You may already be familiar with Holly Brook although might not have known who she was. Holly was a featured vocalist on a song from the Fort Minor record. Mike Shinoda, of Linkin Park, tapped Holly to sing on the song "Where'd You Go" which has found success on stations across the country. Now she's stepping out on her own with the release of her debut CD, Like Blood, Like Honey. I spoke with Holly last week to find out about her musical background and how she came to make this CD.
antiMUSIC: Got your record last week and this is gorgeous record, so congrats. For those of us that aren't familiar with you, can you bring us up to speed on who Holly Brook is and what your musical history is about?
Holly Brook: Oh thank you. I'm Holly Brooks and that is my first and middle names. I'm from a small town in Wisconsin, and I started performing with my mom when I was 6. We had a children's music group, just me and her; kids songs and folks songs and made 3 albums independently. When I was about 14 I started writing my own music. Started to pursue it as my career. When I was 16 I came up to L.A. and went to a music convention and met some people. Then came back out when I was 17 and basically moved out here to pursue music. And that's the gist.
antiMUSIC: Tell us about how the album came about. How long have you been working on it?
Holly Brook: Well after I moved out here I met Jon Ingoldsby who produced it and he is probably one of the first people I met here who I started working with and we hit it off right away. So he and I wrote a bunch of songs. The oldest song on the record, "What I Wouldn't Do" is by me and him, and my sister and then we just kept writing as many songs as we could. And then I found a manager and he worked with the manager of Linkin Park, and gave them a copy of my demo at the time. They loved it and wanted to sign me. I found them almost two years ago and the record's been done since August. and we've just been waiting for the right time to put it out.
antiMUSIC: Do some of the songs stretch back further than when you first got back to L.A. or were all of the written for…
Holly Brook: No, all of them have been written in the past two years. The oldest song is two years old. When I first came out here I was just learning how to write songs, I had a lot of really fresh ideas but I didn't really know how to put them into a song, I didn't know how to build a proper song. That was something Jon Ingoldsby helped me with. He showed me how to do that.
antiMUSIC: You have significant recording experience in the past but what was this first solo excursion in the studio like for you?
Holly Brook: I think it's my favourite part of… it's been my favourite part about music so far. It's really personal because it's a song written by me, and then I go in the studio and I get to experiment with them and try everything I've learned on them, which is the most creative part of being an artist I think.
antiMUSIC: What was it like going into a studio at the age of six? Was it tedious for you to wait for things to be set up or to do retakes, etc, or was it a career-affirming experience?
Holly Brook: The first time I was actually doing background for somebody, and I was five. (laughs) So that was actually the first studio experience I had. I was singing background for a children's singer/songwriter and then, so then recording my own stuff was nothing new, it was just a really fun experience
antiMUSIC: Do you like the process of recording or is it a stressful exercise?
Holly Brook: Laughs, both! The only time I think its stressful is when I have people's opinion, like the record company's opinion or people I don't know, people giving their opinion that I don't want to hear (laughs) like I don't know, I just want to make my art, and that's it. It's like, if someone were to step in while you're painting a picture and they say, "Well I think you should add a little blue right there"…I feel awkward.
antiMUSIC: Could you tell us a little about a couple of the songs on the record, like "What I Wouldn't Give"? What's that about?
Holly Brook: Yeah, that's a good one. It's a song about when I first moved to L.A., and I was living in Venice Beach and with an old rock star. I don't know how it exactly happened. I was living in the back of his house and he was like a drug addict, and he was bringing prostitutes home and it was a very depressing environment. He was kind of abusive, mentally, so I was just going through a really hard time and the person I was living with at the time was kind of filling the role as a manager. So what the song is about is just I wish I could have…I just wanted to remember how to live again because I wasn't enjoying my life at the time, I wanted to go home to Wisconsin again where everybody was nice, you know. But that wouldn't have gotten me anywhere so I just had to deal with it, so the song's about, it says what I couldn't give to forget, so that I can remember how to live again.
antiMUSIC: The first cut, "Giving It Up For You", what's that about?:
Holly Brook: That songs is more fun, it's about...people might think it's about a person but it's actually about my music and my career, how I gave up a lot of stuff just to pursue music.
antiMUSIC: How did you connect with Jon Ingoldsby and what is it that makes him a compatible writing partner and producer?
Holly Brook: Well the first person I met here was actually that person who ended up being a sleezeball, so Jon was the second person I met. It's like a chemistry we have, really like a musical chemistry that we have that I've never experienced before. We just understand each other, and complement each and push each other to do better.
antiMUSIC: One of those things that hard to describe sometimes.
