals, and there's not a lot of effects. There's not a lot of layers, I play most of the instruments, and what I didn't play my band was playing. I really just wanted to capture the feeling of a live show.
GS: What is the overall message or emotion you wanted to display in your new album?
HM: Love. Just love.
GS: Who are some artists you would like to collaborate with?
HM: I mean most of them are dead. I don't really know much current music. I guess Leonrad Cohen, Joni Mitchell. If we could bring back Nina Simone or Edith Piaf that would be great.
GS: Do you have any advice on up and coming musicians who might be struggling?
HM: Only do it if you absolutely have to, because it's not easy. Also read letters to a young poet.