Holly Miranda, Letting Herself Be Vulnerable

Holly Miranda has been recording and releasing music for more than a decade now and has been writing music for closer to two, both on her own and with...

Holly Miranda has been recording and releasing music for more than a decade now and has been writing music for closer to two, both on her own and with her now-defunct band The Jealous Girlfriends.  However, it had been quite a few years since we’d gotten a proper full-length from the indie singer/songwriter prior to her self-titled album, which hit shelves this spring.  The album follows-up 2010’s The Magician’s Private Library, an album which landed her as a support slot on tours for mega-acts like Tegan and Sara, the Xx, and Florence and the Machine, but then found her with writer’s block that she chalked up to the noisiness (literal and figurative, I suppose) of day-to-day life in LA, so she ran off to Joshua Tree to open the floodgates of her creativity.  The finished product, which she began recording in Brooklyn in 2012, is likely her most accomplished and eclectic to date. It often sounds like hyper-soulful, classic Americana balladry, but at times more like Southern-tinged Motor City soul, but it also boasts songs that could easily fall into the category of baroque pop and moments of ethereal transcendence akin to what we think of when we hear Angelo Badalamenti’s name.  Holly’s already toured the album a bit, hitting up Boot & Saddle this June (with our recent friend Hemming providing support), but she’s coming back on the road with something a little different and will be returning to Boot & Saddle on Wednesday, September 16th. She recently took some time to tell me about her latest album and her “return” of sorts to the world of music.

Izzy Cihak: So, since this is a Philadelphia-based publication, I’m curious your thoughts on the city.  Any particular favorite memories?  You’ve played here a number of times, both solo and with The Jealous Girlfriends.

Holly Miranda: I absolutely love Philly! I have spent quite a bit of time in the city outside of playing shows as well, I’m a big fan of your water ice, which really isn’t the same anywhere else. My favorite show there with The Jealous Girlfriends was probably opening for Nada Surf at Johnny Brenda’s. That was a fun night! I think you can tell a lot about a city by the audience, and Philly shows are always a blast. The last time I was there I played at Boot & Saddle solo and I’m really excited to bring the band back to play there again.

Izzy: And not to ask a huge question, but what have been some of the highlights since you once again chose to go solo in 2008?  You’ve played a lot of really big shows and achieved a lot of critical acclaim and seem to have an exceptionally dedicated group of fans.

Holly: Wow, well I’ve been really fortunate to get to meet and play alongside some of my heroes. I don’t know if that’s because I chose to “go solo,” I was always playing solo before and during the Jealous Girlfriends. One thing that stands out in my mind is when Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson invited me to play at the Sydney Opera house for a week as part of the Vivid Festival. That was pretty extraordinary! I’m not sure I fully could comprehend it at the time, but I do now. The other thing that comes to mind is the fact that I got to meet and get to know Leslie Gore the last year and half before she passed. I was musical directing a telethon for Lady Parts Justice, for women in Texas, and Leslie was our finale. She taught me a lot about nurturing the next generation and encouraging. She was really on me to get this new record out and not give up. I’ll miss her dearly, but feel so fortunate I got to know her the little bit that I did. What a force!

Izzy: There were a number of years between The Magician’s Private Library and your recent self-titled LP.  What do you consider to be the most significant differences than occurred in you as an artist over the past five years?

Holly I think artistically the main difference in this new album is that I co-produced it with engineer/studio owner Florent Barbier. It feels really bare and vulnerable musically, as compared to TMPL. I wanted to make a document of how my band sounds live more than layering on effects and reverb, sort of like those old records, before multitracking. We didn’t have the luxury of doing it live in one room, but that was how I wanted it to feel.

Izzy: How was the experience of writing the album out in Joshua Tree? Is there anything you feel that relocation really brought out in you that isn’t on previous releases?

Holly: I needed the expansiveness of the desert and that charged air to help me write. I encountered a real block after the last cycle, for many different reasons, and I needed to get away from people and a city to let myself be vulnerable. I’d never been to JT before that, but after it became a very healing place for me that I returned to often.

Izzy: Have you had any favorite reactions to the album, whether from critics, fans, audiences, or just friends and family?

Holly My favorite thing is when my friends send me videos of them in a public place where my song is playing over the radio or in the restaurant or the Starbucks. They are always genuinely very excited/surprised and it’s adorable!

Izzy: And how do you like being signed to Dangerbird?  Do you have any particular favorite labelmates?  I’m a big fan of Butch Walker and T. Hardy Morris?

Holly: I love Dangerbird! ha. Seriously, they rule so hard. I’ve had a number of record deals over the years and this is really the first time I feel supported by people who really like me and who get me. That is rare. Everyone I’ve met on the label has been awesome, and there are some friendships/collaborations coming out of it. Jesse Harris is amazing, as is Ume! Butch and T and the boys are incredible too!

Izzy: You’re about to kick off a tour and will be back here in Philly in the near future.  What can be expected of the live experience this time  around?

Holly: You can expect my full band to melt your face off and then try to scrape it off the ground and put it back on… Honestly, Maria Eisen on the bari sax is going to blow your mind, then we have Sharron Sulami (Pink Noise) coming over from Tel Aviv to play bass guitar, she is one of the sickest bassist I know. On top of that, Jeremy Wilms (guitar) and Dylan Fussilo (drums) of FELA! and many other projects, ridiculous players! The best shows to me are the ones that I may not remember all of it, the ones where you sort of leave your body at moments. It’s as spiritual an experience as I’ve ever had. Does that make sense? But then on the other side, sometimes its half comedy show. 🙂

Izzy: And finally, what’s next for you, after these live dates wrap?  Anything you’re especially excited to get to work on?

Holly: I have a few projects in the works, I’ve been working on songs for my next album since late last year in Portland with my friend Matthew Morgan. I’ve also been working on a graphic novel with Catherine Lazar Odell. I have plans to do some producing of other people’s music too. It’s very hard for me to sit still these days, I took the break I needed and now I just want to create. Guess who’s back?! 😉

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During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.