An Interview With Holly Palmer

28 Apr
So here is something extra special. For any of you who have followed Teases and Dares from the beginning or who already knew me as an internet music buddy prior to the blog, you’ll know one of my all time most championed artists is Holly Palmer. Earlier this year Holly released a stunning and entirely unique new record called ‘A Family Album’. There’s quite a story behind the making of this record and I’m beyond thrilled that Holly granted me the chance to do an in depth interview about what she’s been up to and to give you the scoop on the new album.
Holly it’s an honour to chat with you about your very special new album ‘A Family Album’. It would be fair to say it’s been a while between records but you have been super busy raising your son Maceo who is really front and centre subject wise on this record. Can you tell us a little about the themes running through the record?
‘A Family Album’ is about finding joy in unexpected places with the people you love. My son was born with a brain injury due to a lack of oxygen resulting in a diagnosis of cerebral palsy and many physical challenges. The first couple of years after he was born were arduous as we tried to figure out how to take care of our guy. Today Maceo is an vibrant, music loving ten year old and challenges notwithstanding – we have always had a lot of fun at our house and listen to a LOT of music. When Maceo was two, I reconnected with a friend and songwriting partner of mine named Pete Glenister. We’d been out of touch for a few years and when he asked me what I was up to, I told him about Maceo and what we were working on every day. When he said he’d like to write songs about that, I thought he was crazy. “No one wants to hear about this stuff,” I said. “Yes, I think they do”, he said. “There’s so much joy in your experience that people would never know unless you share it”.  After I got used to the idea, I realised that he might be right and that actually my family and what was going on at our house was the only thing I could sing about.
Does Maceo have a favourite track from the record and if so which one and why?!
It’s hard to say. Maceo’s tastes change often and he’s the most opinionated person about music I’ve ever met! When he loves something, it’s all he wants to listen to and then suddenly he’s done and looking for the next thing to fall in love with.  As I was making the album, some songs he’d like right away and then later not so much – while with others, it would take a few listens before he was in but then when was in, he was IN. ‘Middle of a Miracle’, ‘Family’ and ‘We Love’ are some that he loved right off the bat.
It’s a real family affair with your husband Joe doing the art direction for the record. Is there a plan for any visuals and will Joe be involved with those?
It is a family affair! Joe has a unique and beautiful aesthetic and is the art director / designer around our house. The only thing he didn’t do on the album were the lyric videos for ‘Family’ and ‘High Heel Boots’. But Joe was instrumental on those too, working with me to create assets, colour palette and mood boards to get the designers going in the right direction. 
Holly promo
As you mention, you produced the record with London’s very own Pete Glenister – can you tell us a little about the recording and production process Transatlantically speaking!?
We wrote the album over Skype over about six years. We’d have long chats about what we were going for style wise and I’d send him lyrics and music ideas recorded on my phone. Some of which I’d worked out on piano, and some words and melodies sung into the air. He’d work on those on his  end and every few weeks or so, we’d have a Skype session and  put things together. When we had enough songs to make it worth the trip, I’d head over to his place in London and we’d record either at his studio in town, or at his house. During the second half of the album process, he’d come to LA and we’d work with another friend of mine, Charlton Pettus at his studio in LA. Because we were forced to take our time due to distance and circumstance, I think time allowed us tell a more complete story than we would otherwise. New things would happen or I’d realise for instance, that I had a number of songs coming from a certain angle, and that I wanted to balance that with songs from another perspective. I wouldn’t have predicted it would take six years! But in the end, I think it happened the way it was supposed to.
You know we have been with you from your very first album and along for the ride ever since. Other than the new album which song and which album from your back catalogue do you favour and why? You don’t need me to tell you again how ‘Tender Hooks’ is in my all time best of list!
Yes! I am honored that you’ve been with me all this time!  Thank you. Shepherd’s Bush Empire, right? Was I opening for Paula Cole or Shawn Colvin at that show? I know that’s where we crossed paths first but wasn’t sure which night.  And I actually think it was Robin Macatangay, my guitar player who got to meet you that night and he came back and said “I met this great guy after the show, his name is Lee Bennett”. I can still l hear him saying it. Funny how a moment stays with you like that. Lovely to look back on it now. I love that ‘Tender Hooks’ is on your all time best list.  Haven’t thought about it much but first song that comes to mind as a possible favourite song from past albums is ‘That’s Why They Call It Rome’ from ‘Songs for Tuesday’.  It was one of those songs that seemed to write itself. I wrote words very quickly and was thinking about Willie Nelson’s ‘Crazy’ when I wrote the music. I know ‘Rome’ sounds nothing like that classic song – but I remember the feeling of wanting to create something that simple, pure and true. That was a musical/lyrical desire that has worked on me for a long time – that feeling that ‘Crazy’ gives me. Another song where ‘Crazy’ was in the air as I wrote it is ‘The Hundredth Time’ written with Allee Willis, off of ‘I Confess’.  And funnily enough, even though they don’t sound like ‘Crazy’ at all, those are the two of my songs I might feel the most for.
Behind the scenes you have all kinds of other creative roles – from TV advert music, vocal coaching and of course playing live with some amazing artists. Which of your other ventures has been the most fun and the most fulfilling – and anything coming up in the pipeline?
I do many different things as you mentioned and I love it all. Getting to use my voice and music to earn a living and provide for my family is something I do not take for granted. There was a time after Maceo was born when I wondered if I would be able to continue being a singer. But my son has reconnected me with music in a way that I was not connected before. While I’ve been working with Maceo to help him find his voice, he seems to have returned my voice to me – and I get to use that voice to advocate for him.  My most fun and fulfilling project is being Maceo’s mom.  
Next up in the pipeline is a new jazz album that I made with my friend Cuong Vu. It’s called ‘After Hours’ and is a concept album about the thoughts of a woman alone in her apartment with her thoughts and a bottle of wine. The music is reimagined classics from the American Songbook, pop music from the 70s and 80s with a track each in French and Portuguese for good measure. Look out for that this summer.
Being such an incredible songwriter yourself are there any new young talents on the music scene you would like to write for or collaborate with – we think Dresage (aka Keeley Bumford) would be a great collaboration (she went to Berklee too!)?
Keeley is so great! We met here in LA workshopping a new musical by the songwriter Anne Preven. It was a fantastic experience – Keeley is such a unique and beautiful singer. Maybe we’ll write something one of these days, you never know! I just wrote a song with three other fab female artists the other day. The artist named MLCK, Lucy Schwartz and London’s own Michelle Featherstone and I all met volunteering with Writegirl, an organisation which teaches writing to at-risk youth in Los Angeles. We had such a good time together that we decided to keep it going and write something as a group. We got together a few weeks ago, had an amazing day and wrote something we love.
We last saw you play live at the 100 Club in London back at the time of ‘Songs For Tuesday’ – any chance we might get to see you back on our shores in 2019?
I hope so! I will keep you posted!
Teases and Dares would like to say a huge thank you to Holly for giving up her time to do this interview. ‘A Family Album’ is available to stream and buy everywhere right now.
Holly cover
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