“It’s like solving a puzzle that’s been given to you. It’s like coming home…” For Holly Lerski, the step back into writing new music carried its own momentum; all the pieces of the puzzle were laid out invitingly in front of her, and couldn’t be ignored.
Musicians carry many tools in their armoury; heartbreak, travel, experience, but contentment isn’t usually one of them. Since Holly’s return to her rural haven in 2006, eschewing the demands of larger cities and their music industry trappings, Holly has enjoyed a contentment, which has allowed her to explore her creativity off-timetable. Painting and drawing, it was earlier this year that Holly realised her music was omnipresent, and was just waiting to be let back in.
It was here, back in the deep and lusciously leafy East that Holly first made her foray into the musical world. Fuelled by her effortless talents on guitar and bass, having experienced the fertile creative platform of going to Art School, Holly formed a band with old school friend Jo, a band we would celebrate as Angelou. Angelou weaved their threads into the rich tapestry of music to come out of Norfolk, with Holly herself receiving comparisons to Beth Orton, but Angelou enjoyed the attention from wider parameters.
Angelou, helped on their way by Norwich label Haven Records, soon rightly outgrew their region’s borders, and carried their sound on tour supporting Eddie Reader and Boo Hewerdine, complimented by the release of their first EP, ‘Hallelujah’. If that’s a title you’ve heard before, you’re right to conjour up Polaroid memories of Jeff Buckley; the connotations of Buckley are never stronger than with Holly herself.
Holly once described her discovery of Jeff Buckley’s music as “giving her the green light to begin”. His music resonated so much, was so affecting, that he has been a constant catalyst for her, and natural comparisons are hard to ignore. Q Magazine insightfully said, "Lerski's songs have a deft touch, and like her hero Jeff Buckley, an air of spiritual redemption." Angelou’s EP shared a timeline with Buckley’s untimely death that year, but Holly would, in time, get to pay homage further to her greatest musical inspiration.
A long player from the band was fortunately not far away from the release of the EP, and the industry ingested ‘Automiracles’ in gratefully. The Independent described it as "the best debut of it's kind since Eddi Reader's 'Mirmama' ...indeed even The Sundays first effort 'Reading, Writing and Arithmetic'". The album’s weight gave the band the force to stride into their second album, ‘While You Were Sleeping’ (Haven / Mangrove Records), which was released in 2000. On their sophomore, Holly was able to pay tribute to Buckley with the touching album closer, ‘Little Sister’, a song that she contributed to the Buckley documentary, ‘Amazing Grace’.
The creeping tendrils of their music found new roots overseas, with Spanish label El Diablo picking up on their songs and releasing a compilation called ‘Midnight Witcheries’. Invigorated by a Benicassim Festival Tour, the band comfortably made a name for themselves on Spanish TV and Radio, with a follow-up 2 EPs. It was a name that traveled back home again, and caught the attention of Sanctuary Records. Acclaim had already been high at home, but here it was, the major record deal.
Sanctuary was home to Angelou and Holly as they saw them through their third UK album and further adventurous touring. ‘Life is Beautiful’ was released under the solo name of Holly Lerski, and the album had much commercial merit, but with the music industry in a state of flux from then until the present day, even the attention from Radio 2 and support dates with The Cranberries, Jason Mraz and Josh Rouse couldn’t give the album the spotlight it deserved. Holly moved away from Sanctuary, and had to leave the songs in their hands.
Listeners always have the blissful innocence of enjoying the music without awareness of any corporate struggle, and ‘Life is Beautiful’ fell on the ears of Starbucks who were looking to add some of the tracks to their in-house playlists. Proud and vilified, now living in Manchester, Holly’s own imprint, Laundry Label saw its naissance as a vehicle for her solo album, ‘Greetings from N.Y.’ The album cover features a postcard from Jeff Buckley that had once been given to Holly by the man himself. He was a serendipitous part of Holly’s musical blueprint once again. Once again, whatever Holly put out, there were welcome ears all round, with Radio 2 always flying the flag.
The fractures in Sanctuary Records had become more than apparent and Universal Music Group were on hand to swallow up the ailing label, taking the catalogue with them. Although already parted, that time also signaled a new chapter for Holly. As so many good things come back around, Holly returned to Norfolk, playing a few solo dates, including a spot in New York’s famous ‘Living Room’ in 2007. That same week 'Hallelujah' was featured in the finale episode of US TV drama 'Close To Home'.
This takes us ‘til now – looking at an artist swathed in contentment, but fruitful with new songs. She has been working with Norwich-based producer Dave Pye to bring this new musical crop to fruition. Holly delighted fans with a recent date at the 12 Bar Club in London, and is fired up for some further dates this year.