Singer/songwriter Holly Long has two hands, and she’s using them. She’s no princess, and she’s no queen. She’s just a straight up modern day musical artisan with a genuine love for the work and an impressive track record. Having crafted 5 albums over the past decade in her pop/rock/soul hybrid style with a string of top-shelf producers, Long communicates her passion and worldview with an evocative sound in league with Annie Lenox, Chrissie Hynde, and Carly Simon. It’s not just about the music, though. Much like for her chanteuse heroines, music is about connection and community. It’s where she finds herself, and how she makes her contribution to the world.
Still bearing the better parts of her Chicago-born savvy, she recalls how music first moved her. “I remember how a song could give voice to my moods and change how I felt when I was a kid. It could express the deep stuff that I didn’t know how to get out on my own, and it really transported me. It moved me, took me from one emotional place to another.” From piano lessons at age 7 to plays and musicals in high school, and right on through a move to Los Angeles to study Theater at UCLA and pursue a career as an actor and comedian, music transported her and connected her mind and soul. It was during this time that she began reaching for the piano and scribbled sheets of lyrics as a way of being creatively productive while waiting for the gatekeepers of the acting world to grant her admission.
The final push towards music, though, came when she was literally brought to death’s door in her twenties by endocarditis, an often-fatal heart infection. After waking from a week-long coma she began the process of learning to move and live again from scratch, and felt a movement in her away from acting and directly into music. What could have become a bitter and barren creative period was refashioned as the doorway to her future as a vital, tough, and compassionate singer/songwriter.
Like Jeff Buckley and Leonard Cohen before her, Holly’s songs and performances have a way of connecting the real with the ethereal, keeping one hand at work down here and the other reaching up to the sky. “That’s the way I want to live. I want to connect to the divine, and also keep it real in my own neighborhood.” Beginning with her debut album City Girl in 2000 and the Six Sided Woman EP in 2001, both produced by top producer/arranger Chris Horvath, her recording career has seen a steady ascent of recognition and success. With songs from City Girl and Six Sided Woman, she won 3rd place in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest of 2000, Honorable Mention in the 2001 USA Songwriting Contest, and kicked off a string of song placements on TV shows including Miami Medical and Passions, and the soundtracks of the Warner Brothers films Winning London and Our Lips Are Sealed, starring the Olsen Twins.
With Leaving Kansas, which was produced by one of Holly's closest colleagues, Anthony JW Benson, and engineered by the legend Ian Terry (David Bowie, Diana Krall), Holly's discography really started to grow with the same pace and passion as Holly herself. A few years later came Frequency, also produced by Benson and engineered by fellow legend Tom Tucker (Prince, Bonnie Raitt, Lucinda Williams.) Together these two albums garnered Holly a handful of noticeable TV placements, an itunes featured album, and continued critical acclaim in Performing Songwriter, More Magazine, and the UK's Maverick.
Most recently, Holly has self-produced her first rock album a la personal favorites The Pretenders alongside engineers David Boucher (Andrew Bird, Susanna Hoffs, Randy Newman) and Kevin Harp (John Fogerty.) The new band name – Bullyheart – is a hugely personal moniker reflecting the ambivalent way Holly has felt about her passionate center, the gift of its deep pulse, and the toll it has taken on her world. Bullyheart’s first album Antigravity has already found a place in the world of network television. CBS’s NCIS:New Orleans licensed the tune, No Pleasing You, to open one of its earliest episodes before the record even broke on iTunes.
Each album Holly creates takes a slightly different musical angle and shows another facet of what she’s learned about life and people. The basics are solid, but the details and subtleties of her work continue to shift, to pulse and breathe as each new project moves her closer to the center of her heart and mind. “The center is community, and what’s going on around my block, not just the world at arm’s length. My favorite place to play is right down the street from my house. Many of my favorite people in my whole life are blocks away. I feel a movement back towards knowing your neighbors and being connected to your street, loving your village, so to speak. I think my music is a sign of those times, an expression of that shift in how people want to live now.” These days, her village is Venice, CA, and community starts with her husband and two kids. From there it radiates out to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, The Trevor Project, a child she has adopted through Save the Children, as well as her own children’s school where, among other things, Holly helms the parent band (“Your Parents”) alongside fellow professional musical moms and dads. Her hands are connected to this community, and in her songs; they’re red from work, and they’re strong.
Even as a veteran artist with a lengthy discography and lengthier list of accolades, Holly Long has plenty still to compose and contribute. Work for this woman is never done, because she is never done growing, brooding, exploring how her music might transport her fans and loved ones. There’s no question that she’s got the chops to be around for as long as she chooses. Just as much, though, she’s got the heart. And she’s got the hands.