Northampton rock’n’soul singer Hollie May has followed up her many live performances in the town with her long-awaited debut single ‘Pills & Alcohol’. New Boots spoke about how it all came about.
Hollie May, how did you start singing, writing, playing?
I started singing at the age of 5, however I found the structure vocally at the age of 12. Over the years music has always had a huge impact on me as a far as I can remember. I used to sing out so loud on my shed in my own garden, singing along to all the famous pop stars of the 90s on my iPod. People could hear me from a mile with my huge vocal bursting out. My best friend/next door neighbour Jacqueline Edwards and I would sing and dance every summer everyday. She would always make time for me in her home, and give me freedom and space to recognise my true potential. She is a great influence and support, in teaching me to be true to who I am and follow my dreams against all great odds.
My parents raised me on all types and kinds of music, full of a huge range of colour, patterns, shapes – no matter the genre. One minute I’d hear my dad would play Killing Joke along with The Clash, Nick Cave, all the tough strong empowering talented male bands that just knew how to express themselves throughout their music. On the other side my mum would be playing Gladys Knight & The Pips, a lot of Portishead, Marcy Gray, Dolly Parton.
Why I do it? Cause I love it. Music has saved me from all kinds of positive to negative situations in my life. I have wrote my own songs since the age of twelve. I love the process of writing out your own experience – what your facing up to, going through in your life. Maybe your battling your own demons, or facing heartache.
As a teenager I was brought up listening to a lot of No Doubt & Madonna, along with Joan As Policewoman also Grace Jones. Back in 2006 I went all the way to Coventry to see Joan As Policewoman perform live in this tiny little arty venue, which was the best night of my life. I met Joan after her gig; witnessing her edginess, musically and vocally, had a huge impact on me. Since that day we are very good, long-term friends.
How would you describe your sound?
My first influence I’d say Joan As Policewoman. I take my hat off to her, Joan’s music just amazes me. Grace Jones is another I live for, her lyrics and quirkiness. She’s just such a strong woman I love everything about Grace Jones; being unique is a gorgeous thing. Don’t be afraid of standing out staying true to who you are. La Roux? I’ve seen her perform live a few years ago during the Bulletproof-era. Saw her in London, best night of my life! She just knows how to put a feeling in any kind of song. She is definitely somebody we need in the LGBT. Prince is another legend, I dig his affectionate lyrics, original craziness.
My sound is very soulful, pure, edgy, strong, very free.Can be wild sometimes, but also soft and full of affection. Colourful, haunting, mysterious…and emotional.
Tell us everything about this single, ‘Pills and Alcohol’.
‘Pills & Alcohol’ is one of my first songs that I have ever written openly about my mental health/addiction. Opening up about what I was doing to myself over the past two years since my last relationship that totally broke me in many pieces. The song is about me admitting that I mixed subscription pills with alcohol, sort of drowning into my depression, and how I overcame it. I am completely clean now, a lot happier since this song came out from my heart. I’m very lucky girl to have come out of this because it happened. I was going through a very tough time overcoming letting go on a ex-girlfriend who wasn’t at all positive for me. Sometimes knowing that no matter how much you love somebody either way it can never be enough, so this was my way of coping. I must give credit to Marianne Faithfull, her Broken English album I discovered it straight after I came out of hospital during the recovery, oh my! The one song that did really push me on my song is ‘My Gypsy Fearie Queen’ [ft. Nick Cave]. The tenderness in their vocals just got me by the heart. It’s funny how two extremely talented people can just create the most soft, tenderly, beautiful song.
What else influenced the song? Dinah Washington ‘Wee Small Hours’. This tune gave me a lot of strength and power towards recording ‘Pills & Alcohol’, you could say that Dinah inspired me to deliver vocally and emotionally. Jeff Buckley ‘Forget Her’. After the break-up this song really took me to a different place. He sings this song, it’s so mysterious full of questions, it’s haunting yet meaningful. Jeff gave me the scare, deepness, edge to my single. And PJ Harvey ‘We Float’. This song takes me back during the relationship. It’s such a soulful song. This song gave me some peace and gentleness towards ‘Pills & Alcohol’.
Any plans to do full band live shows after covid?
No idea! I’m just focusing on releasing more music for the people. However I’ve always wanted to perform at the County Beer Festival at Becket’s Park in the summer, one of my dreams is to do that.
How has lockdown been for you? Helped or hindered your creativity?Creatively I have suffered the worse pain it’s not been easy in the slightest. But I am simply very happy that after so many years that I’m releasing music, that I have always wanted to write and create it means so much to me. That not only are there people out who love the music I come out with; I just hope my music brings love and peace. Lockdown has been a long train journey for me: from knowing too many fake friends, to now being surrounded by so many beautiful people. I’ve missed the festival life that’s for sure! I’ve missed going into local pubs, always being at the bar making people laugh or sing to them, whoever they are.
What was the last album you bought/streamed?
The last album I brought was Dinah Washington All Time Greats. Reason why is because I’m still learning her style, along with her very expressive vocal range. At the moment I love and listening to her, I can’t get enough. It’s crazy what new discoveries can do!
What is your burning desire to do in the future? What plans do you have?
My next focus is to release my first album, that should be out next year! I so would love bring something fresh and new to the music scene in Northampton. However, see if I can perform for the County Beer Festival and give them all of me on stage. Not just that I would love to perform at The Lamplighter in Northampton, the music scene in the Lamp is just so magical. Sometime’s I do broadcasts on YouNow to talk to my supporters/fans to [@Nobodydoesitlikeholliemayx]. It’s all for free and I go live every so often, I have reached 10 thousand views. It would be nice to let people know that they can talk to me for free if anybody is interested. Always promoting new music on the broadcasts, talking to people about anything!
‘Pills and Alcohol’ is out now via Bandcamp. Follow Hollie on Instagram