Popping Up: Greg Holden
Popping Up is our recurring look at new artists making noise on the music landscape. Because, hey — Beyoncé and Miley were once unknown, too.
Chances are, if you’re just getting familiar with Greg Holden, you probably felt his lyrics a few years back. The singer-songwriter helped pen American Idol winner Phillip Phillips‘ gigantic 2012 hit “Home.” A combination of rhythmic sounds and heartfelt words, Holden has a very similar vibe when it comes to his solo work. You may also recall his own song “The Lost Boy,” which released a short while back and garnered some buzz. His new album Chase The Sun is pensive, where each track carries a different message that resonates — messages that Holden is either telling you or telling himself. Or both.
The UK native jumped the pond about six years ago to New York City, where his story truly started. Right now, though, he’s in the midst of a tour with Delta Rae before going back on tour with Ingrid Michaelson. “I love it,” he says of life on the road. “It feels good to feel the love from the people.”
We caught up with Greg Holden during his traveling, and he shared with us some bits that will help you get to know him better.
ON MAKING THE MOVE FROM THE UK TO THE US: “It feels like yesterday,” he says of his move, which happened six years ago. “New York has been treating me well. It’s been a whirlwind six years. I love it. It’s a great place to feel inspired for sure.” Holden is a unique case; he made the move to the States before becoming famous, whereas many UK artists are groomed there, discovered by the States and then head this way.
“When I was living in London I had a day job,” Holden recalls, ” and I knew that as long as I had a day job and I was living in a town that I was comfortable in, I wouldn’t take the full leap to being a musician, immersing myself into my songwriting. I kind of needed to scare the crap out of myself to move somewhere completely new where I didn’t know people to feel that kind of excitement.” It certainly paid off.
FROM WRITING SONGS FOR STARS TO BECOMING THE STAR: Greg Holden co-penned Phillip Phillips’ hit “Home” (with Drew Pearson). But much like other songwriters-turned-artists along the lines of Lady Gaga, Tove Lo and Meghan Trainor, Holden had his own dreams of stardom.
“That experience was interesting,” he says of his move from behind the scenes. “That whole songwriting thing for somebody else — I had never seen that before, one of my songs blowing up like that. I got thrown into the world of co-writing for other artists, and that for me was a strange transition because I’ve always been the person singing the songs.”
IDENTITY THEFT: Being the person behind the hit instead of being in front of it has its downsides. “I started to lose my identity as a songwriter,” Greg explains. “That’s why I took some time out and went on a trip to India to figure out who I was as an artist and in my life in general. It was very a questionable time, actually.” The return was the reward though. “Coming back out and playing…it was a strange transition at first, but I’m back on track!”
CHASE THE SUN HAS A MESSAGE FOR EVERYONE: There’s a lot going on with Chase The Sun, starting with the album’s lead single “Hold On Tight.” The project is equal parts inspirational and entertaining, a balance that’s hard to strike in the pop music landscape.
“It’s kind of a message to me and to everybody else,” Holden says. “For me, I didn’t want to be too clear as to whom it was actually about. There are songs about other people, but there are songs about me. There is a lot of self-exploring on it for sure.”
“BOYS IN THE STREET”: Of all the tracks on Chase The Sun, this one is a favorite of Holden’s. The song involves a gay child whose father can’t come to terms with his son’s sexuality. The song is heavy in content, but despite having the ears of fans, it may not be the next single. “I’m playing it a lot at the moment, and people are reacting very strongly towards it,” Greg says. “It’s a very specific and sensitive subject, and I don’t want to ram that down people’s throats. It’s just something that I would like people to hear and find themselves.”
SIA PAVED THE WAY: While Greg Holden cites singer-songwriters like Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Tom Petty as inspirations for making music “that really means something” without an audience filter, he also holds Sia in a high regard. “Sia is actually a big influence,” he says. “She is another one of those people who is able to be an incredible performer and artist, but Jesus Christ, she’s written so many massive songs for other people!”
WHEN YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING: “I hope more people want to say something in their work,” Holden says of artists adding social commentary to their music. “Something more than, ‘I miss you, my girl. I love you.’ Those songs are great and they serve their purpose, but I think artists should also try and say something maybe a bit more thought-provoking, especially in today’s climate where there is a lot of horrible shit happening in the world. Of course you’re not gonna just write songs that are all depressing about war and famine or genocide. That would depress people very quickly, but I think it’s important as a songwriter to do that [sometimes].” Back in the day in the ’60s, all of those people — Pete Seger, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell — they were all writing about things that were going on around them. You don’t really hear that, that much these days.”
IF GREG HOLDEN WASN’T HERE, WHERE WOULD HE BE? “In a ditch somewhere,” he says semi-seriously. “I feel like this is the only thing I’m good at, so I’m glad I’m here doing it.” So are we.
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