Royal Holland – The Maze

Royal Holland

Royal Holland

Indie rock and folk singer-songwriter Royal Holland has received rave reviews for his 5-track EP The Maze. I loved the songs Statues and Shore, so I asked Royal to tell me more about them.

Royal Holland told me that those two songs are getting the most attention: “Statues took a long time to write. It started with just a melody. I record a lot of things on my iPhone, when ideas come to me. I went through two or three revisions, before I got to something worth recording. That’s kindda what the song’s about, trying to get to the heart of what actually is worth something in this life and figuring out how to live for those things. Today, a new fan who was at our show on Sunday, she tweeted today that Statues was the best song ever. That was nice to hear.”

Then, Royal told me the back story behind Shore: “This song was interesting to write as well. I’ve been writing songs collaboratively with a lot of other people, basically two guitars, bass and drums. As I’ve been demoing songs for this new project, they’ve all started with these dance beats. Then, I’m layering other instrumentation. It just morphed into this new thing that I didn’t expect. That’s how Shore was birthed. It started as this experiment with new sounds and new ways to layer the sounds. The lyrics mirror that in a way, because they are about searching for something and you’re not exactly sure what it is or where it’s going to come from. Ultimately, you find it, but it may not be what you expected.”

When I listen to Royal Holland’s music, I’m taken back to classic rock ballad recording artists like Bob Dylan and Lou Reed. How does Royal Holland describe his music? “I describe it as synth-folk. I have a rock background. I grew up listening to Superchunk, probably my favorite band in high school, plus a lot of Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr.”

Royal also has been influenced by the records his parents listened to: “The original cast recording of Jesus Christ Superstar was my favorite record that they had. There are some amazing rock performances on that record. A lot of that seeped through into what I’m writing, these stories with dirt and grit. Then again, I was also listening to Hang on Sloopy by the MaCoys, so pop sensibilities sneak in too. It’s a big mess.”

Royal Holland singing Royal Holland has a unique approach to how he uses his website and social media. Royal allows his fans to ask questions on his website and he’s very open about his music career on his Tumblr blog. “My social media strategy is evolving. I really just want to connect with people. That’s the most important thing for me. I don’t want to only connect with them by saying, ‘Buy my stuff.’ Although, I do want them to buy my stuff, I want them to enjoy the music they buy from me. But, I want them to know who it’s coming from too. To me, it’s worthless not to have an understanding of where the music’s coming from. I like to research the bands that I like and get to know them in a way that adds meaning to the music.”

Royal continued, “With the internet and all the social media that we have available, why not have more of a story that’s spread across these mediums? Why not interact with people the way they want to interact? I love for someone to send me a tweet or a question or apply to one of my blog entries. I’d love to have a conversation with them and learn what drives them, because those stories along with my stories are the things that make the music meaningful.”

Royal Holland shared an interesting story about taking piano lessons and writing his first song. “I grew up in a small farm town. There was this woman, a widow, and she taught piano lessons to the kids in the neighborhood. I ended up taking piano lessons with her and she taught me a lot about music. I was really appreciative of that. I knew even then that I just wanted to write songs, so, I told her. She gave me some paper with staff printed on it, and she showed me how to write all the notes and the clefs. I was so excited. I went home to our old upright piano, sat down and started writing a song inspired by one of my favorite video games: Frogger. I wrote this song, and I was very proud of it and excited to show it to her. I took it to her and I played it and I’ll never forget what she said to me: ‘Well, you know, that’s not very good.’ I was devastated, but as you can see, I’ve continued my writing process. It just made me stronger.”

Royal Holland - The Maze coverAs you know, I ask all featured artists to advise other artists. I was excited to hear that Royal watches the Amused Now interviews and Royal has taken some of their advice.

Of course, Royal also some sage advice for other indie artists: “My biggest piece of advice is to persevere. This is a really tough industry. It’s not easy to keep going, especially when you feel that no one is on your side. If you care enough about the music that you’re making, then persevere through the hardest parts and mundane things that you have to do, like budgeting and planning. Once you get out on the other side, there’s nothing better. I know sometimes you just want to get depressed and stop doing things, but don’t. Put on that game face. Push through it and everything is going to be OK as long as you keep the love for what you do in mind.”

What’s up next for Royal Holland? “I’m planning another release soon. I’m hoping to record again soon with Brian Olive, who I recorded with for the first EP. He’s a really great producer and engineer. It blows me away that he recorded with the great Dr. John. He really helps me through this process of discovering new sound and new ideas. I’m going to record five more songs with him.”

Royal Holland also plans to record another EP after that one and collect all those songs onto vinyl. He has 80% of a concept album written: “The stories and the concepts are meaningful to me, so I’m just going to do it and see what people think about it after the fact.”

I really enjoyed getting to know Royal Holland. I can’t wait to hear what comes next.

The Amused Now Featured Artist Series

Royal Holland rehearsingRoyal Holland

Cynthia Kahn, Founder of Amused Now