Jolie Holland: “Alive”

The last time Jolie Holland played Philly (at Milkboy) was her both most intimate and badass appearance in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection in quite some...

The last time Jolie Holland played Philly (at Milkboy) was her both most intimate and badass appearance in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection in quite some time.  Holland was supporting the 2014 release of Wine Dark Sea, an album that saw the artist, best known as an Americana musician, exploring her affection for the noisiness of punk and rawness of the best kind of soul, something louder than her back catalogue had previously produced.  Jolie Holland has been touring the songs of her latest album for nearly a year now and she’s about to kick off a tour as the support act for locally-raised [but Johannesburg-born] Gregory Alan Isakov, which will have her playing Union Transfer this coming Tuesday, April 7th.  I recently got a chance to chat with her about her time spreading her most recent sounds.

Jolie Holland tells me that the best thing about the past year has been hearing the songs of Wine Dark Sea materialize and evolve in live settings.

“I just love to play the stuff.  I wrote the material with the band in mind and it’s a total pleasure to hear it every night.  The material, it’s challenging, so no one’s sleepwalking through the performances… not that I would have a band that did that [laughs].  We just played Frankfurt a couple weeks ago and it was ridiculous.  It was amazing.  It’s like they really needed our music.”

And while her audiences would seem to be the most important listeners, Holland tells me that she has also gotten very influential feedback on Wine Dark Sea from some particularly significant peers and heroes.

“A reaction that was really sweet for me was from a jazz piano player friend of mine, and I was explaining to him the concept of how I created the record and when he heard it he was totally surprised, even though I told him all about it.  He said, ‘It’s alive,’ which was a big deal from a musician I really respect and which means a lot.  But I’d also heard the same exact thing from Michael Hurley, who I was the biggest fan of and have gotten to work with.  He is in the Pacific Northwest now, but he’s been putting out records since the early ‘60s that I’ve always loved.  Cat Power covered a couple of his songs, which is probably the biggest mainstream exposure he’s gotten in recent years.  I was a Deadhead for him for like 10 years, like I only listened to Michael Hurley and when he heard the record he said, ‘It’s alive,’ so hearing that from two different people that I respect so much was really cool.”

Holland admits that she was unfamiliar with Gregory Alan Isakov prior to their pairing on tour, but that she was very enthusiastic about the idea of sharing his stage: “It’s so exciting, even though I had never heard his music before, but it turns out I was friends with his bass player and then I recently saw Patti Smith and she covered one of his songs, which was completely amazing, hearing her platinum-level band doing something that he wrote.”  And as for her set, Holland says that it will be a bit stripped-down from her headlining gigs: “You don’t get paid very much as a support act, so I can’t afford to bring my band.  I’m going out as a duo, with the occasional guest member who will join me on certain dates.”  And while these dates see Holland playing in some of the biggest rooms she’s played in a while, which she sounds very anxious to partake in, she’s also very excited to move on to her next sounds.  When I ask her what she has planned for 2015, she tells me, “I’m working on this new material for the next record.  I’m already planning that out.”


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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.