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 4 acclaimed albums over the past decade in her pop/funk/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, Sarah McLachlan, 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 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 engineered by the legend Ian Terry (David Bowie, Diana Krall, Leonard Cohen), and most recently Frequency, engineered by fellow legend and Grammy Award winner Tom Tucker (Prince, Bonnie Raitt, Lucinda Williams), her discography has grown with the same pace and passion as Holly herself. Also essential in her work and life is Manager/Producer Anthony J.W. Benson, who is as much family as he is a colleague. Anthony receives credit for guiding the direction of Holly’s continuing growing sound as well as assembling the stellar teams that created Frequency and the critically acclaimed Leaving Kansas.
Each album she 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 album 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. 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, and several other charities and community support organizations. Her hands are in their hearts, 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.