Greg Holden calls from L.A just hours before he released his new record, World War Me and opens up to heirwaves about overcoming the challenges presented to him while making this record, the prevalent social and political influences, and the freedom of producing the record on his own.
“It’s a very introspective record,” Holden explains the meaning behind the title track. Prior to making World War Me, he had intended to work with a label an a seasoned producer, but when that was no longer an option – he took the record into his own hands. Surrounded by gear he had been collecting for years, Holden sat at his home studio in Los Angeles and got to work. “It seemed like a good challenge,” he says, “and at the time I think I really needed a challenge.”
Holden admits that making the album was more a mental challenge for him more than it was a technical challenge. “It’s been a very tough 3 years,” he says, “and I think these songs represent that internal struggle. It’s just sort of about the battle that was going on within my mind.” While it was difficult at times, having finished the record on his own was a freeing experience for him to capture all of those feelings within and let them go. “Releasing it is almost like lighting one of those Chinese lanterns and sending it off into the sky,” he says as he’s ready to pass these songs on to the rest of the world.
Holden’s lyrics are laced with mention of the modern problems we are all thoroughly surrounded by on social media, touching on heavier topics – from politics to the wild media craze – seeing as the record was conceived the day after Donald Trump was elected president. “We’re living in this sort of media circus hell for the last 2 1/2 – 3 years, and it’s really difficult to not have that influence your songwriting,” he says. Not intending to use those themes as a base for the entire record, as the Scottish singer was, at the time, immersed in a Green Card application, he had to hold himself back.
The essence of chaotic times is intertwined in his lyrics from an understanding perspective as he examines the world in parallel to his personal struggles, touching on real issues that are often brushed over on the radio. “It’s really all I’ve ever done,” he explains, “I’ve always tapped into that darker side of it, it’s really all I know. I was influenced by Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, they all sang about human troubles and social issues and I was so heavily influenced by that.”
“And maybe under the surface // We’re all just trying to figure out // How to believe in a world of doubt.” – Greg Holden, Nobody’s Perfect
“My biggest songs in my career are about Sudanese Refugees, and homosexual kids who’s fathers won’t accept them, and suicide,” he notes of his song “The Lost Boy,” which raised $80,000 for the Red Cross, and “Boys In The Street” he wrote for Everyone is Gay, and organization supporting the LGBTQ youth community. “There’s more that can be said,” he says of this heavier subject matter, “it’s more powerful.”
World War Me brings those bigger issues to a personal level for Holden, who wrote “I’m Not Your Enemy” with his friend Garrison Starr after the 2016 Presidential Election. “We both felt a little alienated,” he begins, himself being an immigrant in the middle of a green card application, and Starr being a gay woman. “Those two things were really on our mind, and we wanted to write something about that feeling of like helplessness,” he says, adding that the song was intended to bring people to rise together in those lost times rather than a song of anger at the situation.
“Keep looking up, my friends // Let the people looking down on you never forget // We see your bullshit, all of it // I hope you’re ready for the power shift.” – Greg Holden, The Power Shift
The record as a whole carries a different progression then Holden’s previous releases – a product of making it on his own (with the exception of “On The Run”). “Stylistically it’s a little bit more polished and a little bit more electronic just because I was doing it, I was getting bored, so I was trying different sounds and I was trying different ideas, just to keep myself entertained really.”
“I always considered myself a purist, I always needed there to be a complete live band and it had to be like super organic, this is the first record where I didn’t do that. It was definitely a battle, where the balance was with this,” he says, noting that he re-recorded some elements to make them more organic sounding then the synth base he had experimented with.
As Holden gears up to head out on a U.S and U.K tour in April, he reveals the the live show will maintain that organic atmosphere that takes him back to his roots. “I’m back on my own and it’s actually really nice. It’s given me a whole new perspective on playing solo,” he says, explaining that his whole live show is based on interacting with the audience. “I love being at my shows with people singing along and just feeling that human connection. I really crave it. I forget how much I miss it until I’m back on stage.”
“I write songs with the intention of getting people to sing along,” he says, “I like to make it about the crowd as well and make them part of the band. I think some people just get on stage and they play their songs and they expect people to be into it, and they don’t really put any effort in themselves to get back what they want.”
Holden admits that he has definitely figured out how to make the crowd feel involved. “You don’t just expect them to sing along if you haven’t done something for them, if you haven’t made them feel comfortable. It’s a two way experience.”
As for what’s next following touring World War Me: Greg Holden is turning the world off for a little while after admittedly feeling a little lost in Los Angeles. “I’m going to take a little break. I’m going to Italy for 3 months and just going to learn how to make bread,” he says, planning to turn his phone off and go away for a minute to reset before he returns make the next album.
With a fresh perspective on his own artistry, this record was deeply introspective for Holden, and it’s his hope that the songs will invite others to be more introspective themselves when faced with tougher times. From dealing with personal battles to carrying the weight of modern political and social issues – World War Me is a powerful and wildly dynamic album that will remind listeners that you are not alone and that we all have the power to rise together.
World War Me is available for streaming and download on all platforms now.