20 Feb 19
Before Brandi Carlile’s performance of “The Joke” at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards broadcast recently I had become complacent about the power of a well-written song. Among the multitudes of musicians and artists who throw their best work out there and hope that it sticks in someone’s heart there are but a few who really hit the mark. I was blown away with Carlile’s performance for one thing. And it struck me how cool it was that the staging included the scrawl of a writer’s pen with her lyrics to the song that gave her a sweep of the American Roots category at the prestigious music awards. Best song, best performance, best album, titled “By the Way, I Forgive You.” By the way, I love that title.
So it is that I newly appreciate the power of Scottish-born singer/songwriter Greg Holden ’s words. If you’re a person who tries to stay in touch with what’s going on in the music world, you just may have heard the song “Home,” a tune Holden co-wrote that was chosen for American Idol Season 11 winner Phillip Phillips as his debut single and coronation song on the popular reality television show. It went on to kick tail on the radio and sold a whole lot of units as they say these days.
The single debuted at No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 with a first week sales figure of 278,000 downloads. It has the biggest digital sales week for any “Idol” winner’s coronation song, and it became the best selling of all coronation songs, as well as the best-selling song by any “Idol” alum in the United States. In a conversation with Holden via email, I asked him if it was difficult to follow up on the success of the 2012 release.
“Absolutely. It sold six million copies in the U.S. alone and was the biggest song ever to come out of ‘American Idol,’ EVER,” he said. “That’s not a normal thing that happens to a relatively unknown songwriter. So yeah, that certainly hasn’t happened again, nor do I really expect it to. But I don’t judge my success on record sales or numbers. If I did that, I’d be a very miserable person. For me, I simply ask myself if I’m doing what I love, and am able to pay my bills from it, and the answer is yes. Therefore, I am wildly successful compared to most and I feel incredibly fortunate for that.”
Coming back for a second time to the Barrel Room at Folktale Winery & Vineyards as a featured performer in the KRML Live in the Vines music series on Feb. 28, he’s performing solo and will pull songs from his catalogue that include his beautiful story about a father/son relationship, most likely based on his own life, “Boys in the Street” and the very popular in the Netherlands “The Lost Boy.” All of these songs come straight from the heart and hit the listener with their lyrical poignancy, and gorgeous melodies.
Currently residing in Los Angeles, Holden has come a long way since his days as a child in Scotland. The family moved to England when he was still very young, where he attended school and began his career in music. At 18, he learned to play the guitar and he wrote his first song. Like a lot of musicians these days, he began to post live performances on YouTube, where he built a large following. He recorded and released his own albums and made the move from London to New York in 2009. His success in the Netherlands with “Lost Boy” allowed development of an official video and later he was signed by Collective Sounds. That song also was featured on an episode of the television show “Sons of Anarchy” in 2012. A number of his songs have had placement in television and made a difference in his rise, but he sees it differently now.
“Years ago placements in shows and on commercials would launch a career, pay rent for a few months or more, and bring people to your shows,” he said. “These days though that is getting more and more difficult. Especially as the sounds that companies want to use in their shows and commercials veer away from acoustic/folk music, or at least original ideas. We have to constantly evolve to stay afloat, which keeps things interesting to say the least.”
While he’s had a good deal of success through Phillips’ recording “Home” and television placements, he’s also made great strides through his time spent on the road.
“I’ve been touring the world for a decade, making it as far East as Japan and as far West as, well, I guess where I am right now in California. I’ve toured in Europe over 15 times, and the U.S. something similar. I’ve played living rooms, clubs, theaters and even arenas and stadiums. So I wouldn’t say that’s not a huge part of who I am as an artist/writer. Touring is what keeps me sane, without it I would, and sometimes have fallen apart. Songwriting is a means to an end for me, as it gives me the songs I need to play live, and pays the bills.”
He is preparing to embark on a two-month tour that he recently announced along with the news that he has his fourth studio recording ready to hit March 29. Titled “World War Me,” the nine-song album will surely bring new songs to the airwaves such as “Something Beautiful,” “What I Deserve,” or “The Power Shift.” He’s got a sound that’s rich and mostly upbeat, although it would be wrong to say he’s got one specific style.
