Deborah Holland
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Deborah Holland

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Native Belles
California Song Girls
By JOHN ROOS
Thursday, October 19, 2006

Deborah Holland
Growing older doesn’t necessarily mean losing your rebellious edge—or sense of humor. Los Angeles singer/songwriter Deborah Holland makes this case quite convincingly throughout her new release, the wonderful, aptly titled Bad Girl Once . . . Soccer Mom Now. Holland, the former keyboardist/lead vocalist in Animal Logic, a late-’80s experimental jazz-pop trio featuring Stanley Clarke and Stewart Copeland, deliciously skewers pop culture in such selections as “Song About Sex,” “Chain Stores, Malls and Restaurants,” and “On My Way.”

Songwriting is the focus when Holland is joined by Jenny Yates and Wendy Waldman—also known as the California Song Girls—this Saturday evening in Anaheim.

Alternating songs and backing one another as the three perform “In the Round,” Holland, Yates and Waldman will draw from bodies of work rich in both commercial appeal and creative drive.

Now focusing more on record producing, ex-Bryndle band member Waldman gained some notoriety in the 1970s with soft-rock recordings such as “Long Hot Summer Nights” and “Gringo en Mexico,” and her pop/folk/country songs have been recorded by Aaron Neville, the Dirt Band, Alison Krauss, Randy Travis, Judy Collins, Vanessa Williams and Maria Muldaur, among others.

The Arizona-born Yates has found success in Nashville and Los Angeles writing songs for others, most notably collaborating with Garth Brooks on several hits, including “Thicker Than Blood” and the Golden Globe-nominated “When You Come Back to Me Again” (from the film Frequency). More artistically impressive, though, is her much-anticipated solo debut, Out of the Blue, an authentic-sounding collection of roots/country/Americana music.

Themes of social awareness and female independence link these three talented ladies. But it is Holland—whose style and delivery reminds me of a female Loudon Wainwright III—who reveals the most about herself and the complex world she inhabits. Soccer mom now? Hardly.

- OC Weekly


Warning: This album contains "Hard To Be A Human In The Universe," one of those songs with the elusive songwriter's hook that grabs onto your neurons and sets up residency in your cerebrum for days after hearing it. This is usually a sign that good words and the right melody have mated to form the songwriter's Nirvana--a tune you can't get out of your head. But this one song is no fluke, and The Book of Survival has so much more than just one catchy song. Deborah Holland has a lovely, thoughtful voice--pitch perfect and expressive--just right for these personal words. She sings with wit and a subtle sly twinkle in her eye. Like Christine Lavin's songs, the songs seem to fit the author like a glove. Unlike Lavin's, there are songs that might be successful on a broader range of set lists, sung by lots of folks. In fact, it has been a long time since I so liked everything I heard on an album.
The truth is, in the Andy Warhol department Deborah Holland has already savored her allotted fifteen minutes of fame. As the lead singer of Animal Logic, the trio formed by ex-Police drummer Stewart Copeland and jazz bassist Stanley Clarke, Holland made quite a splash. Animal Logic recorded two super albums and brought cutting-edge, eclectic music to major stages around the world. Holland even appeared on David Letterman, the Tonight Show, VH-1 and MTV. But the most revealing sign of Holland's inner soul was evident on a little folk album she recorded in 1997 with Gadfly after Animal Logic disbanded, The Panic Is On: Songs From The Great Depression. A rock singer interested in political songs from the 1930s? What gives?
First the rock singer versus folk singer thing. the boundaries have been somewhat blurred since Dylan plugged in at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965 and all the rock stars started unplugging again in the last few years on MTV. The Book of Survival contains singer-songwriter material as well-penned, and well-portrayed as anything contemporary folk or rock performers are now serving up. And in a retro way, the songs are a lot less "me, me, me" and a tad more "us, us, us" than the usual fare. Maybe that's because Holland has already been "there, there, there" and has the luxury of exploring topics she feels passionate about. I also like the fact that the album has a professional feel to it, a host of great acoustic sounds, produced with a light touch, lots of air and not overdone.
The songs? If Holland's contemporary "Faded Red Car" had been written about a horse instead of an automobile--it would be "Stewball." Few of us muck out stables nowadays, but we do have to muck out our personal and societal metaphoric stables--and that's what Deborah Holland does so well. It is a danger to write topical songs (remember those?). When taking on current events it is easy to sound preachy or trite. Note here. "Kids With Guns" is not trite but right, current affairs sung with pace and humanity. Even a song with a title "Pinochet And Margaret Thatcher" works and elicits a smile, as does "Happy Birthday, You're Turning 40." These are titles that would activate a "trite alert" warning if observed on another album. They work here because Holland possesses the heart and objectivity and talent to make even current events ache like a wry love song. It reminds me that good songs and a knowing voice have more than the power to entertain; these elements have the power to move a listener to a better place. Isn't that what contemporary folk used to do? -- RDeitz

