Holly Macve belongs to a category of independent artists whose voices sit well left of center, but who would flourish on larger, mainstream stages. Hers is a tone that warms and dismantles with a similar authority as better known, platinum-selling, songstresses.
With Irish roots replanted into English soil, Macve has an interesting musical DNA that has been shared on stages with artists like Josh T Pearson and Yael Naim. Her folk-based strengths blend well into new environments, something that U.S. audiences will be able to check out later in 2016 when she hits stages at SXSW and then takes to the road on tour with Mothers.
On the brink of releasing her debut album via Bella Union, Holly Macve is poised for good things. Ahead of her Celtic Connections gig in Glasgow, Scotland, ARTISTdirect took the opportunity to catch up with the humble, and blessed artist to check in and ask, “How’s it going?”
Where are you right now?
I’m on the train to Glasgow from Newcastle to play a gig at the Royal Concert Hall as part of the Celtic Connections festival. Yesterday I finished recording everything for my Album, so today’s a good day!
Up until recently, I have been playing all my gigs solo. Today, I have my first gig with my new guitar player, so I’m very excited to have some new sounds added into my set. I will be putting together a full band for festivals in the summer and that’s something I’m really looking forward to.
Tell us about your new project: Who did you work with? Where was it recorded? What’s it about? Is there candy?
I have been working with Paul Gregory who is in a band called Lanterns on the Lake. Some of it has been recorded at his studio and some at his house in Newcastle. I wrote most of the songs for this album in my home town in Yorkshire. It’s surrounded by countryside, so many wide open spaces, with so many beautiful colours across the landscape, and it is quite wild also, so it’s a truly great place to escape from the world and write. I guess the songs just reflect my emotional state and thoughts at that time.
How do you describe your music to new friends?
I always find this question a difficult one as my music is inspired by many different genres, and I think it varies from track to track. I try not to put labels on my music. I think I would usually let another friend explain!
Please look around you right now and please describe the first item or person you see that’s significant to you?
This is Ez Stone and he’s playing some guitar with me on stage tonight and for the Villagers tour we are doing next week. We are now just arrived in Glasgow, the sun is shining, and it’s a beautiful day.
What first inspired you to pursue music? If it was a musician or a specific piece of music, please tell us all about why you find it so inspirational.
I grew up in a family of musicians, I never really thought about doing anything else as it just seemed the normal thing to do, and I was always encouraged by everyone to pursue it. My mum has really great taste in music and a lot of the music she played when I was young still has a huge influence on me today.
What’s the best advice anyone has given you about pursuing a life in music?
Once I had a strange encounter with Tito Jackson at a party when I was working in London a few years ago. He asked me about how my music career was going and I was in a bit of a confusing place at the time. He told me just to be true to myself. Even though this seems like very obvious advice, it couldn’t have been more important.
I think in this industry it’s easy to get pushed and pulled around by other people and the best thing to do is it to be true to yourself.
Not including your current crew, who (alive or dead) would you love to have in your van for an all day drive from gig to gig?
Johnny Cash. We could have some fabulous sing-a-longs and I bet there is NOTHING that could happen on any journey that he wouldn’t have an anecdote for!
What song best sums up your life right now?
Too many to mention, been listening to this LP of mine a lot and not much else to be honest. On the train, on my iPod it’s been a lot of the D’s: Dylan, soundtrack to Django, Dvorak and Devo!
What is the best reaction to your music you have experienced so far?
I think my favourite gig I have played so far was at Brighton Dome supporting John Grant. It was great to play to a home crowd and the audience were very respectful and receptive. It was a really special atmosphere.
Take a moment to dream; Where do hope to be a year from now?
I hope to have a load of new songs and be getting ready to start thinking about recording my next album. Songwriting is such an exciting but unpredictable experience, and I’m interested to see where it will take me next.
What’s your next step towards that dream?
Releasing my debut album!