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Greg Holden on How His ‘Big Life Change’ Inspired New Album, World War Me

Greg Holden is back and better than ever. After moving from New York to Los Angeles and undergoing what he refers to as an ‘existential crisis’, Holden has released his fourth studio record, World War Meto tell his story.
Holden recorded World War Me, designed the album artwork, and took some of his own press shots. Determined not to let his setbacks define him, the self-aware singer-songwriter took full control of his career and derived beautiful songs–ranging from thoughts on empathy to critiques on power–from the experience.
I sat down with Greg Holden to learn more about bringing World War Me to life.

Ariel Zedric: What are five words to describe World War Me?

Greg Holden: Introspective, curious, open, suspicious, and hopeful.

Could you talk a little about the inspiration behind the album?

It was inspired by a huge life shift for me. I moved from New York to Los Angeles and was promptly dropped by my record label, and came off the road after spending almost 7 years on it. The breaks just seemed to slam on my life. This record is about progress, acceptance, and growth.

This album is obviously very personal, walk me through your writing process this time around. Was it any different than it’s been in the past?

Yes, I co-wrote a lot of the songs on this album. Much more than usual I think. That wasn’t intentional, it was just where my head was at while writing these songs. I needed someone to help pull me out of my funk. If it wasn’t for Garrison Starr, whom I wrote 5 of the 9 songs with, this album would probably have been a lot darker. In terms of the process, we were just on a role.. we probably wrote 20 songs together for this album. She’d come over, we’d drink coffee, and write a song each day. It’s really easy with Garrison as she’s such a pro.

You recorded the songs, created the artwork, and even took some of your own press shots, impressive! What was that experience like? How was it different from your past experiences?

Very lonely! But I realized something this time around, that I’m a total control freak when it comes to my product… If I hire someone, I end up micro-managing them anyway, so I just figured I’d do it myself. In terms of recording the record though, that decision was partly creative but much more financial. It’s borderline impossible to profit from an album in 2019, so paying a top producer $30-50K just seemed like a terrible business decision. Especially when I have a studio at home. It was a great challenge for me.

 

Courtesy of Greg Holden

Do you have a favourite track on World War Me? Or is that like asking you to choose a favourite child?

I always have a hard time answering that question, I feel arrogant or something. But, I will say that my favourite one to record was Nothing Changes, the opening track on the record. I think that’s probably my favourite just because it sort of encompasses the title World War Me.

What moment in your career so far has left you the most satisfied or proud?

The moment Tom Hanks called my song “Boy’s in the Street” , “The Perfect Song…”

He’s my favourite actor and waking up to a message like that was an incredibly validating and mind-blowing moment.

You’ve done some really cool projects in the past, like your song “The Lost Boy” which raised $80,000 for The Red Cross and helped build schools in Africa and “Boys in the Street” which helped an organization supporting LGBTQ+ youth. What inspired those projects / what prompted you to make those partnerships?

People often think I wrote those songs for charities, but actually, they were written before and then just found charities on their own. The Lost Boy was written about a Dave Eggers book called What is the What? and, Boys in the Street” was written for my friend’s organization, so I guess I did write that one for a charity. But my intention is always song first, purpose later. Otherwise, I’d never get anything done.

You’ve lived in a lot of cities so far, which has been your favourite?

New York City without a doubt. There’s a reason I was there for 8 years. Best city on earth in my opinion. I miss it every day.

After your move to LA, and subsequent crisis, did you ever doubt your decision to pursue music? What inspired you to keep going?

Yes. I doubt my decision to pursue music every single day. I think that’s just part of the job description. Nothing is certain in this industry. We go to work for free every day hoping that something lands so that we get paid. But I’d rather live this life than my old one stuck behind a cubicle with a steady paycheck. The inspiration to keep going comes from the number of incredible places I get to go because of this job. In the past few years, I was in Brazil, Argentina, Europe, Mexico, and Japan all because of music. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

Courtesy of Greg Holden

Who is your biggest inspiration? Why?

Tom Petty. Because he’s Tom Petty.

Do you have any advice for aspiring artists in the field? How has your success story panned out?

It’s still panning. I have a long way to go. My advice is to exercise patience. In the climate we’re in right now, with viral videos and Insta-fame, people think fame and success come immediately, and that we’re all entitled to it. But the faster you rise, the faster you fall. Practice your craft, get good at it, go-slow. And please for the love of god, don’t base your success on your social media numbers, or you’ll never be happy.

 

Find Greg Holden on his website, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

 

Feature Image Courtesy of Greg Holden

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Ariel Zedric is a student at Tufts University. When she's not studying, you can find her wandering around on her blog at arielzedric.wordpress.com. Contact via email at ariel.zedric@gmail.com or on Twitter or Instagram @arielzedric

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