Greg Holden is relatively unknown for a platinum-selling, American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers Pop Award-winning artist because the majority of his commercial success has come from his penning of Phillip Phillip’s smash hit, “Home.” With his recent signing to Warner Brother Records and the upcoming release of his sophomore album, “Chase the Sun,” Holden is ready to gain acclaim as an artist in his own right. He is opening for Delta Rae at the 9:30 Club tonight.
What made you want to become a professional musician? Was music something you were always passionate about?
I came to music quite late, actually. I was 18 years old when I started playing. For me, it was a need to write music and try and release some of the tension from my early life. I never really had a plan to learn a lot of covers and just be a general musician. It was always about song writing. I decided to “professionally” take it up about six years ago when I first moved to New York because I felt that I needed to do something extreme, like leave the country that I came from, in order to scare myself into committing to music fully.
You gained a large following with your “Not My Living Room” tour YouTube videos. What was that experience like?
It was very organic, and it took a bit of time. What I really liked about it was that people were connecting to my songs. You see a lot of covers on YouTube, and you see a lot of people getting views because they are doing covers. For me, I felt really grateful that people were connecting to my music. Not only that, but because of YouTube and this worldwide access, I was gaining fans all around the world, which was really amazing.
What was the process behind writing Phillip Phillips’ song, “Home,” and how did he end up getting to record it?
I wrote that with Drew Pearson in Los Angeles about three years ago. The goal was to just write a simple message. I had a friend who was going through a lot of difficulty, and lyrically the song was just about letting them know that someone was there for them and that they were not completely alone. We wrote the song, and it was just one of those things. Our publishing companies pitched the song to American Idol. It was kind of a lottery ticket to be honest. We were given this amazing opportunity to have the song heard on a large scale.
Was it weird for you to not be the one singing the song?
It was a little strange, but it was a whole new wonderful experience. I got to sit back and watch this happen without being completely in the foreground. I was not a part of the intensity that was happening around Phillip Phillips. I got to sit back and learn from that experience.
Your upcoming album, “Chase the Sun,” was inspired by a seven-week trip to India and Nepal. Why was the trip so inspiring?
I was traveling through the poorest state in India, called Bihar, in Northern India, and I noticed how little everyone had. The poverty was overwhelming. But, what was the most inspiring to me was that everyone seemed to be smiling, everyone seemed to be happy. I live in a very gentrified neighborhood in Brooklyn, and when I came home, I noticed that everybody had everything and no one was smiling. It really changed my perspective on a lot of things.
Your last album, “I Don’t Believe You,” was brutally honest, while “Chase the Sun” is more optimistic thematically. Was this a shift you intended on making or was it accidental?
It was not planned. I never could have predicted what would happen in India and how my mind would change. However, I went on that trip knowing something was going to change. When I came back, I had a more positive outlook, which heavily influenced “Chase the Sun.” I think now I am able to say something that might inspire people, rather than depress the crap out of them.
You moved from England to New York in 2009. Do you feel as if moving to New York had a big impact on your musical career?
Massive. Absolutely everything. New York was always the goal for me. It was where I wanted to end up. It will continue to inspire me, whether I live here or not.
What other artists and bands have influenced you musically?
I have always been influenced by people who write more of the social-commentary kind of stuff, like Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan. For me, they are saying something, they are saying something important, and they are saying something that could inspire people in a different way than just the typical love song. I have always been more inspired by people whose goal seems to be to rustle a few feathers. That is what I really like to do. I really enjoy rustling feathers and just making people think a little bit harder when a song is on.
Do you have a favorite venue to play?
You know what’s funny, it is actually 9:30 Club in D.C. I’m not even kidding, I love that place. It is one of the most popular venues in America, isn’t it? And it’s so good. They give you cupcakes when you get there.
Once this tour finishes and “Chase the Sun” is released, what do you see next for yourself?
More touring. I am going on tour with Ingrid Michaelson on the West Coast in June. Then I will probably be heading to Europe over the summer. This is about making sure as many people as possible hear my new album. It is going to be a very busy year, but I am so excited.
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