Interview Greg Holden: “I’m proud that I did not give up my integrity”

Greg Holden 2015 Myriam Santos
Photo Credit: Myriam Santos

A few years ago Greg Holden didn’t know what he wanted with his career and he decided to travel to India and Nepal. He came back with a whole new way of looking at life and he wrote his album Chase The Sun, which was released earlier this year, about this experience. A Bit of Pop Music spoke to him about the album, the refugee crisis, his aversion to talent shows and how he sees the world. “We will be happier once we’re not trapped inside our own little world anymore.”

How did the trip inspire and change you?
Before I left I hit a wall in my career. I needed to shake things up and put my life in perspective again. So I went on this trip to Nepal and India and the first thing that struck me was how spoiled we are in the West. I noticed how everybody was smiling over there, even though people are poor. Then I came back in New York where we have a lot more but still look miserable. I learnt so much through this realization that I wanted to share this with other people. That is were the creation of Chase The Sun started. I wanted to make an album that means something while not sounding sad. The album is supposed to lift people’s spirits instead of me being angry at the world, like my previous work. This is more of a universal message.

Do you think your trip changed the way you live your own life now?
I changed hugely, but it is easy to slip back into old habits. I need to remind myself every day how lucky I am to make music for a living and even the fact that I am healthy and have a roof over my head is amazing. It might sound like a cliché, but we get used to things quickly and become more spoiled. At one point you can have a castle and a million dollars and still want a bigger castle. I always thought money and the right career were very important things but they’re not. I try not to worry about it anymore. That’s what I wrote ‘Give It Away’ about.

‘Bulletproof’ has a similar message, doesn’t it?
Yeah, it deals with our selfish society where we all feel the need to document our lives online. We are constantly worrying about how many people follow and like our posts. We share everything because we want to feel like we are important. It is a bizarre way of living your life and you don’t even realize how fucked up the world around you can be. The song encourages to see that other people are as important as you and we will become happier once we are no longer trapped inside our own little world anymore.

Your biggest hit so far, ‘The Lost Boy’, is about an African refugee. Do you feel the message is even more relevant with the crisis in Syria?
This situation is just as devastating as the story I wrote about the boy. It is sometimes saddening to see how the western world deals with this. Not everyone opens their doors while similar situations have happened here as well. I am not a spokesperson or anything, but if I can use my song positively, that would be amazing.

“I grew up being inspired by great artists who sung important songs, people like Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell. I struggle to find this kind of artists in the charts these days and I think that has to do with talent shows.”

You also wrote the song ‘Boys in the Street’ for a gay rights organization. How did that happen?
My friends run an organization called Everyone Is Gay and they advise teenagers in the LGBT community. I have been supporting what they do for a long time. They asked me to write a song for the compilation album they release every year. It is about the troubled relationship between a father and a gay son. I know some of my friends have dealt with that when they were younger and even though I am not gay myself, it is also about the shitty relationship I had with my stepdad. I felt unaccepted by him so I can easily relate to this story. It is a general message about acceptance.

You wrote one of the winners singles for American Idol, called ‘Home’. Did you ever consider participating in such a show yourself?
No way! That is what I have been against for my whole career so it is kind of ironic that the American Idol song has been my biggest success so far. I honestly think they are one of the worst things that ever happened to music. It is just like a karaoke night. I grew up being inspired by great artists who sung important songs, people like Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell. I struggle to find this kind of artists in the charts these days and I think that has to do with these shows. They serve their purpose, but I would never be a part of it.

Would you say you are content with the way your career is going right now?
Yes, I have already had a lot of peaks, but it always comes in a slow but steady pace. I’d rather build my career this way with a solid foundation of followers, songs and records than explode at one point. I wouldn’t want to be catapulted into the top and then have nothing left to back me up. But of course I would be lying if I said I didn’t want the whole world to listen to my music.

What is the thing that makes you most proud?
That I didn’t give up my integrity. I write honest music and nobody will ever tell me how to handle my career. It is hard to do that and I don’t always give myself enough credit for it.

What can we expect from you in the near future? Already working on a next album?
I really enjoy writing songs about other people so I am planning to write a complete album about a set of characters. I’m in the process of writing short stories about each of those people and I hope to let them intertwine on the record.

That sounds cool, thanks so much Greg!

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