Today we get to hear about Perth singer/songwriter Holly Norman. The pop/folk songstress launched her debut EP Hollypop in 2013 which has a real Alice in Wonderland feel to it. You can watch one of her songs Letterbox Genie here, which was performed live at the Ellington Jazz Club.
Tell us about how you first got into music and the journey you’ve been on so far.
I had a gigantic overbite as a kid, and tiny lungs, so I got kicked out of my primary school flute program and I started learning percussion. I went to a specialist music school where I was really involved in all the choirs and orchestras. After I finished school I went to WAAPA and completed a Bachelor’s degree in classical percussion. Since then I’ve been playing in bands both as a drummer/percussionist and a singer. I started writing my own songs about three years ago.
What drew you to pop/folk?
My family is pretty musical and we used to listen to a lot of classic rock and pop on road trips – The Beatles, Elton John, Billy Joel, Cat Stevens, Joni Mitchell. Those are the sounds that I naturally gravitate towards. We used to have a big singalong every Christmas with my dad on the guitar and everybody had to know all the words – if you didn’t know the words you got dissed! There was always an emphasis on the song structure and the lyric behind it.
Tell us about your songwriting process.
I write at the piano. I generally write part of the lyric first, like a chorus or verse, and once I’ve got a few lines of lyric I play around with different chords on the piano until I like where the song is heading. I always make myself play a song to somebody on day the song is written.
What is your favourite original song and why?
I love heaps of local artists and we have an amazing collection of songwriters here in Perth. As far as a favourite song of mine is concerned, I really like ‘It’s Alright Francine’. It’s a narrative about a donkey and a hare who become friends and help each other build a cathedral. I can always picture Francine and Henry when I’m singing it.
What inspires you?
I am lucky to have friends and musical colleagues who inspire me and make me want to better myself. I was on exchange in Miami during university and some of my friends from school over there have gone on to do some incredible things in music. I think travel is really important to a creative life – I’ve been travelling a fair bit recently.
Tell us about the recording of your EP “Hollypop”.
I worked with producer Noah Shilkin, who is based in Margaret River. He has a beautiful studio in the valley with an artists’ cottage – we recorded the EP in five days so it was fairly intense, but a great experience. I’m really happy with the way the EP has turned out. We had a lot of fun – we both have pretty quirky humour.
What’s in store for the rest of 2014?
I’m really excited to be collaborating with two local artists, Helen Shanahan and Jess Morhall, for a special gig next week at Northbridge Yoga studio. After that I’m off to the US for five weeks for a bit of a musical vacation. I’m renting a music studio in New York for ten days, and heading to New Orleans to check out some amazing second line and blues music. I’m looking forward to being able to work on music full-time for a few weeks.
What advice would you give to aspiring artists?
Write for yourself, make music for yourself and don’t compare yourself to others.