Artist Insider: Claire Holley Local Live Series

A young Claire Holley knew she loved to sing, and today that early curiosity has bloomed. The artist now resides in Los Angeles, making music as her career and traveling the country as a solo performer.

Holley didn’t grow up on the coast, however, and calls Jackson, Miss., her hometown. It was there as a little girl she discovered her “love for harmony” and singing with groups. In those early days, she had music all around her. “My grandmother was a jazz pianist, she made sure I took lessons,” laughed Holley.

It wasn’t until college that she began to play the guitar and sing solo. “I discovered that people enjoyed hearing me, and so I began doing more of a singer/songwriter set.”

Her influences are vast. In terms of vocal temperament she likes Joni Mitchell, Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, and Linda Ronstadt, among others. She names Paul Simon as one of her favorite songwriters. Lately in her music journey she’s been listening to a Feist record, “Let It Die,” which speaks to her – “that one moves me.”

Holley, who has lived in various places across the South, moved to California in 2003. “It was just a gut feeling – my husband’s idea actually … We were ready for another adventure and, well it’s been 12 years now and it still feels like an adventure.”

Holley has a new record, Time in the Middle, coming out later this spring which will debut music “that’s been a year in the half in the making.” It’s her first solo album since 2008 and she’s more than excited.

Throughout her years of performing she’s come to find that styles and aims can change, “As you change you have to redefine what it is that keeps you going.” For her, the connections matter – “If I can just help someone get through the day with my music, that’s a goal of mine, to comfort people,” she explained.

Coming to Little Rock is exciting for Holley, because even though she’s been on the West Coast for 12 years, she can’t shake the Southern soil from her shoes. “I definitely identify as a Southern musician more than a West Coast musician, simply in terms of sensibilities,” she said.

Coming to Little Rock also brings her closer to the Oxford American, which she connects with on a few different levels. “Listening to the Oxford American music sampler that came with the music issue in 1997 really had an influence on me. I was taken with the simplicity of the songs – they were so full of soul.” Her new album also exhibits a song with lyrics from an Oxford American frequent poet contributor – Beth Ann Fennelly.

Holley will be taking the stage with Ben Harris, an Arkansas native who plays with many other local bands, including the Ben Harris Trio. She said, “I’m really looking forward to having him play with me. He’s one of the best guitarists around.”

Be sure to come to the free show that continues the Wednesday Local Live series. The show starts at 7:30 p.m., and Holley says there’s a little something for everyone: “It’s a great room. People can come out whether they’re coming out for music, for the food, or just to try something different.”

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