Holly Brook: Yeah, it's weird. It's like meeting your soul-mate...you don't know how to explain it. It's just something that happens. It's a chemistry that you can't deny.
antiMUSIC: It seems to me that there is such a relaxed, organic feel about this record. Do you think that has anything to do with your upbringing in Wisconsin? Is there a home-town influence?
Holly Brook: Yeah. My mother used to play Joni Mitchell records so some of it comes from her. And Bob Dylan. So I just wanted to record my music based on the songs and not the production. And then I came to Los Angeles and there were all these people like Christina Aguilera whose songs were just so over-produced. Very pop. And grid-ed to a click track. So it was good for me to experience that because it made me realise what I didn't want to do. So when it came time to record my album, Jon and I decided that it would be really cool if we could just let the songs speak for themselves, and have the instrumentation support that, and support the vocal and keep it really simple.
antiMUSIC: How did you first become involved with the Fort Minor song? What was your involvement?
Holly Brook: Well Linkin Park signed me to their label so I'm on Machine Shop Recordings which is a sub label of Warner Brothers. So Mike Shinoda from Linkin Park called me up one day and asked if I'd come in and sing on some songs he was doing. I really didn't think much of it, and I said "Yeah I'll do it." And I went over there and spent about half an hour in the studio and a couple of months later, they said, "We're going to make the song a single" and I said "Okay." (laughs).
antiMUSIC: Talked you into it.
Holly Brook: Yeah. So it was a good thing. And it's starting to get picked up by radio around.
antiMUSIC: It's a really good song….no doubt it will become big. Did you write your part?
Holly Brook: I didn't. I just came in and sang. He had his own band and was sitting around and said "Oh I need a girl to sing this. It sounds stupid when I sing it."
antiMUSIC: Less stress for you just come in and sing and leave.
Holly Brook: Yup. It was that easy.
antiMUSIC: At 15, you were in your first band and playing bars. Did this help cement what you wanted to do with your life? What sort of stuff were you playing at this time?
Holly Brook: Yeah. I always knew that I wanted to do music. It was never a question. But I wasn't sure in what form. I was in musicals when I was younger and I thought maybe I wanted to be on Broadway. Then I did some stuff that was cool but not what I wanted to do. And that's when I get the opportunity to go to LA and met some songwriters and stuff and kind of figured out what I wanted to do.
antiMUSIC: Your videos show you playing a variety of instruments. How and when did you learn the lap dulcimer? You play piano and guitar.
Holly Brook: Yeah, my mom had one around the house because she plays music with the other woman who's been brought up in the Rocky Mountains and that's where the instrument originates. So she just had one around the house. I never really taught how to play it. There were always guitars around the house. I'd just play it when I was bored. Piano I was formally trained in.
antiMUSIC: Anything else you play?
Holly Brook: No (laughs) that's about it. I played trumpet in school once because I joined band because a cute boy played trumpet too. And I was really bad at trumpet.
antiMUSIC: Especially in "Heavy", I can hear a strong resemblance to Joni Mitchell. I understand she is one of your influences. What is it about her that appeals to you?
Holly Brook: Well her poetry for one. She writes songs that really say something; it may have been said before but she says it in such a unique way that's really inspiring. Her chords are really deep and really emotional to me. She's basically the type of artist I strive to be.
antiMUSIC: Who else do you listen on a regular basis?
Holly Brook: ? new bands I listen to Death Cab For Cutie and Fiona Apple's new record. I listen to Sarah McLachlan and Tori Amos….lots of stuff.
antiMUSIC: What's the significance of the CD title?
Holly Brook: Like Blood, Like Honey is the title of the first song on the record. It talks about love being thick like honey. It's a good description of my record that it's deep and rich.
antiMUSIC: What does 2006 and beyond hold for you?
Holly Brook: I don't know.
antiMUSIC: You're touring shortly I imagine?
Holly Brook: I toured with Fort Minor for awhile. I went to Australia which was awesome. I've never been out of the country before. And then I also did a bunch of my own shows in between. Just got off the road from that. And then we're just keep on getting my own tour dates, and doing more press and try to really get this record out.
antiMUSIC: Anything else you would like to tell us about the record or yourself we should know?
Holly Brook: No. I think that about covers it.
antiMUSIC and Morley Seaver thank Holly Brook for the interview.