A heavenly voice couched in spellbinding country and western ballads, with a devastating emotional delivery: Holly Macve is a fantastic addition to the Cloudspotting line-up, and her album Golden Eagle is one of the most remarkably assured debuts of this or any other year, especially given she’s only 21 years old.
“Macve displays an innate talent for exquisite songwriting and storytelling in a voice that is just jaw-dropping” (The Line of Best Fit)
Despite her youth, Golden Eagle reveals she’s experienced enough strife to last a lifetime: parental splits, heartbreak, early career pitfalls…. Born in Galway in western Ireland, Macve and her sister were whisked away “in the night” by her mother from their errant father, to live with her grandparents in Yorkshire. Once in their own house, near the town of Holmfirth, Holly quickly responded to music: “My Grandad was a classical composer, and my mum sang, and she said I was singing before I was talking,” she recalls. Her mother’s record collection – lots of old blues and Bob Dylan – shaped Holly’s impressionable mind, before she herself discovered the likes of Leonard Cohen, Johnny Cash and Gillian Welch.
“Words are my main love”
“I love songs that tell stories and take you somewhere else. I’ve always been drawn to that old country sound with it’s simple and memorable melodies. I enjoy music that feels timeless, that you don’t know quite when it was recorded.”
On Golden Eagle, roses wilt, fires die out, skies darken and love, ‘was a mystery that I’d been known to doubt / A puzzle that no one could ever figure out.’ Tracks like ‘White Bridge’, ‘Timbuktu’ and ‘Sycamore Tree’ all refer to a wish to return to a state of innocence.
“For some reason, I didn’t want to grow up. I was fearful of responsibilities and change,” she says. “I was scared to death, because I was always aware that the older I got, the less time I had. Childhood was good times, easy times.” The passing of her beloved granddad, in 2015, was her first experience of death, inspiring the album’s title track: ‘Fly away golden eagle, before you feel the pain / There’s a sky waiting for you, so let your feet escape the chain.”
“Songwriting is like therapy for me, it’s a way of turning a bad situation in to something positive”, she states.
At the age of 18 Holly moved down south. She worked in a café, while singing on open mic nights. Bella Union boss Simon Raymonde was a regular customer at the café, and had just set up his studio in the basement when he caught wind of this astonishing young talent, with her vocal notes of Welch, Patsy Cline and Paula Frazer (Tarnation), and the timeless melodies, altogether evoking the Appalachian Mountains and the Wyoming prarie rather than the Brighton seafront.
For more 2017 line-up information, click here.