A Conversation with Christina Holmes
By Kevin Alan Lamb
The funny thing about dreams is that they’re rarely realized in the way they were conceived; as a result we may find ourselves living in a dream we always had, but don’t take the time to recognize and be grateful for its fruition. Fortunately, for East Coast native Christina Holmes, she’s well aware of the fortune space, time, and commitment have granted her, as she finds herself in the middle of a tour with one of her heroes, Nahko, where she supports his latest release - My Name Is Bear.
Despite our inclination to let the cold and desperate ways of evil-spirited humans to discourage us, Christina Holmes is a sign of the mass-spiritual-awakening upon us, and offers hope in the form of sentimental songs sung from the soul, medicine for terminal patients in the hospital who haven't spoke in months, and a fresh dose of organic optimism to insist we “Dig a Little Bit More” even after our shovel breaks, and love seems to be fleeting when we try to cling to it tightest.
KAL: I’ve had a chance to work with Nahko and Trevor a lot. I caught a little bit of your set when you were here in Detroit. First off how did you connect with Nahko?
CH: Just through a lot of the other connections that I’ve made over the years especially with Trevor and through my manager and stuff like that. We just reached out to their management and had said “this is who I have opened for” and it was kind of a two year process in the making. We started contacting them about two years ago and we just had to prove our way to be able to get onto the tour.
KAL: That’s awesome, what do you recall most distinctly from the amateur night at the Apollo?
CH: I’d say right before I had to walk on stage was the most distinct moment. I was just standing there, right before you go out you’re standing there and they tell you to go out and touch the Tree of Hope and then you go and sing, then thank Apollo. I was so nervous standing on the side of the stage waiting to touch the tree. I was thinking, “All I have to do is touch the tree, go to the mic stand, and sing.” It’s funny because you don’t think that’s something on my mind, but once they tell you you have to touch the Tree of Hope, people will boo you off the stage before you even sing. Like touch the Tree of Hope and go do your thing.
KAL: That’s wild, but now that you’ve had many more performances are there any mechanisms that you practice to kind of calm yourself if you’re ever nervous?
CH: To be honest, since that day I haven’t really been nervous. I’ve got that anxious excited nervous, but it’s never really gotten to the point where I feel like I did before that moment. Before that moment I had really bad stage fright, then once I performed at the Apollo it was something that was like, "If you can perform at the Apollo you can perform anywhere." I don’t know if you know the premise of the show, but if they don’t like you they can boo you off the stage. So I feel like once I did that there, it gave me the confidence that I don’t think I would have gotten anywhere else.
KAL: Well, we can both agree that there is a healing or medicinal power of music. Can you give me some memories where you have experienced this directly?
CH: I work a lot with Musicians On Call, which is an organization where you go into the hospitals and sing for patients and stuff like that. I would have to say probably the most profound thing I’ve had through healing with music is basically when you work with this organization, you don’t necessarily know what’s wrong with the patient unless you’re in a certain part of the hospital and we just happened to be in a terminal wing and this kid had been told three months before I met him that he was going to pass away. When you go and work with these people it’s not just for the patients, but it’s for the nurses, the families, and the sponsor that had walked around with me had said, “You know he won’t listen to you, he hasn’t talked to a single person in three months, just let him be and sing to his mom.” So I went in there and you always kind of pick the song with the tone of the room when you walk in and for some reason I sang “No One” by Alicia Keys. Normally I do more upbeat songs and this song was a more slower version. The kid not only gave me his full attention, but he sang the entire song with me. Me, the nurses, and every single person that was in the entire room basically started hysterically crying because this kid hasn’t talked for three months. Just opening my mouth singing a song that I’ve never sang in a hospital, he literally sang every single word with me and got a spark in his eye and a smile that he hadn’t had in forever. His mom gave me a big hug and she was like, “You have no idea what you just did.” Really, all I did was sing from my heart with my guitar. So it was a pretty incredible moment.
KAL: That’s remarkable! Have you kept working there?
CH: Yeah, they’re based in bigger cities and trying to expand now so I solely work out of the New York City branch. They’re trying to open up a Boston one and I currently live in Rhode Island so whenever I’m down visiting family or on tour I go into the city to go work with them. I hope to kind of expand to different branches with them as well.
KAL: Awesome, kind of along the same line - Peace, Love, and C. Holmes. Can you talk about the power of positivity that is portrayed throughout this album?
CH: I feel like basically just through my life experiences, the songs on the album in particular kind of came from negative moments, which is kind of crazy. Most people would not think that. There’s a song called “Dig a Little Bit More” and it was inspired by a friend of mine who basically after I had struggled with some health problems, when I was in the hospital I kind of ended up learning her true colors through that situation. The chores of that song is “give a little bit more, take a little bit less” because I had learned through that situation that she only would take things from me, she never gave anything and I always give my heart to the fullest. Sometimes that’s not always the best thing, but I got a song out of it and turned it into a positive situation that taught me that no matter where your life takes you, you just have to learn to give a little bit more than just taking from people and you’ll see a better side of life.
