When we think of singer-songwriters, the most common image that comes to mind is a hipster-esque man or woman with a hat, plenty of scarves, and guitar on their back. Enter Greg Holden. The New York-based, Scottish-born singer-songwriter is breaking down all of the stereotypes, one record at a time. You may recall Greg as one of the minds behind Phillip Phillips’ breakout single, “Home,” or even for his own song “She’s Got Something” being featured on a Target commercial. However, Greg Holden is set to be a household name, with charming, clever new tracks on his upcoming album, Chase The Sun, which is set for release on April 14th, as well as a spring tour with Delta Rae and a summer run with Ingrid Michaelson.
Amidst the madness, Greg Holden sat down with Planet Stereo to talk about the new album, touring, and breaking stereotypes.
Planet Stereo: Chase the Sun is Warner Bros. debut. One week until release.
Greg Holden: Yeah, less than a week. Six days.
PS: Are you excited?
GH: Yeah, very.
PS: How do you think that this is going to different than your other albums, other than, of course, record label involvement?
GH: Well, this album is a lot more positive, so I hope more people will be able to pull something from it. The last one was very self-involved and a lot of finger pointing. This one is more open and kind of open to interpretation for the listener and I’m excited to see how people react to it. I’m nervous too.
PS: I can’t blame you. It must be nerve wracking to put out such personal material. Do you find that you’re a very personal songwriter?
GH: Absolutely. You know, I draw a lot of my influences from songwriters who are very personal, like Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, all those guys are very personal songwriters and you know, that’s definitely influenced my music. I almost find it more difficult — in fact, I do find it more difficult to write songs that aren’t personal.
PS: Do you find that, at shows, people come up a lot and say, “Oh, I can relate to that,” or just that they’ve been through similar experiences?
GH: Definitely. Especially with the new songs, I’m getting more reactions from people in terms of people telling me their personal experiences. One of the most profound ones was when I was in Florida. I played one of my new songs, “Boys In The Street,” and a kid came up to me and said he didn’t kill himself because of that song, which was the most…I mean, I didn’t know what to say, you know? When someone says something like that to you, it’s…you don’t know how to handle that.
PS: Yeah, I would imagine you just kind of freeze.
GH: Yeah…you’re like, “Okay, well, I’m very glad you’re alive! [laughs] And I’m very glad I wrote this song.”
PS: You said the album was heavily influenced by your travels…
GH: Yeah, I took a trip to India like, two years ago, because I needed something to reignite my songwriting process, because it had kind of fallen into a hole. I knew that going somewhere extreme like India or the Himalayas would do something to me, and I didn’t know what that would be. But what it did do was give me a whole new perspective on my life, and my opportunities, and how fortunate I am to be doing what I’m doing, so the album was heavily influenced by that experience.
PS: Speaking of traveling, I am curious, as you’ve toured all over, what crowd do you find to be the most extreme/the wildest?
GH: The wildest? I think the American crowds. In Europe, everyone’s kind of well-behaved, they’ll sit and listen, and clap accordingly, but in America, they’re a bit more wild, especially when getting down to New Orleans and Texas. It’s awesome.
PS: I’m based in Florida, so I totally get that, especially when you go to House of Blues. The people are already hopped up because they’re in Disney!
GH: Yeah, right, especially if you’re there on like, a weekend in Florida, when everybody’s drinking. They go nuts. Then you’re really in for it.
PS: So you were originally born in Scotland, but you moved from England to New York?
GH: Yeah, I’ve been in New York for six years now.
PS: And how are you finding it in comparison to your British roots?
GH: Well, it’s been so long now, it’s like, this is my life. It’s hard to remember what my old life was like in England. When I was living there, I had a job and worked everyday, and wasn’t making money from music, and then, I moved to New York kind of to give myself that element of fear that I thought would push me to make music my living. When I moved here, I quit everything in England, and when I got here, my only choice was to make money on music, so, it’s a whole different life here.
PS: It obviously worked.
GH: Yeah, I guess it did [laughs]. You know, you’ve got to jump if you want to learn how to fly.
PS: Has being with a big label like Warner Bros. changed how your perspective of the music industry, or are you still looking at it the same way?
GH: I’m still looking at it the same way. I’m seeing a bigger picture, certainly, but I spent a lot of time being independent through choice because I was waiting for the right label, and I had my choices, but I looked at my options. I found that when I spoke to the people at Warner, they just seemed to believe in what I was trying to do, so nothing has really changed in terms of how much freedom I have or what kind of music I want to put in. I still have the control I had before, I just have more support, which is very fortunate.
PS: A lot of artists really fear big labels, because they’re scared of that loss of control. What would you say to the artists that feel that way?
