INTERVIEW – Holly Macve Talks New Album ‘Not the Girl’, Dolly Parton, and more!

Hi Holly, thank you so much for being here! How is your day going so far?

Pretty good, it’s nice and sunny here.

Where are you right now?

I’m in Brighton, so the south coast.

It sounds lovely! So your new album ‘Not the Girl’ is coming out May 14th, are you excited for it to be out?

Yea I’m so excited. It’s been four years between my first album and this one so I’m so excited for it to be out there finally. It was kind of meant to come out just before the pandemic and then things got held up a bit, so it’s been a long time coming. I’m just excited for people to hear these songs I’ve been working on for so long.

That is a good chunk of time between records! How do you think your sound has evolved during that time?

I think it has a lot, actually. My first record was very raw and acoustic. I hadn’t really done any touring before releasing that record. But in between I did a lot of touring. I got to come to the States which was so much fun and sang with a symphony. It was such an amazing experience to hear my voice in that context. I toured with bands that I wouldn’t have heard otherwise and exposed to so much new music, so I think that helped mold the sound of this record. It has a much bigger sound.

And who were some of those bands you were exposed to?

Well I got to tour with Mercury Red which was fun. They’ve been around for a while and have so much stage experience. I played with them and the symphony.

Had you been to the states before that tour?

A couple times for SXSW and I played at Willie Nelson’s festival which was so cool.

I can see how your sound would fit right in at that festival. You’re from the UK but have such an interesting Americana twang in your music. Where does that come from?

My mom listened to that kind of music as I was growing up, and I just soaked it all up. She loved American blues music like Big Bill Broonsy, Billy Waters, and lots of traditional Irish folk music.

Were you always musical growing up?

My mum is a music therapist so there were instruments around the house always. It was a very natural thing for me to just sit by the piano. She always encouraged me to play.

What was the first instrument you picked up?

I think it was the piano. My granddad was a classical composer as well so there was music coming at me from all these different angles. He taught me my first tune on piano when I was about 6.

And what song was it?

Haha I don’t quite remember. I think it was a little classical piece and that’s why I don’t remember. When I was a child classical music just went right over my head and I didn’t appreciate it very much. But I really like it now.

Do you have a favorite composer now?

Chopin is probably my favorite. That was actually one of the first pieces I learned to play, a Chopin piece. I played it for a school concert once.

Music definitely runs in the family! They must be excited about your career.

Very much so. I’m very lucky to have the support of my family. My mum always wants to know what’s going on with my career.

You have an incredible voice; I mean your upper register is just insane. Were you formally trained vocally?

I haven’t ever had any lessons; it’s just come by way of me experimenting throughout the years. I think because I was encouraged as a child, I just kept on doing it. I also had a really amazing music teacher who really encouraged me. We have a different way of saying it; you all say high school, but we say, “year seven through eleven”. Anyways, I was in year eleven when I had him as a music teacher. He was just such a beautiful inspiring person, and it was so lovely to learn from him.

That’s amazing to me that you haven’t had that formal training. So many people work so hard to craft the tone and precision you have with your voice. It’s so reminiscent of those country icons like Hank Williams and Dolly Parton, who you grew up listening to.

Dolly Parton is like God to me!

Of course! What’s your favorite Dolly Parton song?

Oh my God, there’s so many! My favorite would have to be “The Bridge”. It’s a slightly more obscure one. It’s one of her very early recordings.

So would she be your dream collaborator?
Oh definitely. I can’t even imagine being in the studio with her though. Just the idea of it scares me! I’d be intimidated because she’s just so incredible, but I also feel like she’d just be a lovely, warm, welcoming person.

I didn’t know until recently that she was one of the major backers of the Moderna vaccine! I don’t know if they have that one in the UK but if you’re a true Dolly fan that will have to be your vaccine of choice.

Yea I heard that too! She’s so amazing, she always supports a lot of causes. She’s got a book club somewhere in the north of England where she funds books for young people in poor areas of the UK.

And though you’re inspired by a lot of those classic artists, are there any contemporary artists who have been inspiring you?

I’m a big fan of Lana Del Rey, she’s amazing. I love her newest record. She’s inspiring to me because she always does what she wants to do and is always herself. I love Sharon Van Etten as well.

I feel like Lana has very distinct eras, is there one that you particularly identify with?

I love Ultraviolence. I love the sound of that record so much that on this upcoming record I was looking for the right mix and ended up approaching Colin DuPree who did the mixing on that album. He was incredible and I’d really like to work with him again.

And I think you both are very inspired by literature. One of your recent singles “Eye of the Storm” was inspired by Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. Are you often inspired by things you’re reading?

Yea quite often. ‘Not the Girl’ actually came from the William Blake poem “Songs of Innocence”. I think sometimes words are obvious right in front of you, and when I’m reading, I sometimes need to pause sit at the piano for a while.

It sounds like your writing process is really focused on the lyrics. Can you tell me a little more about how you write your songs?

Well usually it all comes together at once. Sometimes I’ll write notes or poems and come back to them, but usually I have a spark of creativity. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does it feels like something is taking you over and it all pours out at once. When it’s something good I tend to take a step back and wonder where it’s come from, and that’s one of the best feelings.

Aside from your album release on May 14th, what are you excited for this year?

I’m very excited by the idea of playing live shows again, I really miss that. The last show I played was at the beginning of 2020. That was so long ago but it’s what I love to do the most.

Well Holly, thank you so much for chatting with us. We can’t wait to hear ‘Not the Girl’!