Yesterday we gave you the scoop on why songwriter Greg Holden is such a welcome new discovery. His songs are often profound; he doesn't shy away from providing social commentary or trying to say something important. It's something the Scottish born musician says he learned from American heroes like Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and Bruce Springsteen. "I don't really have a problem opening up and being a bit vulnerable and saying something I really believe in. Why else would I be doing this?"
In our stylish new Closed Set Session, Greg picked three songs from his most recent album Chase The Sun that really represent this creative philosophy. "Hold On Tight", with its call for not taking life for granted, is a song about truly living in the moment...you never know when that moment will end. "Give It Away" was the result of an epiphany; Greg realized a lot of things he valued in life just weren't that important. And then there is "Boys in the Street", a beautiful, goose-bump inducing song he penned with a friend in mind. Stripped bare of visual and sonic embellishments, this short set showcases the simple power of a few chords, a great voice, memorable melodies, and thought-provoking lyrics.
I've been selling my name for the sake of who knows I've been trying to explain how it's all gonna go I don't take my life for granted I've been waking up tight day after day Hope is taking its time to go my way But I don't take my life for granted I'm gonna hold on tight to what I've been handed I'll try not to complain about the things I've lost 'Cause when you have something great that just means there's a greater loss So when you look at yourself tell me who do you see Is it the person you've been or the person you're gonna be Don't take your life for granted Don't take your life for granted Why don't you hold on tight to what you've been handed Don't take your life for granted Don't take your life for granted Don't take your life for granted Why don't you hold on tight to what you've been handed 'Cause you just don't know how long you will have it - Yeah, the first song I played was my new single called "Hold on Tight. " That's a very simple song, simple message about trying to live in the moment and not take things for granted. You know, again, I'm a very unknown artist. I'm very new at this. So, at least to many people's eyes. So I'm still trying to showcase myself in a genuine way. I'm not trying to, you know, jump down people's throats and, you know, I'm not trying to preach, or anything like that. I just want to kind of say something positive that people may be able to relate to. The second song is called "Give It Away," and that's a song that I wrote after realizing that a lot of things that I was clinging onto just weren't important. And there was a period in my life when I really was kind of clinging onto a lot of pointless things, and I realized that it was just not the way to live my life. I can see my place on a nowhere road Where the stars shine bright and the skies hang low I can watch, I can drink, I will not have to think for tomorrow I can dream of a time when my worries are gone I can hope for a day when nothing goes wrong But the truth of it is is we never really let go of wanting You've gotta give it away You don't need it Just give it away What's the point of it Just give it away It's not worth the headache I can talk all day about the way that I've changed I can send my money to a third-world place But it don't mean a thing if my intentions are not getting purer We can preach all we like all the things we've read But at the end of the day it's just a quote in our head No, we won't ever know how it's all gonna go Will we really know You've gotta give it away You don't need it Just give it away What's the point of it Just give it away It is not worth the headache Just give it away You don't need it Just give it away What's the point of it Just give it away It is not worth the headache Just give it away You don't need it Just give it away What's the point of it Just give it away It is not worth the headache Just give it away You don't need it Just give it away What's the point of it Just give it away It is not worth the headache Just give it away You don't need it Just give it away What's the point of it Just give it away It is not worth the headache - I'm from Aberdeen, in Scotland. I grew up in the northwest of England, in the county of Lancashire. All of the musicians that I kind of spent my early days growing up listening to, they always sang about New York and talked about New York. So as a musician, it just seems like the natural progression to come here. Well, I mean, I've always been heavily influenced by artists like Tom Petty, and Bruce Springsteen, and Bob Dylan. People who kind of, you know, they sing from, like, a social commentary point of view, rather than just the typical songwriting side of things. That's how I'm inspired by it. By, it's when music says something. It says something important. And so I was always trying to strive to do that, you know? So I don't really have a problem opening up, you know, being a bit vulnerable, and saying something that I really believe in, because I feel like, why else would I be doing it? When I was younger my daddy told me I would never never amount to nothing special He'd come at me from every angle He'd say you're the last thing I wanted the last thing I need How am I gonna answer when my friends tell me My son was kissing boys in the street My son was kissing boys in the street He'd try to change me, say I'm embarrassing my country How could I do this to my family Do I wanna grow up being lonely He'd say we've worked for our money we've put you in school Is this how you repay us Do you think this is cool My son, stop kissing boys in the street My son, stop kissing boys in the street Now that I'm older, my daddy's heart's a little warmer But he still won't hug me like my brother and he still won't kiss me like my mother He'd say, you were part of this family I made you myself But the way that you act isn't good for your health My son, stop kissing boys in the street My son, stop kissing boys in the street My daddy's dyin', he's finally realized I'm not lyin' We sit in silence, but we're smilin' because for once we are not fightin' He'd say, there was no way of knowing 'cause all I was told Is men only love women, but now I'm not sure My son, keep kissing boys in the street My son, keep kissing boys in the street When I am gone, keep kissing boys in the street Why don't you hold on tight to what you've been handed Cause you just don't know how long you will have it
Singer and songwriter Greg Holden has earned recognition as an independent artist for the past several years, though he is perhaps best known for writing the massive hit "Home" - the debut single for American Idol winner Phillip Phillips that sold five million tracks in the U.S. and earned Holden an ASCAP Pop Award. He's also found success with "The Lost Boy" - a poetic rumination inspired by a Dave Eggers' novel about a Sudanese refugee that hit No. 1 on iTunes in Holland and raised over $50,000 for the Red Cross. Within two weeks of being featured on Sons of Anarchy, "The Lost Boy" sold 30,000 downloads in the U.S. and debuted at No. 36 on Billboard's Rock chart. Soon Holden will also be known for the passionate, purpose-driven rock songs on his major-label debut album, like the anthemic "Hold On Tight" and "Save Yourself." Those songs, plus Holden's powerful voice led Warner Bros. Records to sign the Scottish-born, England-bred, New York-based artist earlier this year. His future is wide open.
