Jolie Holland Talks About Working With M. Ward, Yogi Bear

Jolie Holland plays Union Pool this Wednesday, April 30th.

"The thing is, you're not supposed to feed bears people-food, because then they'll turn into garbage bears, and get shot."

We, and by we I mean New York, should feel lucky. Yeah, we got that Thriller re-enactment thingy last week, and sometimes the pizza is okay, but late last year our fair city stole the Texas-born belter Jolie Holland away from San Francisco permanently.

For years now, Holland has won favor with the likes of critics and Tom Waits, who nominated her for a Shortlist Music Prize. Similar to her own heroes (like, say, Daniel Johnston), she's been relegated to a small, devoted following. Maybe it's because she's not one for being trendy--her music has a certain timelessness to it, melding the best in vocal jazz, blues, and country traditions, her voice masterfully sliding between sultry and sweet, despairing and lonely. In a weird way, Holland's music might best be enjoyed five or ten years down the road--were you to revisit her work in a decade, I'd guess it'd be extremely difficult to place it in a time period.

We met in Williamsburg, at a place called Gimme Coffee, but that joint was way too packed on a Tuesday mid-day, so we went to a stoop and just sat there, chattin' and watching the traffic go by us. In person, there's much more of a southern drawl to her voice than on record. She's quite charming and unpretentious, as well as gracious enough to not say "You're an idiot" when I didn't know what a Turkish Bath was or when I asked her to describe her own voice. She's here working on a new record due this fall; I suggested two titles at the end of this interview: Feeding People Food To Bears and Really Famous In Canada. Alas, she's already decided on The Living & The Dead.

VV: Springtime Can Kill You was my number two favorite album of that year. . . 2006.

JH: Oh wow. What was your favorite record?

I can't remember.

JH: [laughs]. I think my two favorite records around that time, [one] was a record that no one has ever heard of called The Inferno--it was true stories based on Dante's Inferno, true stories based on his life. And Freakwater's Thinking Of You.

So you're living here full time now? What prompted this change?

JH: I don't know . . . I was just feeling shy or something; it was time to go somewhere. I was really considering going to Portland [Oregon], where I have a great pack of friends, but I ended up coming here.

Do you know a lot of people here?

JH: Yeah, I feel really lucky.

So you're working here, on new material?

JH: Mmmhmm.

Who are you working with?

JH: You know Rachel Blumberg? She's the drummer that has played with M. Ward and Conor Oberst some times. She plays on this record; she's amazing. M. Ward plays on guitar, and he's just ungodly at guitar.

He is a good guitar player. I'm not sure if people recognize his guitar playing as his best thing, but I'm not really sure what people recognize is his best thing.

JH: Right, he's got an awesome voice.

Is he singing with you?

JH: No, just guitars.

So who else?

JH: Do you know Shahzad Ismaily? He's on it, a New York guy--he's this unreal bass player, a guitar player, and a drummer. He might be my favorite guitar player and drummer that I've worked with. He's co-producing. M. Ward kinda co-produced the first part of the record, but he didn't think I needed a producer, but I disagreed with him. But it was very nice of him to say.

What was reasoning behind that?

JH: He said it was like feeding bears people-food. [Laughing]

I don't understand that.

JH: Okay, so have you ever lived around bears?

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