British alternative singer and guitarist, Holly Henderson, released her debut full-length album, Monday Green, on June 7 via Trend & Chaos. The album was produced by well-known guitarist and producer, Pete Thorn, known for his work with the late Chris Cornell and Courtney Love. Both Thorn and Henderson are huge fans of each other’s work, and from there formed the bond between producer and musician. Monday Green features ten songs in the vein of alternative-pop, featuring Henderson’s impressive and succinct guitar skills.
Henderson chatted with us about her single “Pride Can Wait, and the inspiration from David Bowie’s Blackstar behind it, her writing and recording process, collaborating with Thorn, her favorites in music and the coveted guitar gear she owns and would like to have.
When did you first pick up the guitar?
When I was about 8 or 9 I think. My Mum bought me an acoustic and I started picking it up by ear, but I didn’t really click with it until later when I was about 15.
Your recently released single, “Pride Can Wait,” was heavily inspired by David Bowie’s album, Blackstar. What kind of impact has Bowie and his music on your writing and performing?
His ability to reinvent himself was a major breakthrough for me. He was the first person that triggered a series of really freeing realizations, in terms of seeing restrictions as self-inflicted. I know bands and artists, and have been in bands myself, that feel limited with the music they can put out, due to worries of things being ‘off-brand,’ or potentially alienating existing fans because you want to try something different. It baffles me now.
Bowie melted all of those concerns away, the mentality for being truly free to create, for the sake of the art and not those around you will always be very important to me.
Your album, Monday Green, is out now. What’s your writing and recording process like?
It always varies. Sometimes I go into it really open and just let things happen organically, noodling on the piano, guitar. I record everything. I’ve had really special moments happen totally by accident, which is usually better. On the other hand, if I have something specific in mind, I can also be really forensic about it, sit and obsess over a hook or melody for hours until it’s right. But I prefer to not put too much pressure on it, it tends to be a bit of a chaotic mess until I go through and pick out bits that are worth refining.
What was it like collaborating with Pete Thorn?
He’s great to work with, we have an awesome friendship, but he also makes a great mentor. Especially starting the album back in 2017, I was so fresh to producing in particular, and working in an established studio environment. It was a learning curve I desperately needed and he gave me a good balance of necessary arse-kicking and encouragement. I learned loads.
I love that you started out in a punk band and played hundreds of gigs while with them. What influenced you to start a solo career, and would you perform with a band again?
Yeah it was like boot camp! I had been studying and pursuing fine art quite seriously, and I was thrown into the deep end with them. I wouldn’t recommend that experience to everyone, but I learned a lot of practical lessons, touring, etc, but also what my standards are, dealing with egos, all of that stuff. I’d just done a lot of that, in a few years I’d done so many gigs with so many bands and projects, none of them felt like me. As much as I love writing with people, at the time I didn’t have an outlet that was mine. I had so many ideas that had to be compromised and I suddenly realized how crazy that was! I love performing with my band. I realized it all boils down to who you surround yourself with. My band consists of highly creative, intelligent but above all, loving, beautiful people. The best part of going solo was not having to tolerate toxic band politics, dodgy managers, etc. I’d go like this forever, if at all possible.
Who was your first concert, and do you have a favorite?
First proper gig was probably the Green Man festival, I saw Flaming Lips headline, which was one of the best gigs I’ve ever seen, still. John Grant, too.
What was your first album on CD and/or vinyl?
I just remember accumulating a lot very quickly. Jagged Little Pill was definitely one of them. The first vinyl I ever bought myself was The Smiths – Hatful Of Hollow
Which five albums and/or artists would you not want to live without?
The Beatles, number one. Then Bowie, The Free Design, Wilco, Pulp. It’s so hard picking an album, almost impossible. Couldn’t function without Rubber Soul though, I think I’ve listened to it at least two or three times a month for the last few years.
Which five female guitar players inspire you the most?
Joni Mitchell is one of my biggest core songwriting influences, in that vein, PJ Harvey, Mary Ford, Viv Albertine, Wendy Melvoin.
Do you have a guilty music and/or entertainment pleasure?
I’ve been trying to be a sponge more lately and not see things, especially music as guilty pleasures. If I enjoy something, there must be a redeeming feature that is worth investigating… Apart from watching “Sex and The City” and “America’s Next Top Model,” that probably is filed under ‘guilty pleasure’.
What kind of guitar do you play, and is there one that you’re wanting to play, but haven’t yet?
I usually play Teles. I like keeping things as simple as possible. I’m a wreck on stage, so I need to know that what I need is right there, and I don’t want more than I need. Bearing that in mind, I’ve been really interested in a Fender Mustang or something. Tried one at NAMM and it practically played itself, simple but everything has a purpose. Ideal! Fender also recently hooked me up with a beautiful Paramount acoustic guitar for some TV gigs. It fits me perfectly.
What strings, picks and straps do you use?
I have some vintage suede straps, I get back pain pretty quickly, and since I switched to those it slips less and feels good.
Strings are D’Addario NYXLs, either 10/46 or 11/49 depending on what I’m going for. I write with 11s because I like having resistance and something to work against, but 10s live.
Picks, I have been using the hot pink Dunlop .96mms for as long as I can remember. If it ain’t broke.
Pedals and mics?
My mic is an SM57. My core pedalboard is really simple. Tuner, EHX Soul Food, EHX Small Stone, Way Huge Swollen Pickle. I sometimes chop and change, BOSS have been amazingly supportive and when I want more range sound wise, I always use the DD-500 Digital Delay, and the SY-300 Guitar Synthesizer.
When my band are stripped down, or I’m on my own, I’ll use the BOSS VE-500 and the RC-30 Loop station, it goes from just me and a guitar, to endless possibilities of layers and harmonies.
What is one song that you love to perform live?
Of my own, I love playing my single, “Loneliness.” My whole band and I have a lot of fun and it feels like a party, but it’s also the first song I’ve played of my own where people in the audience actually know the words, which feels so weird, but amazing. My favourite cover to play is “I Want You (She’s so Heavy)” by The Beatles.