About Greg Holden
In 2009, the Big Apple beckoned Holden. Hed just released his independent debut, A Word in Edgeways, and after visiting the city for some recording sessions, he knew he wanted to relocate. He moved out of his London flat, sold most of his things, boarded a plane, and never looked back.
"For some reason, I was always drawn to New York," he admits. "Every one of my favorite musicians had gone there at some point. I remember reading about Bob Dylans journeys through Greenwich Village, all the imagery of the city just taunted me. Theres a mystery about the place, it just sucks you in."
For the next year, he immersed himself in that "mystery". Everything that he saw and experienced became fodder for his songwriting—whether it be interactions on the train or in the bars. The smell of alcohol and the overheard conversations lived on in his music. Simultaneously, he launched a Kickstarter page to fund the recording. Rallying support from his devout fan base, he raised 30,000 dollars in the span of month. Holden headed to Los Angeles and recorded the songs hed been penning with none other than producer Tony Berg [Bob Dylan]. He emerged from the studio with I Dont Believe You.
"Id call it English Americana," he says of the album. "I have real American influences, and I have to be proud of that, and not pretend as though I only listened to English music my whole life. I listen to Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen as well as the English icons such as Harrison & Lennon. Ill always have my English roots, but I live here right now."
I Dont Believe You saw an initial digital release in 2011, and it began to slowly build a buzz online. However, when Holden recorded the bonus track "The Lost Boy", the record made a giant splash internationally. A poignant, potent, and poetic rumination, he carried the songs unforgettable refrain and touching story.
Holden recalls, "I wrote that after reading a book by Dave Eggers called What is the What. Its a true story about a Sudanese refugee named Valentino Achak Deng. It was so emotional and powerful that I had to write the song, it felt like some sort of duty. I wanted to make a difference after reading the book. I recorded it in my apartment, and I sent it to a DJ that I knew in Holland because he does a lot of work for the Red Cross."
The song entered regular rotation during the Christmas period, and shot to #1 on iTunes in Holland. The radio station invited Holden to play a Christmas Eve benefit for the Red Cross in front of 10,000 people. A sold out tour of the country ensued, and the song ended up raising 80,000 dollars for the charity. Shortly after, "The Lost Boy" played over a key scene in a seminal episode of Sons of Anarchy. Within days, it had sold 20,000 copies on iTunes and charted on Billboard.
Elsewhere on I Dont Believe You, Holden confronts dishonesty on the shimmering and slick title track, while "Bar on A" paid homage to one his favorite haunts where "an English boy learned about the drinks and women of New York". Then, theres the powerful "American Dream"—another true story.
"I was riding home on the subway one night, and I was sitting by a homeless couple," he explains. The woman was crying and upset, and the guy had a big bag of stuff hed claimed to have stolen. He was like, Dont worry, Im going to sell all of this shit so we can eat tonight. It was so ****ing real. I wrote the song on my phone right there and then. Its a classic example of the many people who arent living the so-called American dream."
Holden, however, has tirelessly chased his dream. In the midst of releasing I Dont Believe You, he wrote the multiplatinum-selling smash hit "Home" for Phillip Phillips, and he contributed the stunning "I Need an Energy" to the Chasing Mavericks soundtrack. Now, he signed to Collective Sounds in 2013 and will re-release the album formally in stores and digitally.
Ultimately though, his goal remains the same. "I dont sing to make money," he concludes. "I want to be honest, whether people believe me or not. I want to tell stories that make people think and hopefully, feel. I want them to be inspired in some way. If they can connect to a song beyond a harmonic level, thats all I ever wanted."