GH: They’re scared for a reason, and I don’t disagree with them. I mean, I was very fortunate to fall into the hands of Warner Brothers, but not all labels are like they are. The only thing I would probably say is, and it’s easier said than done, but try and control as much as you can going in. I mean, you know, I actually made Chase The Sun before I signed with Warner Brothers, so I’d already made the record, I’d already written the songs, and recorded everything, so it was easy for me to go in, and be like, “Do you wanna do this?” [laughs] A lot of bands aren’t in that boat or that position of power, so they are told what songs to put on the album, or pushed to go in a certain direction. I just feel very lucky that I was in the situation that I was when I signed with Warner Brothers.
PS: And you’re also about to go on tour, which I assume will be crazy.
GH: I can’t wait. I love touring. That’s the whole reason I wanted to be a musician, to play music for people. I love it. I’m so excited to go out with Delta Rae and I’m excited to go out with Ingrid Michaelson in June.
PS: What dates are you looking forward to the most? Is there a place that you haven’t been that you’re excited to visit?
GH: Well, we’re playing with Ingrid Michaelson in June at The Greek Theatre in LA, which is kind of one of the like life goals. It’s one of the most beautiful venues in the world. I wake up every morning and think about what it’s gonna be like to play that show [laughs].
PS: Just kind of imagine it all, right? [laughs]
GH: Yeah, that places holds like 5 or 6,000 people I think. I’m just kind of like, ‘Oh my god. That’s gonna be so amazing.’
PS: With such a busy schedule, I mean, you’re touring, you’re writing, life gets in the way, etc., how do you find the time to write?
GH: [laughs] Good question! Honestly, because I’ve never had a label behind me post-album release, I don’t know yet. Because, you know, the label’s going to make sure I’m busy, and then they’ll want another album, and I don’t know when that’s going to happen, because it’s never happened this way before. But you know, I’m one of those people that don’t really write while I’m on the move. Once I stop moving, I need to take some time to clear my head, and write more music. Hopefully, my label will be kind enough to understand that once this album cycle’s done, I’ll disappear somewhere [laughs].
PS: Go to like, a cabin in the woods?
GH: Yeah, or like, India again. Go to a cabin or something, and like hideaway to write an album. Only time will tell, I guess.
PS: I’m just going to be curious as to “Where did he go?” [laughs]
GH: Yeah, I’ll just be that illusive guy that disappears after every album. [laughs]
PS: When you’re looking at the music industry now, especially with social media, which I know you utilize and talk to your fans, which do you find to be more important: quality or like-ability?
GH: Quality, absolutely. For me, I’ve always been about less is more, quality versus quantity, you know, all those cliche` statements. I think there is something to be said about being selective about what you put out there musically and in terms of content. I always have people telling me, “Oh, you need to put out more content, we need more content,” and I don’t agree [laughs]. I really don’t. I mean, I think that putting something out there for the sake of it is going to be damaging. It’s more important to really be aware of what you’re putting out there, and putting out less of it. I put out YouTube video after YouTube video of song after song, and it’s a learning process, because I regret that now, because I put out crap [laughs]. For me, it’s all about learning throughout your career to do a good job with what you’re doing.
PS: Speaking of content, and what’s being put out there, I’m genuinely curious, what was the first album that you every bought?
GH: Dookie by Green Day.
GH: Yeah, the first song I ever learnt on guitar was “Time of Your Life,” by Green Day. I’m an absolutely massive Green Day fan.
PS: Oh my gosh, I am genuinely surprised. I pegged you as like a Beatles guy or something.
GH: Don’t get me wrong, I started listening to Bob Dylan and The Beatles, and all that stuff, but for me, I was more into punk and metal in the beginning, and I still am. I still listen to punk and metal. The Bronx is one of my favorite bands. I have this singer-songwriter vibe, but I listen to a lot of heavier stuff.
PS: I’m sorry, I’m just genuinely surprised [laughs].
GH: [laughs] That’s funny. I bet you expected me to be like, “Oh yeah, you know, I’m a big Damien Rice fan, and I love him…”
PS: Yeah, I did, truthfully.
GH: And them I’m just like, “Yeah, you know, I’m more into, like, Every Time I Die, and The Bronx.” [laughs]
PS: Now that you’ve rendered me completely speechless, I only have one question left for you.
GH: That’s really funny. Go ahead.
PS: If this was your last interview, your last words ever spoken to another human being, what would you want them to be?
GH: Oh my God…
PS: I’m not threatening to kill you, by the way, just so that we’re clear.
GH: [laughs] I know, I was like, “Did you plant a bomb in my apartment? Is that what this is?”
PS: [laughs] Oh, God. That’s horrible.
GH: Um…my last words…[sighs]. Be kind to others. Yeah, I mean, that’s it. Be kind to others. Fuck it, they’re my last words!
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