Sunday, October 4, 2020

 Marshall Holland is a new discovery for me, and a welcome one. Modern power pop is very expansive, one of many subcultures that thrive even more on the net, so there's a lot that's new to explore and like. This artist is one to like a lot.


Marshall was kind enough to answer a few questions.


Andrea Weiss: For those who dont know your work, could you give us a history?


Marshall Holland: I'm a multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter based in the San Francisco Bay area. I've written and produced my own instrumentals and radio-friendly tunes; genres from classical, electronica to Americana and pop/rock, in which the latter I'm more known for.


Self-taught musician starting at the age of 2, starting writing songs at 9, and in high school and college I played various rhythm section instruments in the Jazz Band, mostly guitar, bass and drums. Was even awarded the Louis Armstrong Jazz Award and various soloist awards while playing in jazz festivals.


I have a new indie pop album, “Paper Airplane,” just released earlier this September, and it's my fifth full length that I wrote and recorded during the pandemic lockdown, and it has been said gives a nod to bands like The Monkees, America, The Left Banke, and even UK New Wave. My last album, “Marshall Holland and the Etceteras,” was an unexpected hit for me, as it reached the #2 spot on KALX and had heavy rotation on KZSU, as well as getting mass (underground) attention around the globe. I'm still not sure how it happened, as it did so very quickly and organically with very little promotion. I did, however, strategically name the album “and the Etceteras,” as I had a feeling people would pay more attention to a name that sounds like group than just a name of a solo artist, but the proof is in the pudding, as I got a large following from it.


Sadly, because I released that album while I was between jobs and also had the mental real estate available to give it my full attention, much of that fan base left somewhere, as I had been absent from it all for 6 years after acquiring full time employment as well as suffering from medical issues. I was still writing and recording music for myself during those years, but I just didn't have the mental energy to release music then, but I'm back now! Hello world!



AW: Who are your influences?


MH: Good question, and I don't know how to give a straight answer at this moment, as I have always had an eclectic taste in music and can gravitate, listen to, and absorb a genre for a few days or for months and then switch to something else as my mood sees fit. I'm a sponge with a short attention span (no relation to any cartoon characters). I grew up in a family of music lovers and musicians who also listened to and were open to all types of music.


There are artists and bands I admire and I could say they are my influences, but sometimes I think that can calcify an artist or band into being almost gimmicky, so I want to be careful admitting. I do admire the Beatles and Elvis Costello a ton, of course, but a band like the Beatles is just a default these days for most people in my genre. Before writing and recording this album I was in the mood for The Cowsills, Paul McCartney/Wings, Partridge Family, The Monkees, The Association, The Left Banke, Chamaeleon Church (a psychedelic band Chevy Chase plays drums in) and just a ton of 60s, 70s, even 80s New Wave playlists all on random. It just felt good to hear this music, especially during the depressing pandemic lockdown.



AW: Some of your songs, like She Buys a Dress,” are about empowerment, which is great. What is it about that subject that lends itself to songs? 


MH: If I feel subjects to a song can hold their own weight and energy, it sometimes triggers me and grabs my attention to motivate me to start writing and finishing the song. With this song I literally woke up one morning with the line in my head “She Buys a dress to match with her pink belt,” and it was because of that curious phrase I was inspired into making it a song.



AW: “Waiting For That Peace & Love” is wonderful. Do you find that its needed even more now? 


MH: Thank you. I think peace and love is our forgotten default and it will always be there if we just learn to tap into it; however, it's because we fall into blinding ourselves and getting influenced by issues opposite of “peace and love.” Peace and love is not anything we have to acquire or strive for; we just need be aware of the negativity that we consume ourselves with and peace will fall back into place--mediation (and voting!) can help with that!



AW: Lets Active, in particular, seems to be a big influence. Is that so?


MH: Good question. Not specifically, but I'm very much moved by heavy melodies and songs with guitars. There's so much music that I love that it would be a crime to single them out, but I'm really drawn to catchy tunes like the ones Let's Active has.



AW: Some of the songs here, like Our Fate,” seem to be political. Do you find political songs are needed now?


MH: Indeed, these are heavy and powerful times, so having artwork or music that's inspired by our environment, social voices, or the energy of what's happening now is just too hard to avoid, especially today.



AW: I like your guitar playing. Its very much jangle pop, which so many experiment with. Do you like to experiment, or do you aim for something more straightforward with your music?


MH: Thank you! These are wonderful questions, by the way. I do like to experiment but I also try not to aim too hard to reinvent the wheel, so to speak, where no one can relate to it. I love improvising and getting inspired by what comes out of nowhere just for the sake that I felt like it. In fact, I think Brian Eno said something like, “Inspiration comes only while you're working.”


Although it's probably hard to hear it , but many parts recorded were improvised or just came out quickly and I kept it in. I like my “experimentations” to compliment the songs however, not the other way around, or it can make most people just go “huh?”. Some would argue, but I think experimentations are incidents that are somewhat forced; in other words, experimentations are made for the sake of being experimental, so are they genuine? It's not a bad thing, but in my mind it's a scientific approach to reach a destination, so to speak, but improvising comes from the soul I believe. For example, turning a knob or playing a note to reach a different outcome is an experimentation, but improvisation would be that you did it because you just felt like it at that moment and you have no idea where it's going to take you next and you go with the flow. I digress...I was “going with the flow” in my answer--Haha! To answer your question, both. :-)



AW: What advice would you give someone just starting out in music?


MH: Do it because it makes you feel good, and practice using your ear. Reading music is a good skill to have but the ear is an amazing tool that should not be ignored. Practice improvising. Learn songs by ear, and don't worry about being a master at an instrument, learn to play anything you can get your hands on (use your ear). Don't worry about doing it the proper way at first, but also learn from others more accomplished, if you can, and just have an open mind. Have fun at first and worry about being serious later. Learning while having fun is the best approach.

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