So. Holcombe Waller. I started listening to his music about a month ago, and it feels like I’ve discovered the work of a kindred spirit. Holcombe writes the kind of music that I’d like to write: lovely, sophisticated, self-revelatory. His singing voice is gorgeous, perfectly androgynous and versatile, calling up bits of Sufjan Stevens, Tracy Chapman, Basia Bulat and Jason Mraz.
As a songwriter, there’s so much in his work that I aspire to and admire. The poetry is complex yet conversational. Listening to the words, I feel like I’ve been drawn into the lucky inner circle of a smart and sensitive friend. In the hands of a lesser lyricist, these long texts might end up feeling long-winded; instead, they feel utterly natural. These songs aren’t afraid to go on a bit longer, to be ecstatic. These songs give us permission to say more. And they open up an inspiring heart space in which to do so.
Holcombe also works with elements of performance art and theater, and his next project, Wayfinders, will send him further into that realm. He’s composing music for a septet of onstage players who will interact with sophisticated technical elements like live onstage cameras and oscillating lights. It’s a “chamber folk” song cycle centered on issues of navigation, on the question “Where are we?” The show will be workshopped at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, and will have residencies in various stages of development to Seattle, Portland, Cedar Rapids, Chicago, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York.
The reason I started the lucky journey of listening to Holcombe’s music is that I have signed on to be one of the players for Wayfinders. (Also involved are the awesome Elise Blatchford and Leander Star of The City of Tomorrow, who put Holcombe in touch with me. I’m really grateful.) We start working at the end of February at the MCA, and I couldn’t be more excited. Many Chicago folks don’t know Holcombe’s work yet, but soon, they will. And I think they’ll love it.
In the meantime, I’m excited to work closely with an artist whose vision really resonates with me. I’ve actually always dreamed of composing an evening-length song cycle like this, and now I’ll have the opportunity to help a gifted and hardworking musician bring one to life. Now, please join me in listening to Into the Dark Unknown in its entirety. Again.