With her latest CD, “Daring to Feel Everything”, Holly Almgren masterfully shares and evokes reflections, life experiences and emotions in a fun and rhythmic way. The unforgettable collection of clues he has assembled is unprecedented. Critics say the songs are rhythmic, the lyrics are important, and the melodies endure, so the first glowing reviews from listeners come as no surprise. Holly’s previous experiences in life prepared her for the success and creative expression she enjoys today. Recently, I spoke with Holly. We talked about his genesis, his love and passion for music and, of course, his latest release, “Daring to Feel Everything.”
F. Briggs: Good morning, Holly. Thanks for meeting with me. And congratulations on your new album, Daring to Feel Everything.
Holly Almgren: Thank you very much for having me, Fran. It is exciting to be able to speak about this project to a wider audience.
F. Briggs: You’re very welcome. Could you share with us about your background?
Holly Almgren: He played the guitar, sang, wrote poetry since he was 10 years old. I used to sit in the trees and sing … imagining a crowd of people gathered to listen to me. My dad was a musician and he exposed me to jazz and bossa nova, he became interested in what I was playing and listening to. I started acting and writing music in my 20s, although I was stage frightened and more comfortable composing and singing in the studio than in front of an audience. I made my first album of original songs during that time. It was arranged and produced by pianist and composer Kit Walker in Boston, with Stan Strickland again on reeds.
I have been writing songs for over 30 years. Growing up, my family listened to a wide range of music, from (Burt) Bacharach and Jobim, to great jazz singers like Ella, Sarah, Nina, Billie, Nat, Johnny Hodges; It features tunes from West Side Story, The King & I, The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, Joni Mitchell, and Bonnie Raitt. When I was a teenager I also got into blues, soul and motown: BB King, Otis Spann, Taj Mahal, Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind & Fire, Sly & the Family Stone, Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke. My eclectic musical tastes influence my composition. At 30 I moved to New York hoping to write music for movies and jingles, but the cost of living made me go back to being a chef.
I returned to Boston at 40 to get married and have a child, and my songwriting began to accelerate. I went back to acting here and there, and I was planning a CD five years ago when my father was dying and my mother needed help taking care of him. He always said do what you love because you spend too much time of your life working not to love it. I knew it was time to take my music to the next level. We didn’t know it, but my mom had cancer. He died two years later. As if that wasn’t confusion enough, my husband fell in love with someone else and our marriage fell apart. Painful, but good song fodder, and it prompted me to try my songs. (In) January 2010, a mutual friend suggested that I hire JD Steele to produce my CD. We got along well, liked each other’s music, agreed to do the project, and started recording that March in Minneapolis, with a fantastic rhythm section that featured his brother Billy Steele (Sounds of Blackness) on piano. We finished at the end of summer.
F. Briggs: If you had to check Dare to feel it all in a few sentences, what would you say?
Holly Almgren: 13 of the 14 songs were written by me. so satisfied it was the first song that JD and I wrote together, ending it on the plane towards our last session. He produced and arranged the vocal harmonies, and also sang backing vocals with Maria Benson. The CD is autobiographical, the product of a lot of improvisation between the musicians (who often play together), guided by JD and my sense of rhythm that we wanted. The songs are rhythmic, the lyrics matter, the melodies last, that’s what I’ve been told. Sometimes I call my style Buddhist jazz-funk, but there are always exceptions when trying to pin down your sound. I like that. Diversity in all things makes life more meaningful.
F. Briggs: One of your topics is titled, Nobody Eats Us. Could you explain how the title was conceived and what the lyrics convey?
Holly Almgren: love nobody eats us because it is deep, scandalous and takes people by surprise. I felt so much despair and righteous anger for the human race – what we are doing to each other, to the animals, and to the planet. I was learning about predator / prey balance. My mother had just died of cancer, which is that your cells consume each other. The heavier the theme, the more fun and upbeat I make the lyrics and music, otherwise it’s too dark. The song talks about us being at the top of the food chain, wasting and killing everything, including ourselves. We haven’t had a predator since the dinosaurs and we’ve become so unaware and arrogant. AIDS, cancer, and diabetes are rampant, not to mention obesity.
People have lost the capacity for satiety, they have become addicted to gorging themselves even though it is killing them, and they are teaching the habit to their children. (We eat and we eat and we eat, we eat ourselves!). But, I love people and being human. I practice vipassana, a Buddhist style of meditation. The core of the teaching is about cultivating loving-kindness to ourselves and to others as we aspire to end the suffering of all sentient beings. Being a mom who reads Dr. Seuss a lot to my son, I laugh every time I sing Nobody eats us! We are not green eggs and ham.
F. Briggs: Thank you so much for taking the time to share today, Holly. I certainly enjoyed my time with you.
Holly Almgren: It was a pleasure, Fran. Thanks! It was fun. Daring to Feel Everything is available to try or buy at http://cdbaby.com/Artist/HollyAlmgren.