Reprinted from Winter 2000 issue of Sing Out!
©2000 The Sing Out! Corporation
Used by permission. All Rights Reserved. - Sing Out! - Winter 2000 Issue


Deborah Holland's songs are twisted. I mean that in the best way. A phrase like "Weak at Heart," the title of the opening track on The Book of Survival, suggests that the song that follows will be a sob story. Instead, Holland looks at the weak-hearted person with affection:

Not a quality that's easy to be proud of
Or of which to be ashamed
I just hope as you go marching through the wilderness
You'll never change

"I'm Sorry" also takes an unexpected turn. It starts out as apology and ends up as self-paean:

I am striving for perfection
Everybody's gonna love me
I could kiss my reflection
There's a halo right above me

A lyrical ironist to match Warren Zevon, Holland is equally gifted with melody. Her songs are bright, energetic, and roots-based, with more rock than folk to their sound. Her jazz background adds a dash of spice to the album's arrangements, but she never goes overboard or loses sight of the listener.
Holland can move you, but she seldom pushes. "Irene," a portrait of a misguided woman (written by Holland and Jenny Yates), couldn't be more delicate, with its mandolin-tinged accompaniment and its metaphors of breezes and birds, and the diminished chords behind the chorus play out Irene's vulnerability and the singer's concern for her as strongly as the lyrics do.
Best of all, Holland has a sense of humor. "Faded Red Car," a just slightly over-the-top country waltz, uses a jalopy as a metaphor for its owner: it "has one thing you can count on/Knowing the damn thing won't start." Sedately funky, with Motown keyboards and Appalachian fiddle, "The End of the World" shows a rich matron preparing for doomsday with impeccable control ("I'll say goodbye to cousin Phyllis/Just tell the gardener he should bill us.")
Holland never wastes time. Only one track on The Book of Survival tops four and a half minutes. She makes her point and then moves on. The result is an album that demands repeated listening.
It's a delight to hear a singer who wears her mind on her sleeve, yet never intimidates her listeners. As a wordsmith, Deborah Holland concerns herself with the balance between heart and mind. As an artist, she makes the balance seem effortless.
--Pamela Murray Winters (Arlington, VA) - Dirty Linen: Folk and World Music


Deborah Holland
By Anil Prasad
Guitar Player Magazine
January 2007

Deborah Holland may craft polished pop songs with folk, rock, electronica, and jazz influences, but she adheres to the same “keeping it real” philosophy that drives hip-hop acts to reveal life-changing experiences in their work. For instance, the title track of her new CD Bad Girl Once… takes listeners on a journey through her mercurial youth with eyebrow-raising snapshots of opium-induced excess, a Jack Kerouac-inspired tale of stealing from a church, as well as voluntary and involuntary intimate encounters. Ultimately, the song ends with reflections on her current life of content domesticity as a soccer mom, with a nod and a wink to everyone now in the know about her past exploits.

“There isn’t a word in that song that isn’t true. However, when my kids or mom ask if those things really happened, I say no,” she explains. “I sometimes wonder if I should have gone as far as I did with portraying the specifics, but it’s just what came out. I don’t censor myself. I’m making honest music that represents my experiences and pleases me as a songwriter, as opposed to a record label. Songwriting has to be artistically satisfying for me or there’s no point in doing it.”

Holland is best known as one-third of Animal Logic, a pop trio also comprised of jazz-fusion bassist Stanley Clarke and ex-Police drummer Stewart Copeland. Between 1988 and 1992, the group recorded two critically acclaimed albums and had a hit single with 1989’s "There's a Spy (In the House of Love).” Taking the artistic high road is what landed her the gig.

“I spent 10 years in Los Angeles having absolutely nothing happen because I tried to write a cross between what I thought record companies wanted and what I wanted,” says Holland. “Consequently, it was mostly crap. I got to the point where I said ‘This is crazy. I have to go back to writing from my heart, even if nothing is ever going to happen.’ So, I wrote ‘There’s a Spy’ and ‘Firing Up The Sunset Gun,’ and of course, those are the songs Stewart heard and resulted in my getting involved with Animal Logic. If he had heard the songs I wrote before those, there’s no way that opportunity would have happened.”

Since Animal Logic’s breakup in 1993, Holland has divided her time between a solo career and serving as a Professor of Music at Cal State in Los Angeles, where she teaches courses on songwriting, arranging, and the business of music. During her songwriting classes, she emphasizes the importance of going beyond one’s comfort zone to achieve unique results.

