Profile of Holly Roseanna

“Lockdown has given me time to do my own thing for a change which has been nice,” says Holly Roseanna. “I hadn’t played the acoustic guitar for months and it feels good to return to it, to get back to my musical roots a bit.”

The past year has also been a chance for the Scottish singer-songwriter to branch out from her usual projects. Though she's also part of the Passing Sages, a fiery pop outfit whose natural terrain is surely anywhere with a disco ball in it, Holly's solo work is a different entity. Away from the glitter and scuffed rollerskates of her band, Holly Roseanna's voice has a purity to it and a softness matched gamely by the elysian energy of her newest release. 

Because Eden comes with a music video whose otherworldly beauty is enough to send any Windows desktop wallpaper spiralling into a jealous rage. It covers just about every pastoral fantasy you can think up, blankets of pine trees, waves lapping at a golden shore, toadstools as big as your head. I too want to swoop, sylph-like, through a glade in a long white skirt, sunlight blinking through the trees around me. It's just a world away from the bank holiday gloom of the bedroom I'm typing this from. Can this place even be real?

Yes, it is. At least for now.

“Eden is a song I wrote about Tentsmuir Forest,” Holly reveals. “It's a nature reserve in Fife, where I live. I wanted to showcase the beauty of the forest but also touch on the climate emergency and the effects it’s having on our coasts and waters.”

That's the takeaway of Eden: that for all the splendour of sites like Tentsmuir, we can't count on nature to keep renewing them. Their beauty is ephemeral, passing through our fingers like sand.

While the verses, in time-honoured folk fashion, pay homage to the rich landscape Holly Roseanna calls home, the choruses arrive as a reality check, with dark warnings of coastal erosion, washed-up plastics and the cutting winds of a world knocked off its cycle. There's a kind of nostalgia here, but it's a nostalgia for what is being destroyed right before our eyes.

Holly doesn't simply pay lip service to the problem either, having set up a fundraiser for the Marine Conversation Society in parallel with the song's release. The song itself ends looking to the future, though whether this is with hope for recovery or the familiar creeping dread that arises when talking about ecological decline, who can know for sure?

Holly's musical tastes are omnivorous, ranging from Frank Zappa to Kate Bush to Toto to Steely Dan to Laura Mvula. I watch a video of her flipping through her favourite records on Instagram, citing a Mastodon album as her ideal backdrop for vacuuming the house. "Metal is almost like meditation, in a way," she observes. Yet the catharsis of screaming along to Blood Mountain as dust mites quail beneath you is a little different to the listening experience she brings us here, to the contemplative, acoustic dreamscapes she has been creating as a solo artist. Does she find that this project has been an emotional outlet?

“Songwriting is a strangely emotional experience, I can understand when people say it’s like therapy,” she agrees. “Sometimes I write something that makes me want to cry, or I’ll write something that makes me feel really empowered and confident. Now and again I’ll write a song which I think is awful, then I start to question my talent and skills and I have to address it and work through it. It forces you to be vulnerable. It’s an emotional rollercoaster.”

And after all, it's that same vulnerability she brings to her songs, her voice, by turns husky and bright, rippling through the ether like the waves of Tentsmuir Forest. There's a reassurance, however bittersweet, in seeing an artist use her voice to fight for the sweeping panoramas of her homeland.

2021. Written for wherearethegirlbands