For Holly Dearden, singer-songwriter and front-woman of band-on-the-rise Holly and the Wolf, music is far from equated with X-Factor assembly lines and disposable pop.
“My heroines are Cat Power, KT Tunstall and Imogen Heap. I like the independent, doing-something-slightly-different female artists,” she tells The Positive.
Channeling her idols Joni Mitchell and Carole King, Dearden’s cleverly written non-age-specific music might appeal to all those Rumer fans who have helped bolster the notion that chart success is still possible after 30.
Having moved to London 13 years ago (after studying English Literature at Edinburgh University), Dearden is no stranger to the gig circuit. The lead track of her 2008 album The Optimist’s Daughter, ‘You & London’ was a paean to her adopted city. “Just being in London really inspires me,” says Dearden. “All the opportunities are here, there are fantastic places you can play live and I love going to a gig and being really inspired by another band’s style and songwriting. There’s something very hub-like about London.”
This month, the band’s activities shift up a notch with the launch of their first Christmas single, the lead track from their new EP.“This time a year ago I was thinking about Christmas and a friend of mine suggested I try and write a Christmas single using the word marzipan! So within half an hour I’d written this tongue-in-cheek Christmas ditty Marzipan Reindeer,” explains Dearden.
The band commissioned director Tony Johnson to create an animated video — a parallel story of Holly as a Red Riding Hood type character which blends beautifully with the lyrics.
“The song is ultimately a happy song. I love Christmas and it’s about being able to celebrate it in a positive way, having [far from] been able to do that in the past. It’s a bit of a joke about finally being able to get out the novelty pants and go for it!” Dearden says.
Cleverly written vocals and piano balladry may get so far but these days, the self-starter artist also has to be a bit of a social marketing whizz.
“Initially, I was quite daunted by the digital side however it’s absolutely crucial these days,” proffers Dearden. “It’s inspiring because as an artist you can literally do it yourself.” And she has — effectively creating her record label Movie Queen Music and releasing her own songs on iTunes.
“It’s demystified the power of the record industry as it was,” Dearden says. “Even if people [are challenged getting] to your gigs, they can hear your music on Soundcloud or Bandcamp. It’s an amazing community. The do-it-yourself approach makes sense for someone like me.”
Dearden is proof that a slightly limited Captain Sensible approach mixed with raw talent might pay dividends.“I personally think it’s better now that anyone can make music and get heard. Young people are really having to pull their finger out to get somewhere.” She concludes: “You [far from] just sit back, smoke a cigarette and hope someone finds you.”
The Marzipan Reindeer EP was released on 17 December on iTunes. Limited edition CDs are available via on Holly and the Wolf’s website.
Holly and the Wolf aims to play at The Islington on 7 February and continuing their residency upstairs at Ronnie Scott’s in 2013.