“There are several assignments I give students to get them to think more expansively,” says Holland, who records and writes on a 1971 Martin D28 acoustic and tours with a Taylor 814-CE Grand Auditorium Cutaway acoustic-electric. “One is to write a song in a genre you would never typically approach. If you’re a folkie, write a metal song. If you’re a metal guy, write a rap song. But don’t do it as a joke. You have to truly embrace the genre and really try to make it work. Another exercise is to take someone else’s lyrics and write new music for them or take pre-existing music and create new lyrics for it. It can be a very valuable thing to be pushed in a direction you wouldn’t normally go and realize that songs can work in a wide variety of frameworks.”
- Guitar Player


PRESS QUOTES

On Bad Girl Once… (RageOn Records)
“Growing older doesn’t necessarily mean losing your rebellious edge—or sense of humor. Los Angeles singer/songwriter Deborah Holland makes this case quite convincingly throughout her new release, the wonderful, aptly titled Bad Girl Once . . . Soccer Mom Now.
[Her} style and delivery reminds me of a female Loudon Wainwright III. Soccer mom now? Hardly.”

"Deborah Holland may have been a Bad Girl Once, but she is certainly a very good woman now with twice the talent she needs to succeed at anything she wishes and three times an extraordinary artist...in that I mean writer, vocalist, and stylist. Her album Bad Girl Once is splendid; chillingly warm and on target as anything I have heard since the first time I listened to Antonio Carlos Jobim and wondered how it is that some musicians can turn life into breathtaking art." -Roger Deitz, Sing Out! columnist

"’Exquisite’ is the word that springs to mind for this album.” -Eddie O'Strange:Town and Country Radio Show, New Zealand

"Gritty, honest, funny and heartfelt". -Paul Ingles, Independent Producer

“I just listened through your whole new CD and all I can say is "Wow!" Congratulations! You've come up with a real winner! I marked several songs for airplay. It's such an upbeat CD - so rare these days!” -Sonny Ochs, WRPI

On The Book of Survival (Gadfly Records)
“Deborah Holland's songs are twisted. I mean that in the best way...[a] lyrical ironist to match Warren Zevon, Holland is equally gifted with melody. Her songs are bright, energetic, and roots-based, with more rock than folk to their sound...Holland can move you, but she seldom pushes. Best of all, Holland has a sense of humor. [The Book of Survival] is an album that demands repeated listening. It's a delight to hear a singer who wears her mind on her sleeve, yet never intimidates her listeners. As a wordsmith, Deborah Holland concerns herself with the balance between heart and mind. As an artist,
she makes the balance seem effortless”-Dirty Linen: Folk and World Music

On The Panic Is On: (Gadfly Records)

“Deborah Holland beautifully sings starkly produced versions of American songs of the world-wide depression of the 1930s, some familiar, some not so familiar... This disc contains songs of importance beautifully arranged and played.” -Dirty Linen: Folk & World Music

“Deborah Holland, the lead singer for Animal Logic (with Stewart Copeland of the Police and jazz bass great Stanley Clarke), has delivered a stunning solo collection... The Panic Is On showcases the range and richness of Holland’s voice. It is also a tribute to her keen social awareness.“ -Denison Iowa Review


On Freudian Slip: (Dog and Pony Records/Caroline)

“Holland is much more than the usual ‘female pop artist.’” -Chattanooga Free Press

“Her first solo release confirms that she deserves all of the success and the accolades.”
-Pasadena Weekly



- OC Weekly/Dirty Linen/Sing Out! and more


DEBORAH HOLLAND
Bad Girl Once...
RageOn 0001

Buoyant, often self-deprecating humor characterizes Deborah Holland’s Bad Girl Once... from the start. “Bad Girl Once (Soccer Mom Now)” contrasts wild youth with current reality. “Song About Sex” skewers the ever-present marketing of sex. “The Violin Song” sung through the voice of a child who really hates those violin lessons is quite funny yet true. “The Theory of Relativity (It’s All Relative)” limns the perspective you need to really get yourself.
Then there are the more serious ones. “Waiting for the Fire” muses about how difficult it is to find real true intimacy while “On My Way” is about how hard it is to find meaningful direction in life and cherishing the journey. The finale “Last Year (Life Is Grand) investigates picking up the pieces and moving on from bad times to better.
And there are arresting takes of “Sloop John B” and Stephan Foster’s ever-relevant “Hard Times.”
The album is beautifully wrought. Deborah’s singing is glorious, her support sturdy. Technically the album is excellent with sound that nearly explodes from the speakers as it rushes to embrace the ear.
Bad Girl Once... is a piquant blend of wit both sharp and knowing, keen observation and fine musicianship and recording technique. I’ve been a huge fan of Deborah Holland’s songs ever since I first encountered them in the 1980s group Animal Logic. This newest collection is Deborah at her best and most inviting. — MT
- Sing Out! - February 2007 Issue


