Holly Leer has an amazing voice and commanding presence that highlight her enormous talent. Perhaps one of the most entertaining singer/songwriters that I have heard in a long time Holly is giving old and new fans the best of what she has to offer. Check out this recent interview that Holly took the time to complete for the magazine.
Isaac: Briefly describe how you entered into the music industry.
Holly Leer: For me, it was kind of a slow process. After graduating from college, there were a few years where I wasn't really doing too much musically aside from taking voice lessons and writing a few songs here and there. Then, I started singing back-up vocals for Portland singer/songwriter Lynn Frances Anderson in her band, and then later started playing keys in her band as well. I recorded two albums with Lynn before I finally felt like I was ready to record my own album. Now, I perform on my own as well as with Lynn, in her band and as a duo. I have also co-written a few songs with Lynn for her upcoming album.
Isaac: One of the reasons why I was drawn to you was the power of your voice. Briefly elaborate on your vocal training.
Holly Leer: I was a music major with a focus in vocal performance in college, so I started out singing with 4 years of classical training, singing operatic arias, and songs from the classical masters. When I moved to Portland, Oregon, I started taking voice lessons with Portland music icon Mark Bosnian. He was the one who really helped me make the transition from classical to contemporary music, and helped me shape the sound of my voice. He has been my vocal coach for over ten years.
Isaac: What is the most rewarding aspect to making music currently for you?
Holly Leer: Currently, the most rewarding thing for me is to have finally released my album, Fire In My Bones. It's great to have a tangible thing to show everyone what I do.
Isaac: What has discouraged you the most about making music?
Holly Leer: I think the most discouraging thing is having to deal with booking gigs and getting paid. Unfortunately, there are many people out there who try to take advantage of you, and who say one thing and than do another. It is very discouraging to drag all your gear down to a venue, play a gig and then have them not pay you what you agreed upon. But that's all a part of the music business! One piece of advice -- always get a contract!
Isaac: You have a BA in Music. How has your education prepared you for the music business? In what ways are you better off that you do have an educational background in music?
Holly Leer: My formal education actually did nothing to prepare me for the business side of music! For that, I think we all just have to learn as we go, what works and what doesn't. But my music education is definitely invaluable to me when it comes to actually making music. Having an understanding of Music Theory is a huge help when you're writing a song and get stuck on how to get from one key to another for example. And having a historical overview of how music has developed is a huge bonus. Plus, it's fun to be able to recognize when you come up with a chord progression that Mozart or Haydn used. It's actually surprising how many classical music "hangovers" there are in contemporary music today. In my own music, for example, I actually "borrow" some themes from Mozart's Requiem in the final choruses of my song "Bitter Harvest."
Isaac: Do you have a personal philosophy about music? If so, what is it?
Holly Leer: I think music can be a powerful influence in the world. And while I don't censor myself in anyway when I'm writing, I try to always be mindful of the influence it can have. Music is something that should move you and put you in touch with your emotions, whatever they may be. Sometimes it's angry, sometimes it's goofy, sometimes it's sad and bittersweet. But it should always be a reflection of the human experience.
Isaac: When you are performing live in front of an audience, what are the thoughts that are running through you head?
Holly Leer: I think the best performances are when I'm so caught up in the moment, that I don't have the space in my head to think of anything else but the music. However, this doesn't always happen! Sometimes you get distracted by people in the audience, or by the fact that the sound system sounds funky and weird, or your throat is scratchy, or sometimes you're even distracted by the TV in the corner. And then there are the moments when you completely draw a blank and can't remember the next chord or the next word of lyrics. But, that is just all stuff that you need to learn to deal with as a performer, and try to rise above it, and just concentrate on the music.
Isaac: Why is being an independent musician important to you?
Holly Leer: Being an independent musician is important to me because I am able to make my forge my own path musically. It would be nice at times to have a big name company backing you, but that comes at the price freedom to do whatever you want, whenever you want to.