KAL: That’s beautiful, some of the ones that are more capable of giving are the ones that, in reality, are the ones that have to continue giving.
CH: Yeah for sure and that’s how I was raised by my parents. So I’ve always had that mindset, that you have to set out to do things for others and not expect something in return. Unfortunately, she was one of those people that only would do things if you did something for them. It was funny because my mom was like, “How did you write such a positive song about such a negative thing?” Because obliviously that was upsetting, she was a really close friend of mine and I realized that she wasn’t as close of a friend as I thought she was. But some of the most negative situations will allow you to see some of the most positive things in a different light. I learned about myself and other people, but the biggest things that I learned was just to stay true to myself no matter what other people say about me, and as long as I know my own truth that’s all that really matters.
KAL: That’s wonderful. Some of the greatest growth in my life happened as I became aware. Every struggle I had, I had an opportunity to grow and there was something I could look for. I would always identify it. The quicker you turn that negative into a positive. Can you walk me through your legendary jam with Narada at his Tarpan Studios?
CH: Well, it was incredible. Him and his entire team are pretty amazing and Narada was the biggest loving soul ever. Our creativity kind of just flowed together. When I had first met him and I went out to his studio after he had heard my music and all we did was jam. He played the drums and I played the guitar and sang. It had nothing to do with any kind of business, it was just, “I want to play with you, I want to see if we vibe and if we do we can make something, but if we don’t, we don’t”. We literally just vibed and played music for hours before we even decided to work with each other professionally. It was kind of one of those amazing moments where you hope that you can find somebody that you can jam with and have those vibes with instead of it being forced. It was so effortless it was incredible. We still to this day are really good friends.
KAL: That's awesome, if you had one lyric tattooed on you what would it be and why?
CH: If I had one lyric tattooed on me….If I had to pick my own I would say, “All we can do is try to love before we die.” It’s from my song "Message For the People" because since I was a little kid my parents always taught me to just always love even in the situations where you feel like you can’t give any love. Then if I had to pick a quote from somebody else….that’s hard on the spot. I’d say, "Be the change you wish to say in the world," which is a Ghandi quote, not really a song lyric. If I would put a song lyric on me, it’s a Trevor Hall song called "Indigo," where he talks about owl medicine in that song so I would either get an owl or owl medicine written on me because it is said that owl medicine is supposed to keep your head and not be fooled by your own mind. I have a very hard time getting out of my mind sometimes. Like talking negatively to myself about things that aren’t even happening in life, but everyone does that, they get stuck in their own head. That song is pretty incredible because it’s talking about trying to find your owl medicine.
KAL: That's awesome. You’re on a pretty special tour right now, but what do you miss most about home?
CH: My family I’d say. I have a soon to be wife and three step kids that are home and I also have two English bulldogs and then her family has two more dogs, so we have a pretty big family of kids and doggies that I miss at home for sure.
KAL: Well, I’ll tell you what I’m looking at right now, my roommate has a Miniature English Bull Dog named Rocco. We live in Michigan so he has his little red lumberjack flannel on. I actually work at a music venue called Otus Supply and it’s right next door so we call our place Chateau Rocco because a lot of the musicians spend the night here. I think I’ve got one more for you then I’ll let you go. It’s getting pretty cold here, when you’re back home and it’s getting colder and we turn more inward, what is some music that you’re listening to that really helps you find your own medicine.
CH: It’s all the people I tour with. It’s Nahko, Trevor Hall, Xavier Rudd and I’m a huge Bob Marley fan, since I was a little kid. It’s pretty crazy. I am extremely blessed to be able to tour and work with the people who inspire me most. So I get to not only listen to their music when I’m home, but when I’m living my dream. It doesn’t change too much when I’m on the road or off the road, but one thing is I get to see one of the people that I love, so it’s pretty cool.
KAL: That’s perfect. Personality wise between Nahko and Trevor, what are some of their biggest differences that you’ve observed?
CH: I mean they both are just really down to earth guys. I’d say Nahko is definitely more goofy for sure. Trevor can be a big goof, but can definitely be more to himself sometimes and he needs his space and he chills. But Nahko will just come out sometimes and say the craziest things and we both say that we remind each other of each other. We kind of have a weird humor about being a goof all the time. But yeah they’re both super humble, super loving, but I’d say that Nahko is definitely goofier.
KAL: Dive into your daily dose of Christina Holmes and listen to her latest Peace Love & C. Holmes. Just in case you were listening for one, This is a Good Sound.