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Holly Rees tears apart the heartstrings with new EP | Slow Down + we talk about it

Back in June we featured ‘Magpie’ the new single from singer-songwriter Holly Rees, who was on the cusp of releasing her new EP Slow Down. Well, here we are in September and Slow Down has graced our ears for a couple weeks now.  We’ve also had an interview with Holly to talk about the inspiration behind the EP which was hard to do while trying to not burst out in tears. Enjoy!

What I liked most about ‘Magpie’ was it’s driving instrumental and rather homesick lyricism, all projected through some solid acoustic chords and Holly’s wondrous vocals. Fortunately this is a trait that follows the rest of Slow Down, as the likes of ‘Arms’ and ‘Timid Heart’ head down similar directions, but open up with topics of love and heartbreak instead. The former is directed primarily by Holly’s voice, but dabbles in the odd trinket of melody too, adding needed texture to it’s near four-minute length. The latter bursts through the airwaves with a much more upbeat instrumental, complete with percussion which is used sparingly through Slow Down, providing easily the Poppiest track on the EP.

Slow Down is a wonderful EP from Holly Rees. It’s an EP that’s very easy to get into, as it features a manner of topics that everybody has experienced before. It’s upbeat peak in ‘Timid Heart’ is quickly brought back down to earth with ‘Impossible Rules’, so even with the relatability ignored, there’s enough variation mixed in with it’s Folk-roots to be enjoyed by all.

First of all, what got you into music? I think it’s pretty hard to escape it. I listened to a lot of music with my Dad when I was little, old sixties classics which I think probably comes through in some of the tunes I write now, but the first instrument I learned to play was the cornet when I was nine or ten, because I thought it looked cute.

I got my first guitar when I was a teenager and wanted to be a cool teenger in a cool teenage band but I couldn’t really play it at all, and I was definitely not a cool teenager. I started properly teaching myself to play a few years ago when I took my sister’s old acoustic guitar to uni with me, and then last year my New Year’s Resolution (and probably one of the only ones I’ve ever managed to keep) was to do things that scared me – so I forced myself to go to my first ever open mic, and it’s carried on from there.

Your new EP Slow Down is out! What can you tell us about it? It’s a five-track EP, opening with Magpie which was the first single and finishing on Missing Out, which is also getting it’s own music video directed by Ryan Peebles (who did the Magpie music video)

Does it showcase a change of sound for yourself or are elements from your former EP Ilex still present? I think it’s definitely a step up, but it’s still me. My friend Matt Dunbar stepped in as producer for this one, so it’s much tighter – the Ilex EP was basically just live recordings, just me and the guitar with no production, but Slow Down has a much fuller sound. It’s still just me and the guitar at the core, but we’ve got harmonies and even some drums on some tracks, and it’s just basically gone up a gear I think.

Did you enjoy adding a fuller, more layered sound to the EP compared to Ilex? I really did! It was so fun seeing the songs evolve a bit more from just the acoustic demos I had, and especially Missing Out and Timid Heart with drums on!

You’ve mentioned in other interviews that your single ‘Magpie’ was written after you moved back to the North East after living in London. What brought about this decision to move back? The rent’s cheaper, the water’s nicer and the air is better haha. I think London has become a weird place to try and be creative. I know some people who do, and do it well, but for me it was just not really going to work. Everything is so expensive, and I think it can be a really hard city. The North East has it’s own hardness, but in a different way, and I’m not really sure I could be doing what I’m doing anywhere else, or that I’d want to. I love it here. The music scene especially is just so vibrant and welcoming and supportive.

How do you reckon the EP would have turned out had you stayed in London? Oooh that’s a good question! I kind of think the EP might never have happened if I’d stayed in London – I wouldn’t have met Matt, who produced it, but I also probably wouldn’t have written most of the songs. I’d like to think I would still have fallen into music even if I had stayed in London but I’m not sure.

‘Slow Down’ is a song that hits the heartstrings throughout. What was it like having to revisit all of the experiences and feelings behind the songs during the recording process? I didn’t really feel like I did have to revist all those feelings – I do write pretty honestly, so all the songs have come from real moments and I probably do tap into that emotion when I’m playing live, but by the time we got into the studio I had played almost all of the songs live a few times and there’s a bit more of a distance between the raw feelings and the song itself, kind of like the songs just start to just exist as themselves to me.

What have you been listening to lately? I’ve been really obsessed with this one tune recently, Bad Habit by Your Smith. It’s so good. I’ve also been listening to lots of the 1975’s new stuff, and Courtney Barnett’s new album which I love!

Can we expect to hear other Avian-related material from you in the future? Haha, currently no more avian-themed songs in the pipeline but I guess we’ll see!

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