“I don’t typically write songs about love in the obvious sense,” he explained. “Boy meets girl, that sort of thing. I don’t feel inspired by that. My songs usually carry a little weight, that isn’t necessarily for everyone. So yeah, some of them might accidentally end up only appealing to a niche audience. Particularly the left leaning folk. But not always. If you want to listen to songs about Sudanese refugees, homophobia and homelessness, I’m your guy. If you want songs about girls, give John Mayer a listen.”
I believe it’s you we’d like to listen to next Thursday Greg. And should your background material correctly list your birthday as February 28, we’ll be celebrating your 36th birthday with you as well. Appearing with Holden will be local singer/songwriter Johan Sotelo, who has a beautiful voice and a heartfelt delivery. The two make a good double bill. Doors open at 6 p.m., show starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $40 VIP (with selected seating in front two rows), and $30 GA, available at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/ live-in-the-vines-greg-holden- tickets-55540622497, unless you are a KRML L.A.B member and you got yours already at a discount. Folktale’s wine and Chef Todd and his team’s cuisine will add to your enjoyment. Folktale Winery & Vineyards is located at 8940 Carmel Valley Road, Carmel. For questions, call 831-293-7500.
Nathan Williams & The Zydeco Cha Chas: Friday, 8 p.m. at Sunset Center, San Carlos Street at Ninth Ave., Carmel, $39 – $59. Williams formed The Zydeco Cha Chas back in 1985, and since then has brought his unique take on this regional South Louisiana music to all corners of the globe. From Lincoln Center in New York to The Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Nathan’s music has crossed all barriers to speak to the very heart of his audience. Inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2005 and honored in 2015 with the Zydeco Music Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award, The Cha Chas have been voted the top Festival Band in the country according to the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism and USA Today and have won the coveted Big Easy award for Best Zydeco Band for several years running. Keepers of the Zydeco Flame, they are committed to keeping their Creole heritage alive.
Bobbie Brainerd art opening: Saturday, 3:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m. at Venture Gallery, 260 Alvarado St., Monterey, on the Custom House Mall. Brainerd, noted local plein air and still life artist, is hosting a reception showing her most recent works, shown exclusively at the Venture Gallery. Brainerd’s paintings are remarkable for how she captures the light in the air, in both her still life and landscape paintings. There is an “old masters” quality to her still life paintings that demonstrates her sensitivity and skill. Her plein air landscapes convey the immediacy of her experience, with accuracy and freshness. Her work may be viewed daily 10 a.m.- 6 p.m. through the month of February.
Six String Pharmacy: Saturday, 7 p.m.-9 p.m. at Barmel, San Carlos Square off Ocean Avenue, Carmel, no cover. Six String Pharmacy is a Monterey County acoustic style power duo composed of longtime music veterans and collaborators El Cajon and Mr. X. Their prescription for what ails you is found in the multi-colored sounds they deliver through various instruments and vocal harmonies. With influences that span across numerous genres and musical renditions that cross and blend them all together, this eclectic and versatile combo is guaranteed to provide an experience that includes some musical medicine that is good for everyone.
Razzvio: Sunday, 3 -6 p.m. at Folktale Winery & Vineyards’ Wine Garden, 8940 Carmel Valley Road Carmel, seating is first come, first served, no cover. Singer and violinist Razz is a songwriter and classically trained musician. She performs with a custom six-string electric violin called a “Viper Violin,” which allows her to sing and play at the same time and encompasses the range of a violin, viola, and cello. Razz has toured throughout the United States with her intimate, self-sustained, and volume-controlled setup, delighting listeners in concert halls and street corners since 2013. Razzvio has released two albums, “Mercurial” and “Perpetual Hybrid.”
Lily Yu presents “How to Spot a Fake:” Feb. 28, 5:30-7 p.m. at Monterey Museum of Art, 559 Pacific St., Monterey, free to members, museum admission price for non-members. Carmel art adviser and certified art appraiser Lily Yu will discuss current examples, including some high profile cases of art that turned out to be fake, and some assumed fakes that turned out to be the genuine article. Using real life examples of collectible art, she will demonstrate the steps she takes to determine whether an artwork is genuine or a copy. Participants will leave with a better understanding of what should raise red flags when considering purchasing art, and when to call in an expert to evaluate the legitimacy of art that is owned, donated or inherited. As owner of Agent Art she is a highly sought-after adviser to private collectors, institutions and corporate clientele. Wine will be served at a reception after the talk and the museum will remain open so art sleuths can practice their new found skills.