Discography

Bad Girl Once,.. (RageOn Records), 2006.
Singer, Songwriter, Keyboardist, Guitarist, Producer.
"Faded Red Car," featured on Car Talk, nationally syndicated radio show CD compilation, Born Not to Run, 2003.
Singer, Songwriter, Guitarist, Producer.
“Hanukkah Oh Hanukkah,” for the CD compilation Do You Hear What I Hear: A Holiday Folk Tour, hosted by Judy Collins, (National Public Radio), 2000.
Singer, Songwriter, Guitarist, Producer.
The Book of Survival, (Gadfly Records), 1999.
Singer, Songwriter, Keyboardist, Guitarist, Producer.
The Panic Is On: Songs From The Great Depression, (Gadfly Records), 1997.
Singer, Arranger, Producer.
Cows 'N Girls, Richard Goldman, Gadfly Records, 1997. Background Singer.
The Celestine Prophecy, Christopher Franke, Priority Records, 1996. Singer.
Freudian Slip, (Dog & Pony Records), 1994.
Singer, Songwriter, Keyboardist & Guitarist.
Animal Logic II, Animal Logic- Deborah Holland, Stewart Copeland, Stanley Clarke, (IRS Records),1991.
Singer, Songwriter, Keyboardist & Co-Producer.
"It Only Comes Once A Year" from Just In Time For Christmas, (IRS Records), 1990.
Singer, Songwriter & Keyboardist.
Animal Logic I, Animal Logic, (IRS /Virgin Records), 1988.
Singer, Songwriter & Keyboardist.

Photos

Bio

At the age of fourteen, the inability to turn a cartwheel changed the direction of Deborah Holland's life. "After not making the cheerleading squad in junior high school, I began playing guitar and writing songs," she says. And the rest, as they say, is history. Deborah went on to become the lead singer and songwriter of Animal Logic, a trio rounded out by Stewart Copeland of Police fame and jazz star Stanley Clarke. Their eclectic sound led to two critically acclaimed albums, worldwide touring, and appearances on David Letterman, The Tonight Show, VH-1, and MTV.

As a solo artist, Deborah’s live shows have captivated audiences at Tin Angel, The Ark, The Bluebird, Eddie’s Attic, Schuba’s, the Ram’s Head, and many more. Her fourth solo release since her Animal Logic days, BAD GIRL ONCE… (RageOn Records, 2006), has been described by reviewers as "gritty, honest, funny, and heartfelt" and "exquisite." The album is a blend of styles as diverse as folk, rock, blues, jazz, and electronica—all strikingly unified by Deborah’s voice. Roger Dietz of Sing Out! magazine says that BAD GIRL ONCE… "is splendid; chillingly warm and on target as anything I have heard since the first time I listened to Antonio Carlos Jobim and wondered how it is that some musicians can turn life into breathtaking art."

Deborah’s third solo release, THE BOOK OF SURVIVAL (Gadfly Records, 1999), was called "an album that demands repeated listening." (Dirty Linen: Folk & World Music) Roundly well-received for its memorable melodies, witty lyrics, and Holland’s "lovely, thoughtful voice" (Sing Out!), it was played on over one hundred radio stations. Her second solo recording, THE PANIC IS ON: SONGS FROM THE GREAT DEPRESSION (Gadfly Records, 1997), was an album of political songs from the 1930’s which gained her a wide following among folk radio DJs and folk music fans. Dirty Linen magazine described it as an album "contain[ing] songs of importance beautifully arranged and played." Prior to that, FREUDIAN SLIP (Dog and Pony Records, 1994), her first solo release, received heavy airplay on AAA, college, and public radio stations. In 1995, she was heard on the nationally syndicated radio programs "Mountain Stage," "The Difference with Todd Rundgren," and "World Café." She also recorded duets with Jackson Browne and with Glen Phillips of Toad the Wet Sprocket.

In addition to making records, Deborah scores music and writes songs for film and television, is a full-time professor of music at California State University at Los Angeles, and performs live. Add to this being a mother, and you have the makings of a hectic lifestyle, one which Deborah says has given her an idea of what a professional juggler feels like. But apparently she wouldn’t change a thing. "Music is as much a part of my life as breathing," she says, "and it has been a whole lot more satisfying than making the cheerleading squad ever would have been."