Most well-known for his remix of Dr. Dre's The Next Episode, Dutch genre-bending musician San Holo effortlessly combines his guitar and singing skills with electronic sounds. 2018 was quite the year for San Holo - he released his successful album1 and performed it to enthusiastic crowds all over North America in his biggest headlining tour to date. However, 2019 may be off to an even better start as he prepares to tour the rest of the world and take part in several popular music festivals. Today, he released "Lead Me Back," his first single off his label's latest compilation series, Gouldian Finch 3.
The Odyssey: So how exactly would you describe the process of creating "Lead Me Back?"
San Holo: "Lead Me Back" is definitely a different kind of song. When I showed it to my friends for the first time, they called it "Folk-EDM." Like kind of a folky, indie, EDM sound. Which I thought was a pretty cool name for the track. Normally when I write music, I start on a guitar and then translate everything to electronic [instruments], like you know, keyboards and stuff like that. But for "Lead Me Back," I felt that the acoustic guitar had to be part of the song. So, I kept it in, and I think the song turned into a really cool indie-EDM song.
O: I think it's different than anything else I've ever heard because of you being able to combine folk and EDM sounds. It's really hard to have a good balance between those sounds, and I think you definitely did that with this song.
SH: Oh, that's awesome! That's the goal. My goal is always to create something that will make people think, "Wow, I haven't really heard this combination before, I haven't really heard this sound before."
O: You just did a pretty big North American tour, right?
SH: Yes! I did two months in North America – November and December. I'm going to come back in April for the second run of the album1 tour, which is my first [full-length] album that I released last September. This tour has been all about playing the album. At live shows, there's a lot of guitar lots of singing, and lots of cool instruments.
O: Have you had any special memories with meeting your fans and listeners at shows?
SH: Yeah, especially for this tour for album1. The album is pretty emotional with lots of melancholic songs. I would describe the sound as "happy/sad." I've met people after my shows who were crying. I mean, I've had people cry from my music before, but especially after the album1 drop, a lot of people have been crying after the show, which is great because it means they're deeply touched by [the music], which is one of the most beautiful compliments.
O: Do you think there's a certain song off album1 that brings people to tears the most?
SH: I actually wouldn't be able to name a specific song that puts people in tears. I think it's more the experience of listening to those [emotional] songs and getting in this headspace where people start to reflect on things. A lot of people go to shows to just forget about their problems, but also with this show, I see people diving deeper into their emotions and actually facing them.
O: It's so important that music can do all of that. I think you definitely are able to give your listeners like a safe space.
SH: Yeah! One of the most beautiful things still to me is when someone links a memory to a certain song [of mine]. There are bands that I listened to five years ago that I have [linked] memories of holidays or trips with friends. To have my songs, or my album or a specific part of the song, create this memory for someone – linking a place or time or feeling to that song – is a beautiful thing.
O: Do you have like a specific song for you that like of the bands you would listen to five years ago? Like what's a specific instance of a song that's linked to a memory? If you don't mind me asking.
SH: I used to listen to a lot of Bloc Party. That band has been a huge influence for me. I remember having my first heartbreak, having my first breakup, and learning that life goes on through the ups and downs. That's really what [Bloc Party's music] does to me personally. There are other albums where I'll remember holiday trips with my parents, or falling in love with the girl at the swimming pool… It's just the little specific moments that your favorite song at the time will make you think of.
O: Do you think any of those memories and songs that you linked had any influence on "Lead Me Back?"
SH: I think everything I've done up to now in my life has an influence on another thing I make. So, definitely, all the experiences and troubles are part of what I put into my music. I really like for people to have their own experience and their own meaning of my songs. I'm not going to tell someone what it means for them or what it should mean. But to me, it's a song about how sometimes even though two people love each other or seem to be perfect with each other, it just doesn't work out over time. You're trying to get back to that first spark, or the feeling you got when you first met each other. That's why it's "Lead me back to you," that "you," that you knew from back then.
O: Is there anything else that you would want your fans to know about regarding "Lead Me Back?"
SH: As an artist, I would like to have the freedom to create whatever I want. So, I think it's important to say that I always have this urge to innovate my sound and push the boundaries of what people think is possible within a certain genre. I really appreciate people that listen to my music for being really open to whatever I release. Like whether it's a house song, or a trap song, or in this case, a folk-EDM song. I think it's really important to me that [listeners] have that open mind because that's really what it's all about. Having an open mind. Especially when it comes to art and music.
O: I think the world is really going to love "Lead Me Back."
SH: I hope so. To me, it's a very scary song to release because it feels very naked and very honest. Those songs are the scariest ones to release because, you know, if people hate on it then it feels very personal, but, you know, I have to get over that.
O: Yeah. And that's just part of putting yourself out there and releasing music that is going to be meaningful. I think the fact that it's a scary song to release just proves how much this song means to you.
SH: Yeah, absolutely.
Want to catch San Holo on tour? Find the date closest to you here.
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