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Obsession As Inspiration

15 September 2015 | 7:31 pm | Annelise Ball

"Like becoming obsessed with someone who's left you."

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Having previously drawn inspiration from the literary classics, from Virginia Woolf to the Ancient Greeks, Californian singer-songwriter Julia Holter chose to explore the surreal landscape of her own inner world for her latest album, Have You In My Wilderness. "I drew more from a stream-of-consciousness process, just sitting at the piano coming up with chords, then singing along until the melody and lyrics coalesced into some sort of song," she explains. "The last record, Loud City Song, explored the idea of singing on stage to an audience, but in this record, I feel like I'm sitting in a room, singing to one person. It's much more intimate."

Producer Cole M Greif-Neill, who engineered Beck's 2015 Grammy Album Of The Year, Morning Phase, must also share the credit for orchestrating this mystical experience for the listener. "He's the one who suggested I let the vocal out more, really bring it to the forefront, louder and clearer," Holter says. "I make all my demos alone before taking them to the studio, so when I compare them to the finished product, the most obvious thing is how full and epic most of the production is." Greif-Neill also played a more pragmatic role during the recording process. "He's really good at making decisions, which is something I can have trouble with. There's times I don't know which performances to keep, or keys to use, so he's great at helping make those calls. The album really is a true collaboration."

Track-wise, second song Silhouette has a surprisingly dark motif, despite its sweet melody and airy feel. "I'd been working on the idea of obsession, like becoming obsessed with someone who's left you. I wanted to write a song capturing that sense of having the question left hanging in your mind, that they might just come back, but they never do." Vasquez, a spoken word track with a deeply evocative jazz feel, is a particularly powerful example of the intricate musicianship at work on the album. Using an LA-based ensemble of talented musicians, Holter's stream-of-consciousness demo is utterly transformed into a long and wondrous piece.

Saxophone parts are a welcome feature. "On Vasquez in particular, there's a great saxophone part towards the end, and I also play a crazy keyboard solo with a fake saxophone sound as well." Sea Calls Me Home includes another saxophone moment worth writing home about. "The sax solo on that track is one of my most favourite parts of the record," Holter confesses.

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Mention Meredith Music Festival and her subsequent December sideshows and Holter's buzz levels rise perceptibly over the phone all the way from LA. "I am really excited about the tour; I love Australia," she enthuses. "It's always a quality experience and I've been a couple of times, but never to Meredith. I can't wait."