Holly Rankin is a young singer/songwriter who has a deep appreciation for the area she grew up in and the people who have influenced her music. Focus speaks with Holly as she prepares to launch her CD and do a string of shows along the East Coast of Australia with her band ‘Desire the Horse’.
Hi Holly, tell us where you hail from, and what was it like to grow up in the local area.
I hail from the golden One Mile Beach, northern end. I have lived in Forster since I escaped the womb 18 years ago. Growing up in such a small town with the ocean and the beautiful surrounds was incredible. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to learn about nature and people.
My dad used to take me on camping adventures all the time – to Wallis Island and out to Diamond Beach, then as I grew older my friends and I adventured/still adventure at Seals Rocks, Old Bar, Palms, Treachery and Bulls Paddock.
I think by having all of the open space around me I had time to think about a lot of things and create a somewhat grounded view of the world.
Your voicemail is simply ‘Tambourine Man’ by Bob Dylan! Do you draw inspiration from musicians such as Dylan, and why does this era affect you?
Oh yes, my voicemail. I hate trying to make the perfect one, so I let Bob take the reigns. I do draw a lot of inspiration from historical musicians – especially ‘Bob darling’. I could go on forever about all of the different eras of music that I love, but Dylan’s era – the ‘60s and ‘70s – has had a huge impact on how I approach music and how I listen to it.
Figures from that era in music and popular culture like Dylan, Jim Morrison, poet Allen Ginsberg, The Beatles and folk singer Joan Baez had hold of some kind of magical power (through their creativity) that influenced people’s being so directly with such relevent messages.
Similar to the romantic era, they channelled pure creativity and art into their audiences, bringing their audience back into some kind of mass tribal consciousness. Very Avatar. I have a theory that the ‘60s were a practice for the revolution that is happening/will happen now – our society is very messed up. It is more of a hope.
Desire the Horse is an interesting title for the band. How did it come about?
Desire the Horse are some words from one of my favourite Leonard Cohen poems from his latest work, ‘The Book Of Longing’.
The stanza it is from sums up why I write music.
I followed the course from chaos to art
Desire the horse, Depression the Cart.
Who are the other members of the band, and what is their role?
Trevor Davies plays electric guitar, Aarron Ballantyne plays bass, Luke Dixon plays drums, Angela Lisa sings with me on some songs. They are all from Sydney.
Desire the Horse also has a small entourage of dear friends who sing and clap at each show. They are known as The Sunflowers, and consists of Steffi Davis, Grace Gooley, Fern Champion, Tarik Power, Sophie Curtis, Ash Schumann, Curtis Champion, Alex Godwin and Lara Haddon. The Sunflowers are Forsterians.
You have described your music as experimental folk mixed with a bit of psychedelic. How were you exposed to these ‘not so typical styles’? And what appeals to you most about the ‘left of centre’ genres?
I was exposed to these styles of music through reading. At a young age I stopped buying Dolly to purchase Rolling Stone, and through that magazine I discovered the world of music.
I read a lot of music biographies and watch any documentary I can. For me it is important to understand the musical context that we live in.
You play the guitar and sing in Desire the Horse. How long have you been entertaining?
I have written songs and poetry from around 8, but I have been playing the guitar since I was 14.
This month, you are launching your EP in Sydney and playing a number of venues – like World Bar, the Basement and Ruby Rabbit in Kings Cross. How did you get bookings at such high profile spots?
I am not too sure … perhaps a combination of bowstaff skills, emailing skills, nunchuck skills, friend skills, drawing skills. It is really just a matter of having a passion for your music and a few persuasive words.
What is the general reaction from crowds when you play?
Once a man said that he fell into a deep trance. Others say that the music is haunting, calming …
You have a bohemian vibe about you – would you agree? And where do you draw your biggest inspirations from in life?
I googled ‘Bohemian’ and the spiderweb said that ‘Bohemians can be wanderers, adventurers, or vagabonds.’ That sounds fun.
My inspirations consist of: my brother Reuben, my sister Shannon, dreams, my dogs, Sam and Simon, John Diamond, children, people on trains, the ocean, anarchy/utopia/freedom/peace, Arthur Rimbaud, Jim Morrison, The Sunflowers, John Frusciante, The Moon.
Thank you Holly.