Holly Miranda‘s sophomore self-titled album had a lot to live up to. Coming off her 2010 debut with XL Records, The Magician’s Private Library, most critics love to qualify her talent by the high-profile male musicians who have given her the thumbs up. (Kanye West and Trent Reznor among them.) But even if Yeezy himself gives you a gold star, it doesn’t mean anything if you can’t back it up.
Luckily, Holly’s second record, out now on Dangerbird Records, managed not to eclipse the praise after the out musician took a hiatus from music, and the 11 new tracks show a more raw, personal side to Holly than most of us were introduced to before.
photo by Nathalie Majka
It’s wild to think Holly dealt with a bout of writer’s block and then came up with songs like “All I Want is to Be Your Girl,” the uncharacteristically upbeat single about surprising feelings and the fun of falling for someone. (A just-released video for the tune has Holly and a gender-bending circus performer circling one another in colorful intrigue.) But the time she spent in the deserts of Joshua Tree to write about the many feelings she’s experienced in the five years between releases has only made Holly Miranda a stronger album, and likely Holly Miranda a stronger person. (I think that’s safe to say considering she’s officially out of her Saturn Return.)
Besides her solo work, Holly has also recorded with the supergroup The Singles, with bandmates Scarlett Johnasson, Este Haim, Kendra Morris and Julia Haltigan, and leant her voice/general persona to Lady Parts Justice, a feminist political pop culture non-profit that uses humor to diffuse anti-women legislation.
We spoke with Holly about the new album, her friendship with the late Lesley Gore and how she feels her sexuality factors into her musicianship.
AfterEllen.com: I’m so curious. I feel like there’s a time in every musician’s career where they decide it’s time for the self-titled album. What made this one the “Holly Miranda” album?
Holly Miranda: I’m really, really terrible at naming things. And also, it’s just a very personal record. I produced it and it’s so much different and stripped down than the last record I put out. It just felt like the right thing to do. Also I’m on the cover of it, for the first time I have my face on the cover of a record. So yeah, I’m just really bad at naming things! I didn’t want to just pull a lyric if it wasn’t something that wasn’t really striking or coming to me. I just felt like it was a natural way to go with this one.
AE: It’s a lot of pressure after The Magician’s Private Library, which was such a great name.
HM: Right, which was something my schizophrenic uncle said when I played him Dark Side of the Moon in the middle of a lake in Michigan. So I can’t even really take credit for that one.
photo by Nathalie Majka
AE: I don’t want to say this is a “negative” album, but it’s very much about a push and pull, a longing. Is that something you felt while writing and recording this album, and even now?
HM: I wrote these songs—I didn’t write them all as a group. There were some songs that were written much earlier and then some were written together. So it’s kind of all over the map, like I can see different people’s faces in my head when I sing different songs. But I wouldn’t say—it’s not negative. I would say it’s more sentimental and honest, and definitely a very heavy love, loss through-line but I think that that’s what I’ve been going through the last few years.
AE: Is it a weird feeling to write songs knowing people will pick them apart and try to decipher meaning from them?
HM: Yeah and no. I think after a while, it just becomes a muscle. And also, I mean, some of the songs—what I actually wrote them about is probably not what anybody thinks it’s about. And I don’t really like to talk about what songs are about too much because I think that’s kind of the beauty of music—you get to hear it and make up your own interpretation. It’s so subjective; it’s not about me anymore and how people perceive them. The filters it has to go through in their brain—I have to relinquish any control because it’s not mine anymore. But I think definitely when I was first starting out—I was like 16, playing open mic nights in the Village, I would get so nervous about the words I was about to say in front of people. Like any performer, I guess, when you’re performing your own material, there’s that very vulnerable aspect to it that can be scary, but I think it’s also the beautiful part.