In the third interview of this special series We're Here, We're Here, Get Used To It, I'm delighted for to introduce you to Holly Rees the indie rocker who hails from my neck of the woods, Newcastle upon Tyne.
The North East music scene at the moment, is on fire with so many great acts coming out of the region and Holly is one of those who are laying the foundations for the next generation of artists. Her debut EP Ilex received the backing of BBC 6 Music’s Tom Robinson. Her sophomore EP Slow Down released August 2018 climbed to #6 on the iTunes chart, and not sitting on her laurels she released her single ‘Stick Around’ at the end of 2018, launched with a packed hometown show in which Rees also broke into full-band territory, heralding the release of live EP “Text Me When You Get There” (which is in my collection).
She played a 44 date tour in 2019 taking her to an international level with a 44 date tour across Canada, including joining the line-ups of festivals such as Calgary Stampede and Canadian Music Week.
Whilst 2020 has thrown a spanner in the works in terms of her recording and touring she has already book a gig for May 8th at the famous Tynemouth Surf Cafe in North Shields and she's an artist I cannot wait to see live ( I can feel a trip back home coming up).
Holly was really gracious when I asked her to take part in this series and so without further ado, I'm proud to bring you my chat with Holly about her own musical heroes, the importance of LGBTQIA+ representation and her own message for her LGBTQIA+ fans.
If you were describing your music to someone who hadn’t heard you, how would you describe it?
So one of my favourite ever reviews called me a mix between Courtney Barnett and Laura Marling, which aside from being way too kind (I would looove that to be true though as they are both brilliant!) I think does sum up whereabouts on the musical spectrum I live. I’d say I make kind of sad loud weird songs, somewhere in the alternative indie-rock kind of area. My older releases are all solo acoustic but these days I play with my brilliant band and we’ve moved up from acoustic sad to loud sad which I love, it’s a lot of fun.
Who were your musical heroes growing up?
This is a good question! When I was younger I was really into bands like Green Day (I think the first CD I properly owned was International Superhits), Blink-182, Busted, Sum 41, just loads of pop-punky guitar noise (I think really I just wanted to be Lindsay Lohan in Freaky Friday) but I also listened to a lot of 50s/60s stuff with my dad, which I still love – Andy Williams, The Hollies, The Beach Boys etc, and then probably alongside my teenage Fall Out Boy/My Chemical Romance phase I fell into chasing brilliant acoustic songwriting, like Joni Mitchell, Elliott Smith, Jump Little Children, and I think even though my tastes might have moved on and grown, this weird mash up of styles probably comes out in the stuff I make now.
This feature for Dreaminisfree is highlighting LGBTQIA+ artists to help inspire people on our community that their sexuality or gender identity doesn’t need to prevent them from being successful. As a trans woman I understand, the impact that a lack representation has on us as a community. Do you think that it’s important to highlight these experiences and identities as a younger LGBTQIA+ woman? If so why?
Definitely! I think it’s really important, even just as simply to show that we’re not alone. Sometimes your identity can feel such a lonely place, even if you’re surrounded by lovely people, if they can’t relate or understand your experiences it can feel really isolating, so I think proper representation is crucial. Music is such an incredible tool to share feelings and thoughts and stories, and to have stories out there that fit with yours can be so empowering and affirming. I’m just a tiny fish in a huge pond and yet I’ve still had messages about how being so open about my sexuality has helped people come out or explore their own identities, or even just feel less alone and more like it’s okay, and that just shows how much we need proper representation. It’s also really important to me to stay honest and open and just be myself. I am my own person, I’m not a stereotype or an idea, I’m just another tangled human trying her best, and hopefully by sharing some of myself through my tunes and my profile, other people feeling lost might see it’s okay to just be.
Mainstream media seems intent in making LGBTQIA+ people’s lives as difficult as possible. Has any of this impacted you at all? Can you share how you’ve overcome any challenges you’ve faced due to your identity?
I think it has to have an impact. It’s impossible I think to hear or read these things about your community, the threats to your rights, or just plain cruelty or hate and not be hurt on some level. I think sometimes the most hurtful thing can be the disinterest to these things, when people don’t speak up against it and just let the hate be. I get really frustrated (and probably shouldn’t tweet so much haha) but I also think it’s important to show that I’m angry, and that things aren’t okay. In terms of challenges I’ve faced personally, I think for me one of the biggest has probably just been trying to work through finding peace with myself. It’s one thing dealing with how other people react to you, but when you’re still struggling to come to terms with who you are and how you’re feeling, and marry that with how you think you should be, it just takes up so much mental energy and time, it wears you down. And all the outside noise and ignorance and distrust is exhausting. Even just the constant demanding that you need to validate your sexuality or “prove” it gets so tiring, and I’m not sure that will ever stop. I’ve been out for over ten years and I still get people, even good friends, ask for my dating history as if they need to assess how real my sexuality is. It’s taken me a long time to realise it doesn’t matter, that I don’t need to even try to “prove” anything – I am real. My feelings are real. I am who I am and that’s enough, I don’t need receipts.
World events have seen a real rhetoric across the supposedly civilised world in the last few year against our community. Hungary, Ukraine and Poland have seen rights for LGBTQIA+ people reversed. On the flip side we saw in the US Election we’ve seen a trans woman become the first trans senator in US history. Do you think we’re going to see a turn in the tide of abuse, or do we have a lot more work to make the world even just accept us?
I think there is a long way to go. I think we can (and should) celebrate the wins with as much joy as we can without losing sight of the fact we’re so far from where we need to be. It’s really important not to be complacent about what’s happening around the world, it’s scary and awful and can be so easy to try and shut it all out but I think it’s really important that we don’t, you can never afford to turn a blind eye to hate. I really do believe one day we’ll get there though, and til then we have to continue being and loving and feeling as fiercely as we can.
Your last single Getting By was released in September last year. As a fan I’m really looking forward to hearing new music from you. Have you been able to use some of lockdown to write any new material? Are we in for any releases in 2021?
Thank you so much! I also cannot wait to have new music out, having the pandemic stick a spanner in all our recording (and touring) plans this year has been so frustrating. We had an EP of songs ready to record at the beginning of the year, with plans to start work on that after our March tour, but then the world flipped upside down. On the plus side though yeah, lockdown has given me the chance to write a quite a lot of new tunes, and now the difficult part is choosing which ones are going to make it onto EP#3! Writing this year has been weird, and for months I couldn’t write anything – how do you write about a world on fire? It just felt too big for me. But eventually I broke through the writers block and there are a few songs to come out of this year which I am really excited to share. So, covid-allowing, definitely new releases in 2021 – we’ll be getting into the studio as soon as we safely can.
If you had a message for any of your LGBTQIA+ fans what would it be?
I see you, I hear you, and you’re perfect as you are. You deserve to be happy, so keep your heart open and love as bravely as you can. And remember that you aren’t alone – there is a whole community out there just for you, including this sad messy 28 year old tripping over pretty girls and writing weird songs about it.
If any LGBTQIA+ artists are keen to collaborate in this series of interviews then please email firstname.lastname@example.org