Brooklyn’s Holly Overton is prolific with both sights and sounds. In addition to her extraordinary work as a painter, the multi-instrumentalist worked in musical projects like Dumb Wolves, Dream Police and Young Planet.
Her latest sonic endeavor, Holly Overton and Midnight People, released the album “Every New Day,” May 4 on Burger Records/Time Castle Recordings. Don’t be fooled by its light-hearted feel—this is art built from the rubble of love lost and hard times.
Following the release of the Nikki Belfiglio-directed music video for “Living Without You, Overton celebrated her album’s release at Sunnyvale where she shared the stage with Russel Hymowitz on bass, Paul Blackwell on lead guitar and vocal harmonies and Adam Amram on drums.
The group’s next event is a Summer Solstice celebration on June 21 on the roof of Our Wicked Lady. Overton and PopGun Presents are curating the evening’s entertainment, which features the very righteous Weeping Icon, Ritual Humor, Crystal Shrine and an altar and ceremony created by artist Montana Simone. Overton will be adorned in a Summer kimono by Nami Takagi for the occasion.
Holly spoke with BTRtoday about the new album and her influences in art and music.
BTRtoday (BTR): What was your first taste of painting and music?
Holly Overton (H): When we lived in the top half of a beach cottage, I would make sand paintings with sand and shells glued to extra matte board from my dad’s frame shop. My Dad made cassette tapes of Beatles albums to listen to in my mom’s car. Though from the country of North Carolina, He was a rock ‘n’ roller in the ‘70s. When we would drive to visit my grandparents, we’d listen to the classic rock radio and he’d tell me stories of all the bands he went to see. He was kicked off the baseball team in high school for missing a game to go to a Jimi Hendrix concert.
BTR: What is your writing process?
H: I sing it for a while until it forms, then adapt it to an instrument and rhythm, and go from there. I have to feel strongly about something in my life or something outside of my life, something observed, for the melody to have words and existence as a song. But inspiration hits from all sides, sometimes I’ll be inspired by the distant sound of a song I hear on the subway… a song I remember or decipher 10 percent of and make it my own.
BTR: How long was this album in the works? Can you explain your experience writing and recording?
H: We recorded at Duane Lauginiger’s recording studio in the basement of his apartment in Bed-Stuy, Time Castle Studios. It’s a cave of positive vibrations, emotions—a music island of freedom and expression.
Around the corner from his apartment is a dance studio Aspire 2 Dance, with live African drum dance classes. I take a Soca dance class every week. Two blocks down is a cool Reggae bar, Lovers Rock. My friends DJ MissHap and Deadly Dragon spin there. All of these things are a swirl of musical release and inspiration in my mind.
BTR: What’s the theme of the record?
H: It’s a journey of emotional self healing. Beginning in a dark place, to then rise above one’s sorrows and look outside one’s own problems. Look at the world, look at what is happening in your own neighborhood even, how you perceive it, how you can help. I’m inspired by experiences and people in my life. Diving into Reggae music over the last year, music with conscious intentions, really expanded my world as a human and musician. I aim to honor those inspirations, even if naive.
BTR: How does the ocean inspire you?
H: I was raised on the barrier islands of North Carolina so it is my natural way of being. The beach was my playground. I feel alive in the warmth of the sun and hardly wear shoes. The ocean is wild and dangerous; so mysterious at night and serene in the morning. My clothing channels the island life, as if I’m referencing my childhood heart, and adult sensuality, like walking on the moonlit beach in a bikini and feeling good about it.
Never all-the-way island-y. I keep it classy, I live in a concrete city, after all.
BTR: What brought you to NYC?
H: I studied at Parsons and stayed in Brooklyn. I’ve had a fascination with New York City as a kid. My Dad had a framed photograph of the New York skyline at night in his frame shop that I’d stare at for hours. I made hemp jewelry and sold it at a stand outside by the beach till I saved up enough money to visit the city when I was 13.
BTR: Do you feel empowered as a female musician in Brooklyn?
H: Yes, very much so. I’ve been performing music in Brooklyn for 10 years and have gone through much transformation, and watched fellow female musicians grow and prosper as well. I am proud to be a part of and encourage this community.
BTR: What album do you have on repeat right now?
H: Freedom & Fyah by Alborosie.