Holly Dearden - Paul Mcartney's EX-PA: launches pop career

Ash Akhtar 15/10/2008

Interview with Holly Dearden - Kentish Town - 12/10/08 - by Ash Akhtar.

Of all the drinks you could choose on a rare, hot, Sunday lunchtime in October, I would suspect that mint tea would be low on your list. Meeting in the bustle of Kentish Town, I spent a little time with Holly Dearden: the woman who, up until very recently, was the personal assistant of Beatle Sir Paul McCartney. With her debut album 'The Optimist's Daughter' scheduled for launch on Thursday, 16th October - it somehow seemed inappropriate to question her selection of beverage.

Coming from a musical family will have only aided Holly's abilities as a songwriter. Her great grandparents were composers and opera singers, her brother is a jazz pianist and she has professional musicians on her father's side of the family.

At university she studied literature of the American South where, unaware of the Eudora Welty book that shares the same name as the album, she coincidentally wrote the title song about her father. As if to demonstrate her love of literature and music, the album artwork features a typewriter with the keys of a piano replacing the lettered keys. She became Paul's PA soon after graduation; indulging in a play gunfight with her future boss apparently aiding to her secure the job.

That sense of play is one of Holly's most prominent traits. Listening to her album, an intimate, piano-led affair, you are immediately submersed in a depth of harmonies. Confessing that harmonies are one of her favourite things to do, she admits that she can sometimes get carried away with them.

All 12 tracks of 'The Optimist's Daughter' were recorded in a weekend and recorded as live, requiring plenty of rehearsal prior to the sessions. “We went in on Saturday morning - 10 hours on Saturday, 10 hours on Sunday. We wanted that kind of old-school feel: like an old Carole King album, where it doesn't sound too produced or constructed. Joni Mitchell, Carole King and James Taylor were my holy trinity when I was growing up.”

Two of the songs on the album, Dignity and Movie Queen were written when she was still in her teens. “I wish that my life was an everlasting roll of tape, and I knew it wouldn't break,” she sings on Movie Queen. The line sounds like it could have come from an episode of Flight of the Conchords. Indeed, in episode four of season one, the New Zealand comedy duo sing: ”Love is like a roll of tape, it's really good for making two things one. But just like the roll of tape, love sometimes breaks off before you were done.”

Holly laughs, “It's not meant to be a comedy number!”

Her take on realism can be found scattered across the album. “I'm the optimist's daughter,” she explains, “I'm not necessarily the optimist. If you're too optimistic, then the world lets you down. I'm not very good at writing about my happy moments - but I'm getting better at that.”

Holly is almost pessimistic about her future. Driving her career seemingly by herself, she is not waiting for a handout from a major label. “I'm going to get what I've given, I think. If you do get picked up and promoted, it can backfire. I like the organic process and finding out about it myself. I'm trying to keep an open mind.”

I asked if good friend, Paul, might be able to lend a hand:
“He'd never do that - and I don't want him to do that either. He's already been supportive in terms of advice and it's nice to have him there. We're quite similar in a sense: we both believe in doing things ourselves. He has a real Shirehorse type mentality: as in you make your own luck.”

Holly plays Ronnie Scott's on October 16th and tours throughout the year.
Dates can be found on her myspace page(below).

Her album will be launched on Ambiguous Records.