On The Cover Interview - Jolie Holland

Words by Paul Maziar
Photos by Scott Irvine & Samantha Parton

Jolie Holland has been rambling for years: writing, recording, and performing beautiful music all the while. The Texas-born gal sings heavyhearted tales of not knowing where to go, but taking off anyhow; of crazy, broken dreams, fully enjoying this life, and of love lost and found again. Her new album, The Living And The Dead, is no doubt, the progressive beacon those familiar with her music hoped she'd reach. With this, Jolie's fourth studio record, we find more bright distortion and rock leanings, but with all-new stories to tell, and the immensely talented, if largely undiscovered Shahzad Ismaily alongside as Co-Producer - the depth of her songwriting and lyrical intuition have only been made greater.

MP3 Download - "Palmyra" from The Living And The Dead

I've always thought of Jolie Holland as an extension of the Beats, the same ways in which her label mate Tom Waits is often regarded. That undeniable aching coming from within, burning again from her chest in huge, new, incandescent ways. Illuminating the gorgeousness of life and the revelatory nuances of the American Landscape, and the dismissal of many details about our current sad world. Which is to say: like The Beats, and loads of bohemians, punk rockers, and psychopaths alike. The subject-matter of her songs likens her to ones whose musings, internal battles and metaphysical wonders take precedent - first and foremost - in a near-fractured, mechanized modern world.

[photo by: Samantha Parton]

A haunting and NYC-frozen looking image of Joan Vollmer appears within the lyric book to The Living And The Dead and the title reflects the genius and tortured beauty that remains abloom for such an artist as Holland. She admits that Vollmer and her creative peers inspire her, including Vollmer's mad murderous and brilliant common-law husband William S. Burroughs, who is referenced in Jolie's sophomore album, Escondida. "It [That Old Fashioned Morphine] was good enough for Billy Burroughs, it's good enough for me," she admits while giving credence to Burroughs along with the rest of his Beat pals.

In the The Living And The Dead's opening track, "Mexico City", Jolie sings to Jack Kerouac and his first wife Edie Parker, shaming Jack for drinking booze, and herself at the same time: "But how could we help it? There was nowhere else to go." Which is also reference back to the song "Do You" from Escondida, which beckons to Jack, "Oh, do you have to go crazy? Is that the best thing you can think to do? I know I'm lost without a place to go crazy."

Having the same musical vocabulary is so important. Shahzad and I had a deep understanding immediately. He not only understood the music completely, but almost psychically too.

[photo by: Scott Irvine]

"Mexico City" being such a richly inspired opener to The Living And The Dead, a veritable thesis for her new work, and a great insight to her mystical sort of insights and connections, bears mention of a kinetic experience Jolie had in the studio with Shahzad. "Having the same musical vocabulary is so important. Shahzad and I had a deep understanding immediately," Holland admits, "He not only understood the music completely, but almost psychically too. There was a voodoo drummer in the 9th Ward [of New Orleans], Robert Sickler - now a whiskey expert - who told me a story of how he heard a choir of voices singing, where only drums were playing at a ceremony. When Shahzad read the lyrics to "Mexico City" where the line says 'What's that distant singing? Is it a heavenly choir of the living and the dead?,' he knew exactly what I was referencing."

When she talks about her friends, Jolie Holland does so with crazy respect and admiration, and again, in nearly higher regard than any artist that came before her. "Hanging out with the people I'm surrounded by is like hanging out with the Beats in a way, except everyone I knew who was on drugs is either dead or sober. That's Bobby Dangerously on the cover of my new record, who is many tons of times more interesting than Jack Kerouac. It's a poverty to not be around the people who inspire you. My friend Stephan Jecusco, I can't even imagine who I would be if I didn't know him. He and his music are my North Star."

[photo by: Scott Irvine]

Jolie Holland tourdates
10.12.08 - Solana Beach CA
 (Belly Up Tavern)
10.13.08 - Los Angeles CA
10.14.08 - Santa Barbara, CA
 (SOhO Restaurant & Music Club)
10.15.08 - San Francisco CA
 (Bimbos 365 Club)
10.17.08 - Portland OR
 (Doug Fir)
10.18.08 - Olympia WA
 (Capitol Theater)
10.19.08 - Vancouver, BC
 (Richards on Richards)
10.20.08 - Seattle, WA
 (Triple Door)
10.22.08 - Salt Lake City, UT
 (Urban Lounge)
10.23.08 - Boulder, CO
 (Boulder Theater)
10.24.08 - Lawrence, KS
 (Jackpot Lounge)
10.25.08 - Minneapolis, MN
 (Cedar Culture Centre)
10.27.08 - Chicago, IL
 (Lakeshore Theatre)
10.28.08 - Pontiac, MI
 (The Pike Room at The Crofoot)
10.29.08 - Toronto, ON
 (Horseshoe Tavern)
10.30.08 - Montreal, QC
 (Cabaret du Musee Juste Pour Rire)
10.31.08 - Burlington, VT
 (Higher Ground South)
11.01.08 - Boston, MA
 (Museum of Fine Arts)
11.03.08 - Philadelphia, PA
 (Tin Angel)
11.04.08 - Arlington, VA
11.05.08 - Asheville, NC
 (Grey Eagle)
11.06.08 - Decatur, GA
 (Eddie's Attic)
11.07.08 - Tennessee
11.08.08 - Louisville, KY
 (Listening Room)
11.09.08 - Pittsburgh, PA
11.13.08 - New York, NY (Highline Ballroom)

Jolie Holland

On The Cover Interview - Jolie Holland