Interview: Felix Holt

Hailing from leafy Muswell Hill, a mere stone’s throw from The Kink’s own KONK studios, it’s no wonder Felix Holt has his head spinning with sixties sensibility and a plethora of killer tunes.  The young troubadour has made quite an impact this year, releasing his debut album and playing a number of very well received live shows.  Americana-UK’s Mark Underwood caught up with Holt to discuss influences, inspirations and how life is as ‘The Next Big Nobody’.   

Hi Felix, first of all I just wanted to say how much I’m enjoying the new record. The title of the album strikes a real note of modesty. What made you decide on it?
There is a certain freedom when you accept that you are nothing or nobody.

It seemed like a bold decision to me to make a song as good as “Loving Kind” the last song on the record. That suggests a growing confidence in terms of your songwriting. How did you decide on the order of songs – and what to leave on and off it?
The songs I chose to record were just the ones I felt like doing at the time. When it came to ordering the record I tried to do the best with what I had.

I understand that after you left school you ended up busking on the streets of Amsterdam. How long did you end up in Holland for?
I wasn’t in Holland very long. I was moving quickly, sleeping on trains, playing in the cities and then moving on again. I travelled all over Europe.

And what impact do you think an experience like that had on you?
I discovered that playing music on the street was a great way to meet people and make friends. When you can make friends you can survive anywhere.

I got chatting to your Mum during your support slot with Bennett Wilson Poole at the Water Rats recently. She mentioned that you were from Muswell Hill – obviously a place renowned for its connection to the Kinks. In terms of the music played in the family home when you were growing up, I’ve heard it was Cab Calloway’s ‘Minnie the Moocher’ that first caught your attention. What was so special about that song for you?
I liked how playful and expressive he was with his voice. It was both fun and serious.

Were there any other acts that proved to be an influence on you when you were growing up?
The biggest musical influence on me was hanging out with Bill at JB’s Records on Hanway St. I heard a lot of different music there and met many different characters. That was when I started to realise just how much exceptional music there is out there. It was also where I started to learn about the art of recording.

I understand the lyrics to your first single, ‘Jump Start’ were inspired by a local café owner whose interior you were helping to paint, who said that some people are like cars  – “they need a jump start to get going.” What else do you use as the inspiration for your song lyrics?
Many of the songs I have written have been inspired by conversations I have had with people or events in my life. For me writing songs can be a way of continuing or beginning or even finishing a conversation.

Any plans to include the song, ‘Jump Start,’ on a future album release?
None at the moment. There are too many other songs I would like to get out.

Presumably, the song ‘True Love’ was based on the Vincent Gallo film, ‘Buffalo 66,’ although your song has the protagonists Billy and Wendy meeting, rather than the Billy and Layla in the film. Was that because Wendy scanned a bit better for the purposes of the song than Layla?
I had just watched the film and I was sitting playing some chords on the guitar and the song pretty much appeared start to finish fully formed: that was the name that was in my head. There is another character in the film called Wendy and I can’t remember now but I think when he introduces Layla to his parents he calls her Wendy. But yeah, it sounds better with the other lyrics.

So, emotionally troubled ex-con kidnaps a woman and forces her to act as his wife in front of his parents. Was there anything in particular about the film that you could relate to?
The thing I related to in the film was the moment he realised that life might be worth living after all.

I’ve read that some of the Radicals were previously involved in the house band for Punchdrunk’s theatrical production of ‘the Drowned Man’ which I happened to see a preview of back in Paddington in 2013. How did you all come to meet?
I met Graham Farnworth (guitarist) years ago at a venue called the ‘New Empowering Church’. We became friends and he then went onto to do ‘the Drowned Man.’ At around the time the show ended I was putting a band together so he introduced me to some of the other guys on the show and we started playing together.

How did you get involved with Del and Danny and their Maiden Voyage label?
I was introduced to Del and Danny by my friend Kathy Magee. I played her the album and she told me about Maiden Voyage and that they may be interested in putting it out so we arranged a meeting. We both agreed it was a good idea to set sail and off we went. I’m a big fan of what they are doing and the way they are doing it. Two of the biggest music enthusiasts you will ever find. It’s a good ship to be aboard.

Aside from promoting the new album, what other plans have you made for the rest of 2018? 
I recently recorded an album with another band I am playing with called ‘The Flashmen‘ and have just been at a busking festival in Grottamare on the east coast of Italy. I am planning to spend the rest of the summer driving around Europe playing shows and busking, and then I’m going to be heading to Austin to work on a new album.

‘The Next Big Nobody’ is out now on the Maiden Voyage Recording Company.

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