Holly Macve has been making a name in Americana circles with her unique vocal style. Born in Ireland and living most of her life in England, we think this young Americana artist is one to watch. She released her debut album, Golden Eagle, a couple years ago and began catching the attention of American audiences that same year, propelled by her NPR Tiny Desk Concert.
This year she’s been working on a new album that will release in 2020. And she just released “Another Day,” which is a live song she recorded with American record producer, musician and singer Tony Visconti. DittyTV Senior Editor Tim W. Jackson was able to touch base with the rising Americana star for another segment of Americana Around the World.
You’re in Brighton, right? And for our U.S. readers who are not particularly good with international geography, Brighton is on the coast directly south of London. How do you spend your time in the lovely seaside town of Brighton?
Yes! I spend a lot of my time in my flat where I have a home studio setup. I live with two other musicians so we’re often just in our own little worlds writing and working on our music… I love going to see live shows for inspiration and enjoy morning walks along the coast, that’s always a good way to start the day.
You are originally from Galway, Ireland, so what can you tell us about where you grew up and when you first started really becoming aware of music? Who were some of your first musical influences?
I was born in Ireland but spent most of my childhood in Yorkshire, England. It’s a beautiful and quiet place, there’s not a lot going on. It’s definitely a different pace to Brighton, time seems to move slower. My Grandad was a classical composer, and I spent a lot of my youth around him. He would teach me tunes on the piano and help me write pieces of music which was always fun. My mum plays and writes music also and is a great singer. I suppose because of this, music just seemed like a very natural thing for me to do. I never really questioned it. The first artists to really make an impact on me were Elvis and the Everly Brothers. From the age of around 4 I was obsessed. This came from my mother’s taste. The Everly brothers taught me how to harmonize.
What instrument did you pick up first, and what instruments do you play now?
Piano was my first instrument. It still is my instrument of choice and where I feel most at home. I always rebelled against learning to read music though and learned by ear, so I definitely play in my own style. I wish now that I’d taken theory more seriously. There’s still time I guess! I started learning guitar when I was around 11 to accompany my voice, and that is when I started writing, too. I’ve never really focused on improving my guitar playing, I’d love to be able to play lead better. I play a little bit of violin and flute also.
You have such a sweet, pure voice and a wonderful vocal style. Can you remember the time when it dawned on you that you had what it took to be a professional musician and vocalist?
I’m not sure there was ever a particular moment, I just always sang and wrote songs because it was what I loved doing and felt I was good at. I was lucky to have a really amazing, supportive music teacher in high school. Sometimes he would write me notes to get out of sports classes so I could practice in the music block. I went to music college at 16 so I suppose that was me taking it seriously and choosing it over everything else. I then had a manager approach me soon after and even though that didn’t turn out to be right in the end, it definitely helped me create a path and start thinking of it as a career.
You have recorded in the U.S. and played here some. What can you tell us about your experiences in the U.S.?
I have had so many great experiences in the U.S! I have often felt a big connection between myself and the audience and found people to really understand my music, which is cool. I suppose most of my influences come from the U.S. so there’s a lot of history that interests and excites me. I’m also a huge fan of the vastness of America and all of the different landscapes/climates. I find it so inspiring. I’d love to spend more time traveling around and exploring all the states I’ve not managed to visit yet.
You’re still so young and fairly new to the music business, but what goals do you have for your career?
I just hope to keep on writing music that means something to me and growing/learning every year. I have recently been getting more into recording and producing and this is definitely something I want to develop my skills in. Although I’m still young, I do think I’ve learned a lot about the music industry already. It can be very tough and cut throat. When things don’t go to plan it can hit you hard but there’s always a lesson to be learned, and you become clearer about what you do and don’t want in the future. I just want to be bold with my musical adventure and not be afraid of trying out new things. I’m not quite sure what’s ahead of me in terms of my career but I think the unknown can be an exciting prospect.
What can you tell us about the popularity of Americana music in the UK and Ireland?
Americana music is definitely popular in Ireland, I played an amazing festival once called Kilkenny Roots Festival and had such a great and warm reception. They had a lot of Americana acts playing from all over. There’s also still a lot of traditional Irish folk music being performed, which I love.
And who are some of your favorite acts there?
There’s some really great musicians in the Americana UK scene, C.J. Hillman (Billy Bragg, Kris Kristofferson) is an incredible pedal steel player and I’ve been very glad to work with him on a few things recently. Hmm, He’s not exactly Americana but I am a big Nick Cave fan. He is one of my favorite lyricists. We recorded some of my new music in a quaint little studio that he often uses and it has the most beautiful grand piano. He is also based here, I believe. I’ve not managed to bump into him on my morning walks yet, though.
And finally, tell us just a bit about the album you’ve been working on. Where was it recorded, who all was involved, and when can we expect it to be released?
This new album has been quite a journey, I wanted to do something a little more ambitious than my first album in terms of arrangements/instrumentation and experiment with a more expansive sound. I worked with a wonderful string arranger Fiona Brice on some songs which was a dream of mine. I took my time figuring out how I wanted to present all the songs and tried out lots of ideas. It’s been a big learning curve. I began the process in Bill Ryder-Jones’ Yawn Studios in Liverpool and went on to develop and co-produce the album with Max Kinghorn-Mills, who goes under the name Hollow Hand. The record has been mixed by an amazing engineer, Collin Dupuis, who’s based in Nashville and has worked on records such as Ultra Violence by Lana del Rey and Locked Down by Dr. John. I’m so excited to share what I have been working on for the past few years … you can expect to hear it in 2020!