You know those people who are so obviously doing exactly what they’re supposed to? Jolie Holland is one of them. Since the early aughts, the Texas-born musician (who was also a founding member of Canadian folk group The Be Good Tanyas) has been steadily releasing personal, poetic records that incorporate so many different styles of music—from folk to jazz to soul to rock—that she defies genre.
Case in point: “Waiting for the Sun,” the first single off her upcoming release Wine Dark Sea. The easy, swinging track mixes Holland’s throaty vocals, a punchy horn section and a crazy guitar solo—and makes it all work together perfectly. We grabbed a moment with Jolie and asked her a few questions about her new record, her favorite singers and nomadic living.
THE THREAD: We really love the relaxed party vibe in the “Waiting for the Sun” video. Everybody looks like they’re having a great time. Where did you guys film that? Are those all just friends of yours?
JOLIE HOLLAND: The dancers are very dear friends, and there were a couple friends of friends. We were at a Brooklyn studio that belongs to a great experimental dance troupe called LAVA.
THE THREAD: Tell us a little about Wine Dark Sea. How is it different from your previous releases?
JOLIE: I realized I needed a giant band to execute this particular vision—usually seven or eight of us at once. There are two full drum kits on every song and often four electric guitars—all recorded live.
THE THREAD: You’ve got an incredibly rich, totally unmistakable voice. Are there any singers that you consider influences? Or are there voices that you just really, really love?
JOLIE: Thank you. Mavis Staples is the Queen of the America I love. She’s one of the greatest living singers in the world. Buffy Sainte-Marie, Nina Simone, Blind Willie McTell and Umm Kulthum are some of the other singers that make me feel like a teenage fanboy. I also love “terrible” singers like Keith Richards and young Will Oldham—even if they’re out of tune, the feeling is really all that matters.
THE THREAD: You work with amazing musicians, but you’re a multi-instrumentalist yourself. Do you think it makes it easier to communicate with your bandmates or a producer when you’ve got such a strong background with a variety of instruments?
JOLIE: I’ve produced all my own records, sometimes in collaboration with a co-producer. When everybody is at the top of their game, the conversation becomes more about feeling than technique. I tell ’em things like, “The bass line needs to be like a vacation on the beach,” or “I want this synthesizer part to be like a 7-foot-tall drag queen in high heels.”
THE THREAD: You’ve lived in a bunch of different places—New Orleans, Texas, Vancouver, B.C.—to name a few. Is there any place you’d like to live that you haven’t yet?
JOLIE: I’ve lived in most of the big cities of North America—I’ve done this by necessity, even though I’m a homebody at heart. I’m satisfied to stay on the same nomadic circuit: New York, New Orleans, Oakland, Austin. My favorite way to live is in an urban beehive of weirdo artistes. I wanna come home at 4am and find a housemate working on a printing project, blasting Harry Partch and drinking kava kava.
Jolie Holland’s latest record, Wine Dark Sea, comes out May 20 on ANTI- Records.