Hailing from the bright shores of Durban (that’s in South Africa), Ian Holmes is now living in the much colder UK. Curled up in his apartment, he took some time to have a quick chat with us. From his mouth to our post, here is what Ian Holmes (IH) has to say about his single ‘Around You’ and some other stuff.
OSR: For anyone who doesn’t know you yet, how would you describe your sound?
IH: I’d say my sound is a mix of rock and electronic dance music, though I’m not sure that’s how others would describe it! It’s all vocal-driven and high energy with very personal and honest lyrics. As they all start off on just a guitar, they tend to keep an element of that too.
OSR: Why did you choose to go into the music industry?
IH: I’ve been creating music since I was a kid. Music has always been the thing I wanted to do for a living, but I spent a long time not sure if it’s what I should do. It’s not easy to choose music, as we all know it’s difficult to make a living from it. There’s also that fear of “what if I try and fail?”. The choice to dive into it came after realising that I was far more scared of getting old knowing I’d never really tried to do the one thing I always wanted to do. #deep.
OSR: Who is the one artist you would most like to collaborate with in the future?
IH: Awful of you to make me choose only one! I tend to pick out things that I like when I listen to music: Hozier’s lyrics, Connor Mason’s (Nothing but Thieves) voice, Khalid’s production. I’ve recently been really enjoying much of the 5SOS stuff – ‘Youngblood’ and ‘Easier’ are awesome tracks, and they do a great job combining their rock roots with electronic production. I think working with them would be fun.
OSR: How would you describe the single ‘Around You’?
IH: It’s a bit of a confession, that classic thought of wanting something even though you know you shouldn’t. Perhaps it’s wanting something because you know you shouldn’t. It’s not always clear which one it is. I spent a lot of time figuring out who I was as an artist, and I feel like this song is very true to myself as an artist. It’s honest, it’s raw and it’s exposed.
OSR: ‘Around You’ is your latest release but it comes after a seven-year break. What was the reason for your hiatus, if you don’t mind us asking?
IH: This hiatus is the time that I spent figuring myself out as an artist. I think, as a young musician trying to ‘make it’, I spent so much time making music that I thought people wanted to hear more so than what I wanted to hear. I went through university, went out into the world and got a ‘real job’ (testing video games is still a real job), and spent a few years feeling very unsatisfied knowing I wasn’t pursuing music. I think I had to go through all of that to really realise what I wanted.
OSR: Can you tell us about the creative process behind ‘Around You’?
IH: Almost all of my songs start off with just me and an acoustic guitar, this was no different. The intro riff came first, the chord sequence and ‘feel’ of the chorus came second (recorded on a voice note on a friend’s couch after a night out). I usually get a very vivid idea of the vibe of the song while I’m writing it, so once that’s done it’s usually quite quick to get to the end sound. I record and produce everything at home. I actually spent about a year on this song, slowly swapping out guitar parts and vocal takes until I was finally happy with it.
OSR: What do you feel is the most challenging part of being an unsigned artist in 2020?
IH: Probably just battling against the hundreds of thousands of other voices out there. It’s easier than ever to be heard, but harder than ever to be listened to. Trying to stand out while staying true to yourself is a challenge.
OSR: Did you always want to be a musician or were there other aspirations, like a spy or something?
IH: I could tell you if I wanted to be a spy, but then I’d have to kill you…
OSR: Moving from South Africa to the UK is not always an easy adjustment, particularly the drop in temperature. What was the greatest challenge in your move?
IH: Cold, dark winters are something I don’t think I’ll ever get used to. I come from Durban where shorts, sun, braais (barbeques) and beaches are our way of life. The sun makes me want to get out and do stuff, and of course, the rain has an adverse effect. Staying motivated during the winter is tough!
OSR: What do you miss about SA (if anything) and what are you glad to see the back of?
IH: Barbeques in the sun by the pool – bliss. I suppose I don’t really miss getting robbed.
OSR: Covid-19 is affecting people on a global scale. How do you think the pandemic affects the music industry?
IH: Well, for the time being, it looks like it’s brought it to a bit of a halt – at least for live music. You’d think that with many people isolating at home, it might be a good time to release music, but it feels a bit like this pandemic is just at the forefront of everyone’s mind at the moment. Having said that, I think it’s giving us a chance to really lock ourselves away and be creative whilst also connecting with people online.
OSR: Most people have “bucket lists”. Do you? If so, what items have you crossed off the list?
IH: Musically, I’d like to hit a few goals such as having a UK top 40 song, play a massive gig (vague, I know), work with some of my favourite artists. Just general goals, I’d love to see more of the world. Have my own house, grow a bonsai tree, call it Richard.
OSR: A lot of bands are using online performances instead of live gigs now. Can we expect a live streaming gig from Ian Holmes?
IH: Perhaps – OSR’s live sessions has a good ring to it!
OSR: Finally, what can fans expect from Ian Holmes for the rest of 2020?
IH: Although there’s some uncertainty as to when the venues in the UK will be back to business, you’ll definitely be seeing me performing live in London. If all goes well, I’ll be in the Finsbury and at Pinups in May. I’ve also got A LOT of new music on the way – the next song is looking to be released in early May.