Local Music Scene: Holly
As early as the age of eight when I started guitar lessons at boarding school. I realised way back then that music was my best friend. I had a great teacher who actually taught my uncle to play guitar and really gave me an amazing foundation in music. I am not the greatest guitarist around and there are girls out there who can really strip a mean guitar but I use guitar to write sometimes and I play for fun. I also took up the drums at about age 10 and I think studying music on drums gave me a good sense of timing and rhythm and I often find myself falling back on what I learned all those years ago.
You’ve been on my radar since Inhliziyo Yami and now we see you popping up everywhere… tell us about your stirring rise to fame?
I feel like I am on this epic journey, some good some not so good but I am loving every single minute of it. I think that because I started my journey so young and I made that decision a long time ago that I was going to be an artist at all costs I became so driven. It wasn’t normal. When my peers were just chilling and hanging out over the holidays, I was hustling for studio time and trying to work with anyone and everyone who would give me a little more than the time of day. Alot of people didn’t take me seriously and even more didn’t understand the journey I was on. But I just kept knocking on doors and hammering away at it. What kept me going was that some fairly well respected people in the industry took me seriously and that gave me the courage to keep on keeping on. Jay Savage from Sony ATV Publishing gave me a publishing deal when I was just 13. I got some radio play on songs I had written and recorded. Mbongeni Ngema signed me as a development artist to the KZN Music House. Ukhozi FM booked me for Nyosi Volume. Soul Candi released two of my singles and then I was signed by Antos Stella to Content Connect as one of their first full 360 Artists.
How do you keep your tracks fresh and relevant?
As a musician you have to eat sleep breath music. You need to take an interest in everything that is happening and listen to as much music as possible. I think the biggest medium for music at the moment is video. I watch the music channels all the time so that I can keep up to date with what’s hot. It is important to collaborate and I find that it always strengthens me as musician and songwriter to work with artists across all genres. As far as my album Vanilla House is concerned I worked on the bulk of the material with Mondli Ngcobo (Kose Kuse) and then I involved some of the up and coming producers from the Kasi who have produced beats for the likes of Black Coffee, Zakes Bantwini, Culoe Da Song and other big names. Often these young producers are the real ground breakers and involving them in my project definitely brought the fresh dimension.
What are currently your main challenges as a young performer?
Sho now there’s a question with serious answers but I am just going to be as straight down the line as possible: I am a white girl in a market that is dominated by black men. I am just not in the inner circle and I don’t see myself ever being there so I just have to work three times as hard on my craft and hope that they will respect my work enough to play me on the radio, book me for gigs and give my music a fair chance. The biggest challenge for all young performers is that the industry really does not invest in young talent. The industry stakeholders all talk about being a “commercial age”. The international market is different in that they groom talent from an early age.
What is it about singing/acting, compared to, say, writing your own music that makes it interesting for you?
I write allot of my own songs but for me the process is about what is best for the song. I am not precious about it. If I am working with a producer and he does not like what I have written or a melody I came up with and he/she has a better suggestion then the best idea always wins. That is what makes it interesting for me, it’s that music is such a collaborative process. Music is the sum of all parts. Out of the 20 or so songs that I have collaborated on I have only ever had one bad experience collaborating.
Any pearls of wisdom to our aspiring local artists?
Gosh pearls of wisdom at 19, not sure that my pearls are wise enough yet but maybe some advise is firstly, start. Don’t wait until your older or the moon is in the right place. Just do it. Being in the entertainment industry is a long road so the sooner you start the quicker you learn all the lessons. Secondly, I would say that there are no shortcuts. You can’t inbox somebody and ask them for their secret formula. There is none. As I said earlier, music is the sum of all parts. You have to go on your journey to become who it is that you are meant to be as an artist and a musician.
If you could collaborate with any performing artist, living or dead, who would it be? Pharrell.
What is it like performing live?
Amazing. I feel blessed every single time I get on a stage or behind a microphone or a guitar. Every single live experience is special. From small intimate performances to the big stage, sharing music is a beautiful thing and I love every single minute of it.
Apart from singing, what are your other interests?
Politics, my favourite subject at school was history and out of that came a huge interest in politics. Yup, I’m a nerd like that. Film would be second on the list.
What or whom would you say is your musical influences?
Such a long list: Early Days: Josh Stone, Ellie Goulding, Corrien Bailey Rae, Eliza Doolittle, Miriam Makeba, Mahotella Queens, Brenda Fussie, Kelly Khumalo, Boomshaka, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Mandoza, Lighthouse Family, Tracy Chapman, Lily Allen, Adel, Maroon 5, Pharrell. More recently: Café Del Mar, Black Coffee, Cueber, Culoe De Songs, Zakes Bantwini, Oskido, Busiswa, Black Motion, Professor, Emex, Aux Cable, Lana Del Rey.
Who has been you favourite artist collaboration thus far?
Proffessor. Working with him was such a humbling experience. He is such a huge artist in SA and yet he is the most humble being. I flew to Joburg and really did not know what to expect. I was nervous as hell because I am such a groupie. I was nervous about going into the Kalawa studios and not being able to deliver on writing or singing but Professor was so laid back it was such a breeze. The song also turned out really well and I am proud of the end product.
Who are your top 5 local artists at the moment?
Oskido, The Soil, Witness The Funk, Black Coffee, Cuebur and I will always love a Joburg band called UGU (that’s six but I try to introduce everybody and anybody to their amazingness).
Of all the places / concerts you have toured, which can you say has been the highlight of your career?
Maybe this is because it is so fresh but I would have to say the 2015 Umgababa Picnic was my absolute best. Every South African should experience it at least once. The crowd is easily 20 000 thick and the atmosphere is just mad.
Tell us you’re your new track “Tambourine” and the concept behind the music video?
Tambourine was produced by Master Wakes a producer from Gauteng. He is a well know hit maker and is responsible for some of the biggest tracks to have come out of the Kalaw Jazmee stable. It features Fiesta Black from the DJ Ganyani track Xigubhu. The concept for the video was really based on a group of people sneaking up to a rooftop for a party and dancing to their favourite track. I did not want a cheesy story line, I just wanted it to represent what the song was about which is letting the music take over.
We got to ask, what would your dream car be?
A convertible Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. I love the car love the slogan,
“live without limits”.
How can our readers get hold of your tracks?
They are available on iTunes and on the MTN and Vodacom networks for download. We are working on physical distribution of the album but Vanilla House is generally available for sale at all of my gigs.
Thank you for the opportunity to interview you, any shout outs or special thanks?
Thank you to every radio station for every single play of my tracks. Fay Abdullah of HoiPolloi Hair Design. Fay believed in me so much that she started sponsoring me two years ago and has helped me build my brand and look by providing me with a full sponsorship for my hair. Thanks to all the people who have supported me along the way, I have accumulated some pretty awesome supporters on social media and I love your inbox’s, posts and messages. You are the reason I keep on keeping on.
Interviewed by Deshni