The band Holly Hollows explores light and dark in their latest self-titled project, “Holly Hollows”, a theatrical indie pop rock journey to the afterlife for artists. The name itself, a captivating combination of whimsy and darkness, perfectly reflects the essence of the work – a journey into the unconscious, where dreams and shadows intertwine.

Holly Anne Mitchell, founder of Holly Hollows, is a multi-faceted artist who wears the hats of writer, producer, and performer. She draws inspiration from personal experiences and a lifelong fascination with the human condition. This latest creation, encompassing both a musical album and a theatrical production, promises a poignant exploration of artistic pursuit, self-discovery, and the ever-present yearning for meaning in the face of mortality. Prepare to be drawn into the world of “Holly Hollows,” where the boundaries between reality and the afterlife blur, and where the pursuit of artistic fulfillment confronts the complexities of the human spirit.

 

Where did the name “Holly Hollows” come from? What does it represent for you and your music?

These songs represent a journey into the shadow of the unconscious, so I wanted a name that was full of dark whimsy. I’m a poet so I’m a sucker for alliteration– it reminds me of the macabre of Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow, but I also think “hallowed”–writing these songs was a spiritual journey for me and they hold a special kind of magic. 

Your music delves into light and shadow, good and bad. What draws you to explore these contrasting themes?

I’ve always had a fascination with the hero’s journey, and Carl Jung’s process of individuation–traveling into the unconscious to find the self, and to integrate the lightest and darkest parts of your being into wholeness. I was always afraid of my shadow–my childhood in a fundamentalist church caused me to reject and suppress parts of myself I thought were broken. My art became a safe space to rebel, embrace vulnerability, and find a way to self-acceptance. 

How did you come up with the concept for “Holly Hollows The Musical” and what inspired you to explore the afterlife for artists?

I lost two friends in the past six months, both talented artists. What devastated me was that their ideas and dreams also died with them. I imagined there was a place where all their unfinished work was waiting for them, and that their creativity would live on by inspiring others to carry on their legacy, including me. That place is the Hollows.

Without giving too much away, can you tell us about any challenges or obstacles your main character faces in the underworld?  

Holly struggles with incompletion in her life–unfinished songs, unrequited love, and a deep desire to achieve significance through fame. The pain of longing drags her to the underworld, where all her undone dreams come true. But getting everything you ever wanted might turn a dream into a nightmare, and that’s exactly what Holly faces after death. 

What do you hope the audience will feel, experience, or even question after watching “Holly Hollows The Musical”? Is there a specific emotional impact you aim to achieve?

The subject matter is confronting me as a recovering achiever. I chase after something, but when I achieve it, the victory is empty. There’s always another mountain to climb or someone else who’s climbed much higher. What is it inside of us that wants the thing we’re jonesing for? For me, it was the desire for my life to matter, and the fear of being unlovable. Do you want what you want from a place of love or a place of inadequacy? When you’re dead and gone, what legacy do you leave behind? A good existential crisis is better than a strong cup of coffee to kick my ass into gear. 

The show explores the afterlife for artists. What message do you hope to convey to aspiring creators through this story?

Holly Hollows’ journey is similar to mine, and that of many artists: we’re compelled on a quest for significance. But as creators, what we do takes on a spiritual nature, and as we evolve from the desire for significance, we move toward the desire for contribution. It’s so hard because our programming and early story that thrust us into the world told us the way to be loved and to be safe is to be unique and to be an individual, and that through achievement our lives will have value. But we are so much more than our work. We are not the work, the work is the portal, for our transformation, and the transformation of others. We have to find a truer identity, beyond the work, beyond our stories. By transcending the need to be special, we actually discover what we’ve been looking for: our true, authentic voice–a legacy of artistic contribution. We no longer need approval outside of ourselves. We know when the work is complete because it interests us. Everything becomes a whisper of inspiration. We capture the inspiration, sculpt it into a medium, and move on to the next project to keep learning, growing, and sharing. 

The album also acts as a sonic gateway to the theatrical world of “Holly Hollows.” In your opinion, which musical aspects of the album will serve as the most powerful hooks to draw listeners deeper into the story and connect with the characters?

The songs have a cinematic quality, surreal, provocative, and often erotic. Listeners will appreciate subtle nods to my favorite artists who push imagination’s limits like St. Vincent, Labrinth, Madonna, Lana Del Rey, Karen O, Christine and the Queens, and Adrianne Lenker.  The lyrics come straight out of my poetry journal. They’re visceral and multisensory, and the theatrical version of the musical will heighten the senses of sight, taste, smell, and even touch to provoke an introspective journey that borders on psychedelic. For this album, I wanted the melodies to be addictive, so that they haunt the listener, and for the poetry to crawl in and crack the heart open, and in time reveal what’s ready to be brought from the shadow into the light. 

Juggling writing, producing, and starring in your musicals sounds like a lot! What are the biggest challenges you face when taking on all these roles? What are the biggest rewards of taking on so many responsibilities?

Masochism is my superpower, ha! Actually, every year I challenge myself to do something really hard–run a marathon, learn a language, write a novel, and move across the country. It builds my resilience in the face of uncertainty, and fashions a kind of courage that helps me in life and art. I’ve always been great at time management, but you can’t fully plan the creative process, it leaves no room for magic. The challenge is accepting that you can’t control outcomes, that some projects have their own timeline, and you should never in a million years do everything on your own. The biggest reward is when you engage a community to support and help you, you deepen those relationships, and by letting the universe add its own ideas to your project, you employ and strengthen faith so that magic has room to surprise and delight you. 

You’ve described your creative journey as a transformation and recovery from PTSD. How has your creative expression helped you heal?

When my partner Evan died in my arms when we were on vacation, my world stopped. I had a hard time living after that. Not just because of the grief, but because PTSD made my brain stop working. I needed something to live for, so I decided to work with my friends to produce my musical Blood Supply. Going to rehearsals, singing, and being in community revitalized me. Once that project was done, I was ready to tell my story. So I poured my experiences into metaphor in the form of a novel, a poetry book, and a new musical. Giving my pain to my characters helped my brain to heal, helped me make sense of the unimaginable, and accepted that there is love and beauty in the ugliest of places. 

You also work as a ghostwriter and novelist. Are there any common threads that tie together your different artistic outlets?

My work is always at the intersection of creativity, psychology, and spirituality–these three subjects never cease to intrigue me. I’ve been fascinated with death–What happens before we’re born? What happens after we die?–since my grandfather died of a sudden heart attack when I was 5 years old. As a child, I read a lot of Stephen King secretly, since my mother forbade his books in our house. Fear, horror, death, rebirth, these themes continue to haunt me and propel me to make sense of them through metaphor. 

You’re a multi-talented and ambitious artist. What other creative endeavors are on your horizon?

I just finished a sexy, dystopian, spirituality novel called Thea and the Human Experience, so I’m on the hunt for a publisher. We’ll be producing the live musical of Holly Hollows in Hollywood this year. I’m also in talks to remount a live production of my other musical, Blood Supply: A Zombie Apocalypse Love Story, with the goal of making it into an animated series. I’ve got other songs I’d like to build and release with my producer Kyle McCammon before the year is out. Ultimately, I’ll keep living a creative life: continue to grow, learn, and be inspired so that the next project whispers itself to me. 

Photos: Jonti Shepherd @jontiwild

 

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