Artist: Jolie Holland
Hometown: Houston-bred, LA-based
Latest Album: Haunted Mountain
Personal Nicknames (or rejected band names): They say you can never nickname yourself. Ones that have come to me fair and square are Soup Kitchen, bestowed by the great author Vanessa Veselka, because every time I stayed in her basement on tour I’d cook for the household. And I had the nickname Jewelweed for a minute, because some friends standing nearby pointed out some jewelweed growing, and I thought they’d called my name.
What’s your favorite memory from being on stage?
There are so many beautiful moments to remember. I enjoy being a “sideman” more than being in the spotlight. I’m a musician and a writer, and never was interested in performing, per se. I remember doing free improv on violin with a small trio at a flop house in Austin, Texas while some circus performers played with fire and danced. It wasn’t a show, just artists being together. My Wine Dark Sea band was really fun, a loud, chaotic band, but full of some of the most sensitive and wild musicians. I recently got to play a three-night residency with Jim White on drums, Adam Brisbin on baritone guitar, and Ben Boye on piano. It was like being a little tornado in a hurricane. So much motion and power.
What other art forms — literature, film, dance, painting, etc — inform your music?
I came to music after I was deep in visual art, which really centers originality. So I came to music with that lens. It literally took me decades to understand that not everyone is interested in that kind of ethos. A lot of people are happy staying in one or two related genres. But for me, I always have more questions.
What has been the best advice you’ve received in your career so far?
I have basically received no advice in my career. It’s been almost impossible to find trustworthy mentors. So I’ve just watched other people I admire and tried to learn from them. I love seeing how open-hearted and generous both Boots Riley and Marc Ribot are with their audiences. Both of them are political organizers, so that makes sense. They regard their position on stage as a place from which they inspire action and movement. I regard my audience as my collaborators, in many ways. We need each other.
Since food and music go so well together, what is your dream pairing of a meal and a musician?
I love to cook with or for the musicians I love. I’m imagining making a jelly roll for Jelly Roll Morton. My great uncles were pimps who lived 6 blocks from Jelly Roll Morton at the same time he was pimping. So I always imagine they must have known each other. Their little sister, my grandmother, passed for white and moved to North Louisiana to get away from the mafia. I wonder if he would have liked this jelly roll I once made with a genoise sponge, orange blossom water in the whipped cream, and a bitter marmalade I made with Seville oranges from my neighbor’s yard.
How often do you hide behind a character in a song or use “you” when it’s actually “me”?
I feel like this question is important, but I’m answering it sideways: Why do a lot of people assume all songs are autobiographical? I come from the perspective that lyrics are literature, and a song can be a one act play. Songs can be fiction, drama, and not just memoir.
Photo Credit: Chris Doody