Isaac: Do you think the Internet has altered the path of music as an industry? If so, how?
Holly Leer: I think the Internet makes it easier than ever for Indie musicians to get their music out into the world. I think the music industry is still changing and evolving in regards to the Internet, so it will be interesting to see what the new model is going to look like.
Isaac: Any advice for other musicians out there when it comes to using the Internet as a medium for getting their music heard to the masses?
Holly Leer: I would say just try to get your music in as many places as possible. In addition to traditional radio, there are a multitude of online stations out there looking for music. My thought is that the more places someone can hear your music, the better. I think another approach that gets overlooked is TV and film placement. One well placed song in a hit show can ignite a career. And even if you don't make it into a hit show, there are a plethora of networks and shows these days that can still give you national exposure if you land a song in one.
Isaac: What kind of recording software do you use?
Holly Leer: At my home studio, I use Cubase, although I am not very adept with it. My album was recorded by Bob Stark at Kung Fu Bakery Recording Studios using Protools.
Isaac: I know that everybody has his or her idea of a dream artist, someone who for whatever reasons that person would just love to listen to and admire. As an entertainer yourself, if you could play with one of your "dream" musicians, anyone at all, who would it be and why?
Holly Leer: I think I would pick Tori Amos. She is a phenomenal pianist and I love her songwriting as well. She has a classical background, but her writing is definitely unconventional. I love how she has no boundaries in her songwriting, and I try to strive for that as well in mine.
Isaac: What are you hoping to gain from your experience of being a musician and making music?
Holly Leer: For me, being a musician is part of who I am; just like brown hair and hazel eyes. So I can't imagine not doing it. It would be like not breathing, and if I didn't do it, I would probably lose my mind! Every time I write, I feel like I tune into some higher energy and it comes through me in the form of music. So the payoff for me is that I find a pure joy in writing songs.
Isaac: What are you hopes for your music in the year 2008?
Holly Leer: I'm working on TV and/or film placement for my songs since I think that is the best way to get your music to a broad audience. I'm also continuing to write material and am starting to think about recording another album, which probably won't happen until next year.
Isaac: This is our Shout Out time. Please give props to anyone and everyone that matters the most to you.
Holly Leer: Well, I wouldn't be able to do music at all if it weren't for my husband, and guitar player, Jeff Gray. He pays all the bills while I do what I do, and never complains! My good friend Lynn Frances Anderson was instrumental in encouraging me to record my album, so mad props to her. And to Rob Schnell and Leah Hinchcliff, who played drums and bass on the album, and Bob Stark who recorded and mixed it, a thousand times thank you!
Isaac: This is Shameless Plug time: Give us some updates on new releases and other projects in the works.
Holly Leer: Currently, my music can be heard on several radio stations, over the airwaves and online. I have been the pick of the week on DJ Lard's show Amp Ear, which airs every Friday from 8 - 10pm eastern time on WMHB 89.7 FM in Waterville, Maine. I have also had some tunes played on the Stroke the Goddess show on the same station on Fridays from 4 - 6pm eastern. They also stream over the Internet at www.wmhb.org. WWUH 91.3 FM in Hartford, Connecticut has also played songs from the album, and I recently got a request for a CD from Radio Coteaux, 104.5 & 97.7 FM in Saint Blancard, France, where some of my songs will be featured on their shows Blue Jean and Biker Street. I also have a couple tunes available to download for free in the Local Music Cafe at Martha's Vineyard Radio at www.mvyradio.com. And finally, my music can be heard at the following online radio stations: Upstream Radio at www.usa4real.com; Bolt.fm Internet Radio at www.bolt.fm; Pongid Radio at www.pongid.net which also streams into the virtual world of Second Life; Whole Wheat Radio at www.wholewheatradio.org; and finally, Last.fm at www.last.fm.
Isaac: Final Thoughts:
Holly Leer: Thank you for your interest in my music and for supporting Indie musicians!