Tara Holloway’s voice can stop you dead in your tracks. It’s a towering instrument: raw and soulfully weathered, yet capable of precise runs and pitch-perfect delicacy. Her singing is at the centre of her new album, Little Ghosts, due out Spring 2015 through Light Organ Records.
“I’m obsessed with singing,” the vocalist explains. “That’s my favourite thing to do. I love songwriting and guitar playing, and I really enjoy being on stage, but it’s the singing that got me into this.”
Little Ghosts is the culmination of years of dedicated touring and creative growth. In the past decade, the Ottawa-based songwriter has spent time living in Lake Louise, Toronto, Vancouver and Los Angeles, with her guitar acting as her constant companion. Holloway’s debut album, 2010’s Sins to Confess, was pieced together from five years’ worth of scattered studio sessions across the continent.
That album’s diverse, bluesy sound caught the ear of Light Organ Records, and the label signed Holloway and reissued Sins to Confess in 2012.
Since then, Holloway has tamed her nomadic, road-warrior lifestyle, settling down in her original hometown of Ottawa while regularly traveling out of the city for condensed, focused touring and writing sessions with a cast of notable collaborators. “It was a steady onslaught of writing and creativity,” she remembers of the time period. “I was able to be head-down focused for a year while making this record.”
Holloway began working on the 13 songs that make up Little Ghosts during a week-long writing session spent in solitude in a cottage in the remote Quebec mountains. She continued to flesh out these ideas with her co-writers; she hunkered down in Vancouver with label-mate Kevvy Mental (Fake Shark – Real Zombie!) and Colin Janz (Carly Rae Jepsen), headed west to Victoria with Bill Farrant (Seven Year Old Poets, Weird Party), and traveled south to Nashville with frequent collaborators Jon and Sally Tiven.
Once the songs were ready, Holloway returned to Ottawa for studio sessions with producer Phillip Bova. Contributors included drummer Dony Wynn (Robert Palmer) and Juno-winning guitarist Kevin Breit (Norah Jones, the Stretch Orchestra).
“I wanted to find the common threads and the cohesion in my eclectic nature,” Holloway explains. “The songs reflected a lot of different genres, so it was important to me that it all be recorded in the same place with the same drummer and the same mic setup. That brought it all together.”
Holloway’s diverse talents shine through on Little Ghosts, which is simultaneously tightly focused and sprawlingly diverse. Opening folk-noir ballad “This Life” begins the album with goose bump-raising crooning and lushly atmospheric production flourishes. “The Dance” emphasizes the record’s unpredictable sonic character with its waltzing harpsichord tinkles, while “Off the Wagon (A Song for Sue Ellen)” is a raw and rustic blues number inspired by a character from the classic soap opera Dallas (a show that licensed a couple of Holloway’s songs last season).
Elsewhere, “Red Light” culminates in heavy guitar distortion, “Matter of Attack” centres around a horn-spiked R&B groove, and closer “Hello to the End” puts a climactic exclamation mark on the album with its cinematic strings and pulse-racing piano coda.
After so many years of touring, sleeping on couches and living out of a suitcase, these fearlessly soulful songs represent the beginning of a new era for the well-traveled singer. With Little Ghosts, Tara Holloway has arrived.