But Holden's career almost didn't happen. He nearly gave up on the music business altogether a few times over the course of the past few years. The first was after he spent a significant amount of his own money (in addition to $30,000 crowd-funded through Kickstarter) to make his Tony Berg-produced 2011 album I Don't Believe You, watched his label go bust, and was left unable to promote it. The second was when he went into debt after "The Lost Boy" charted overseas and he set out on a sold-out tour of Holland. "I borrowed petrol money from my drummer so we could drive around Europe in his car," Holden recalls. "That's how bad it was. I was driving to my sold-out shows thinking, 'I'm coming off this tour and I'm giving this shit up. How can I afford to keep doing it?' I was ready to call it a day.'"
Fortunately, "Home" became a success and Holden embarked on a life-changing, seven-week trip to India and Nepal in February 2013 that renewed his drive to be an artist. "The trip gave me a new perspective on how lucky I was, and the fact that I can make music for a living is a miracle," Holden says. "I came home from India and wrote most of my new album almost immediately." The chorus of the album's first single "Hold On Tight" is as such: "I don't take my life for granted /?I'm gonna hold on tight to what I've been handed."
"My last album was brutally honest, but I was very much pointing the finger in the wrong direction," Holden says. "I was projecting my problems onto everybody else. I guess I just realized that was not a good way to be. This new album is about looking at my own shit and realizing 'I'm lucky. We're all lucky and we don't know it and we should.' I really want to make people think with my songs. I'd love for people to take on a more compassionate way of thinking and start considering others besides themselves, myself included."
Given his thoughtful, inspired songwriting, it's not surprising that Holden's earliest musical influence was Bob Dylan. Holden was 17 and working at McDonald's when one of the managers gave him four of Dylan's albums thinking maybe Holden would like them. "When I heard his albums, I was like, 'I want to do this,' He just didn't give a f**k. I loved how he rebelled. I always secretly wanted to rebel, but was too scared of being disciplined," says Holden, who was born in Aberdeen, Scotland and spent his teenage years in Lancashire, England, raised by his mother and a "very strict" stepfather. "I started playing so I could write my own music," he says. "I didn't learn covers or anything like that. I picked up a guitar and immediately began writing songs. As soon as I decided to write, I knew I wanted to do it for a living. It was about expressing myself because I never felt like I could in any other way."
Holden's path to the present found him moving to Brighton where he spent two years playing in a punk band, followed by two years in London after he decided to pursue a solo career. (He worked at the Apple Store "teaching old people how to send emails and cute girls how to use Facebook.") Holden also made a handful of trips to New York City between 2007 and 2009, where he recorded his independently released album, 2009's A Word in Edgeways. "The first time I came to New York it was like meeting a girl," Holden says. "I was totally smitten and couldn't stop thinking about it."
He has made the city his home since 2009 and its grittiness and urgency bleed into the songs he has written (either on his own, or with his co-writers Tofer Brown, Richard Harris, Garrison Starr, and Ace Enders) for his major-label debut, which is due from Warner Bros. Records in Spring 2015. Produced by Greg Wells (Adele, OneRepublic), the music is modern, yet timeless, brimming with tough, vibrant energy that thoroughly showcases Holden's lean, literate songwriting.
"I want people to listen to this album and think, 'Where the hell did this come from?'" Holden says. "I would love them to really pay attention to the words in these songs. I'm hoping that if they do, they will have some kind of meaningful reaction. That's what I would love."