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Where do we begin with Holly Miranda?
She’s collaborating with musicians such as Este Haim from Haim, Jim Fairchild from Modest Mouse, Josh Werner from Matisyahu, and even Scarlett Johansson in an all-girl band called The Singles, which should be releasing music sometime this year.
She’s also a philanthropist, working with non-profits and standing up for humanitarian efforts that include women’s reproductive rights. In fact, when she spoke with BTRtoday she had just returned from a pro-choice march in Washington D.C.
She even took a break in the middle of recording her self-titled solo album to aid Hurricane Sandy victims!
According to Miranda, the album actually ended up being a long and intense process. She wrote almost all of it while living secluded in the desert at Joshua Tree National Park, California. She wanted the music to be completely unbiased and utterly her—she co-produced it, played almost all the instruments, and wrote all the lyrics herself.
“The last record that I did was just so me,” Miranda tells BTRtoday. “I did it all alone, because that’s what I felt I had to do”
She would have stayed in the desert to complete the album, but technical difficulties forced her to finish up in Brooklyn, NY. Subsequently, Hurricane Sandy hit and, being the amazing person she is, Miranda took a break to create “Renegade Sandy Relief” and work alongside “Waves For Water” to help the victims.
She told her co-producer to put everything on pause so that her and a few of her friends could start up the non-profit. They held fundraisers and drives, ran supplies to Coney Island, and volunteered at the armory where the city was displacing the elderly from nursing homes that were victims of the hurricane.
This album turned out to be magical. It’s filled with enchanting melodies and heartbreaking lyrics–fighting words and beats that demand a call to action. However, the writing process was not all sunshine and roses. Other than the very tangible roadblocks of technical issues and inclement weather, she was feeling writer’s block and a loss in drive.
Her stay in Joshua Tree afforded the time for self-exploration and to rekindle her love for music. Songs like “Desert Call” and “Heavy Heart” on the album really portray the struggle and the enlightening journey she took to create this music.
During Miranda’s chat with the Discovery Corner, she had an epiphany that there’s possibly a connection between her charitable work and her musical passions.
“I guess it’s just always been intertwined with music. I don’t know if I’ve ever made that causation before,” she realizes laughing. “It’s like a therapy session right now…”
She first began her exploration of music during a mission’s trip to Ukraine, to help victims of radiation poisoning who lived near Chernobyl.
She grew up in a very religious community—going to church everyday, speaking in tongues, and spreading the word of Jesus. When she was 14 years old she embarked on a mission trip to Belarus to bring medical supplies and aid to children stricken with cancer from radiation poisoning; preaching to them about the savior Jesus. The last part she never ended up doing.
“I was supposed to lay hands on these kids and tell them that Jesus was going to save them, but I couldn’t do it,” she explains. “That was the moment where I stopped trying to be a part of that.”
The teenagers she was there to assist were very weak from the radiation cancer. Miranda explains that even though they were the same age as her, they appeared five years younger. She was able to make a strong connection with them even though there were many barriers, including the language.
One girl, the daughter of Miranda’s host family, was able to connect with her through the power of the popular ‘90s group The Cranberries. She showed Miranda how to play guitar by walking her through “Linger” and “Zombie”–the two biggest hits by The Cranberries.
Once she returned from her trip, she continued with the guitar, started to write her own music, and by 16 years old she moved to New York City, where she was playing shows and singing and playing guitar in a band called The Jealous Girlfriends.
She’s been in the music industry for 17 years now and describes her growth in sound to be like “a werewolf turning into Michael J. Fox.” She confesses that she’s been every sort of genre, has tried all sorts of different technics, and even swears that her voice has gone up five octaves since moving to NYC.
Throughout her career, she tends to shuffle between multiple projects at once and goes back and forth between playing with bands and working on her solo career.
Currently, she is focusing on more collaborative work. She’s writing music up in Portland, OR, with Jim Fairchild from Modest Mouse, collaborating with Josh Werner from Matisyahu, working on the project she has going on with the all-girl pop band that includes Scarlett Johansson and Este Haim, and also co-producing a Christmas album by Ambrosia Parsley with 11 original songs that should be out by September.
It seems overwhelming, but Miranda is a proudly self-proclaimed workaholic and seems ready to achieve anything she’s passionate about.
This year she plans on touring around the U.S., hitting NYC’s Governor’s Ball, and then making her way to Europe for more shows.
Make sure to follow her on all her social media platforms, and check in on her website to see what she’s got up her sleeve next!
To hear the rest of the interview with Holly Miranda, tune into this week’s episode of The Discovery Corner!