Like our recently profiled Haley Bonar, Jolie Holland recently side stepped slightly from the Americana she’s best known for. Jolie Holland’s latest, at times, puts a rambunctious, aggressively punk spin on country and the blues, and at others, a delectably primal and raw spin on soul. But it can also be quite lovely in a very lo-fi way. I would venture to say her currently closest musical peers would be Heartless Bastards, however Holland would seem to have more credibility as both an intellectual and a badass. The album, which Holland produced herself, is Wine Dark Sea and it is out next Tuesday, May 20th, on Anti-Records. Ms. Holland has been playing some local shows around her own Brooklyn, but mid-June she will hit the road, with a June 21st stop at MilkBoy. She recently took some time to chat with me about the influences behind her latest sounds and the tenth anniversary of her solo debut, in addition to sharing a ludicrously endearing store about an encounter with one of her heroes at our very own World Café Live.
Izzy Cihak: This year is the tenth anniversary of your first solo studio album. I hate to start with a huge question, but what have been the highlights of your musical career over the past decade?
Jolie Holland: Yeah, that’s a big one to bite off. I’ll say that as an unschooled musician, it’s been amazing for me that my music has come to the attention of some of my heroes. Basically, feedback from my heroes is the only education I’ve received. I got to open up for Willie Nelson, who said some very kind things about my music. One of my favorite writers, Nick Tosches, said some beautiful things about my new record. Bob Dylan said my name and played some of my songs on his radio show. That said, of course I’m a struggling artist, but it’s so gratifying to have these shreds of recognition from one’s heroes.
Izzy: Since this is a Philadelphia-based publication, I have to ask: What are your thoughts on the city? Any favorite memories?
Jolie: I’ve had a great time in Philly. I got to open up for my hero Mavis Staples there at the World Cafe. She kissed me after the show. I drove all the way home to Brooklyn with her lipstick smooch on my face. I carefully wiped the kiss off on a pristine white lace antique handkerchief, and I keep it in a beautiful, hand-painted Japanese teapot.
Izzy: You’re about to release Wine Dark Sea. How do you think the album compares to previous releases, both sonically and in regards to the writing and recording process? It sounds a bit different from a lot of your previous work.
Jolie: It’s improper for an artist to muse self-consciously upon their own work. But I will say that the band is larger. There are two full drum sets on every song. And often four electric guitars played and recorded live at once.
Izzy: What would you consider to be the album’s most significant influences?
Jolie: Nina Simone, Lou Reed, Ethiopian saxophonists, backwoods Rastafarian horn ensembles, John Cage, Cy Twombly, Homer, Blind Willie MacTell, Zora Neale Hurston, Tom Waits, traditional Malian music, Dante Alighieri, and the great American religious syncretist, Sallie Ann Glassman are a handful of the relevant “influences.”
Izzy: You’re playing a bunch of dates with Shy Hunters, who I totally love, in the near future. How did that come about and what do you think of the Brooklyn duo?
Jolie: I’m so glad to hear you love them. I love their band. Shy Hunters are very dear friends of mine. Indigo Street named the band after one of my favorite books, In The City Of Shy Hunters, by Tom Spanbauer. I kept telling her about the book because it’s a great portrait of underground art scenes in 1980s New York, and Indi is a fantastic artist from Manhattan who is just old enough to have been exposed to some of that world. She named the band based on my raving even before she read the book. Sam Levin, their drummer, has been part of my live band. Indigo Street has been in my band for years. Their newest member, Nick Jozwiak, plays with me sometimes as well. They’re a stunning band, and all wonderful musicians, individually and collectively.
Izzy: You’re going to be playing Philly in June at Milkboy. What can we expect of your live set this time around? I’m picturing something a little different from previous tours.
Jolie: We’re a bit loud, and the music is deeply interactive amongst the players.
Izzy: And what do you have planned for the second half of 2014?
Jolie: Touring like a motherfucker.