Honeysuckle – Interview – Thanks for Asking!

Written by on April 10, 2024

Honeysuckle – Interview – Thanks for Asking! – by Liam Sweeny.

We connected with Holly McGarry of the band Honeysuckle. This is what she had to say.

RRX: Music genres are difficult for some artists. Some strictly adhere; others not so much. What is your perspective on the genre you play, or the genres you hover around?

HM: I would put Honeysuckle’s music primarily in the folk/Americana sphere. You could say that, particularly when we used the banjo more, we also had some tinges (or twangs?) of bluegrass. As time goes on I would say that our sound has been pushed a bit more in the direction of indie rock or synth folk/rock. A lot of our genre affiliation is a result of the instrumentation we use, i.e. acoustic guitar, mandolin and the occasional banjo. Folk/Americana is also primarily the music that I listened to while learning to play, sing and write so it feels natural that we would fall under that same umbrella. We’ve always pushed against our perceived genres a bit, though it can be difficult to precisely describe. Chris comes from a bit more of a rock background, so as time goes on and his influence is felt more and more, it makes sense that he has pushed the instrumentation and sounds a little further for the indie rock side of things. I think my lyrics and melodies can exist well in both worlds so these days I’d say our live shows are folk/Americana due to the fact that we play as an acoustic duo, and our recordings lean more indie rock due to the fact that we add additional production and instrumentation to them. What I like about both folk/Americana and indie rock is that they’re both quite broad with an emphasis on lyrical content and genuine expression. With both genres audiences know to expect something genuine and expressive and you’re allowed to take liberties not afforded in more strict genres like say bluegrass, which feels to me like it comes more from a place of specific techniques, a catalogue of traditional songs you have to know by heart, and a set of expectations from an audience that you have to stick to in order to be accepted.

RRX: We have to play somewhere, and sometimes those places have more going for them than a stage and a power outlet. What is a memorable place you played, and bonus points if it’s not a well-known place.
HM: I can answer this question in a lot of different ways. I’ll start with some of the most unconventional places I’ve played, particularly before we began playing as Honeysuckle. I’ve performed in my 7th grade algebra class, a fundraiser for weevils, and even my middle school locker room (for extra credit in gym class to give you an idea of the stellar athlete I was). Perhaps most notable however was the time I was booked to play at the local health food store in my hometown. Not just the health food store but on top of their freezer. I showed up and they set up a ladder and handed me up my guitar and a chair (I started to get vertigo looking down at the isles so I figured I should probably at least sit down). When I first started playing live, someone told me, “never turn down a gig.” To this day I can’t figure out if that was the best or the worst advice I’ve ever received. With Honeysuckle we’ve also had several bucket list moments playing festivals like Newport Folk Fest, Lollapalooza and Mountain Jam. At Mile of Music, which is a fabulous festival in Appleton, WI we had the honor (and challenge) of playing a gig on a MOVING bus as it drove festival goers around to the various venues. We played what I considered to be a pretty great set while trying to avoid having the microphone knock out my teeth as we careened around the city. So often the more unconventional the better, even if it may not seem that way at the time.
RRX: Part of learning to be a musician is to fall in love with a song, an album, and hammer away at your instrument until you can play that whole thing. What was that song for you? Was there a hardest part?
HM: I started playing guitar when I was 11 or 12 years old. At the time there was no band on earth I loved more than The Beatles. My guitar teacher, Doug Bond knew right away the best motivator would be to learn what my favorite song was. At the time it was, “Blackbird.” Doug played it and said, “if you practice x, y and z you’ll be able to learn Blackbird!.” Well, my parents never had to nag me to practice, I was hooked and I was determined to learn my favorite song. I think beyond the struggle of learning the instrument the greatest challenge was getting over my shyness. You see, when I first started playing I was so shy that I could hardly look at my teacher, let alone speak! Somehow he saw something in me and taught me how to play as well as pestering me until I finally tried singing. He then encouraged me to become part of middle school and high school choir and even write my own songs. My life was changed completely thanks to a few people who believed in me and an incredible song.
RRX: Sometimes you gotta go on the road. Miles can build up, and it can stretch the comfort level of any travelling act. What do you bring on a road trip, or tour? What will you forget to bring?
HM: On tour we tried to minimize cost by shopping ahead of time and having food on hand. We would buy a loaf of bread, make it into peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and then put them back in the bread bag. Chris always had video games and videos queued up and ready to go as well. For big cross country drives he’s the master of curating entertainment. Chris, as a proud Eagle Scout, was always prepared; however I became notorious for always forgetting one vital item. On one 7 week long tour what I forgot was a second pair of shoes. I boldly brought just one simple pair of sandals, which was fine until…we arrived at Bear Creek Music Festival in Alberta, Canada. It was a terrific festival but the weather was freezing cold and rainy. Luckily the artist’s lounge had items you could borrow like rain jackets, but my feet were turning into muddy popsicles. A generous volunteer gave me a pair of socks and then I went to the artist’s lounge. There I found two small plastic bags. I put on the socks, plastic bags and sandals and I was ready to go! Did I perform while wearing my bag shoes? (which were held up by rubber bands). You bet I did! And did I learn my lesson? Not really. I continue to make questionable wardrobe decisions to this day.
RRX: With the exception of singing, everyone has an instrument, an inanimate object that has the distinction of being a lifelong friend. Smooth or temperamental, these objects have a character. So pick someone to answer, can you tell us something special about what you play, your technique, your instrument?
HM: I play an acoustic guitar which was made by a luthier from my hometown of Sandpoint, Idaho. His name is Joel Shoemaker (j.k.s. guitars). When I was graduating high school he was early on in his guitar making (though already an incredibly accomplished master carpenter) and offered to make me a guitar as a graduation present. We’ve been inseparable ever since. It really is my guitar. It’s a Koa OM akin to a 00 or 000 Martin and suits me just perfectly. When I’m at a guitar shop I hardly ever look at or pick something up because I just don’t think anything could ever replace my guitar. She can be a little temperamental but then again so can I. I’ve written so many songs on my guitar and I treasure every bit of wear like a badge of honor. I just don’t think it’s possible to calculate everything we’ve been through, all the places we’ve been and all the laughter and tears shed in its presence. If my house caught on fire (my lord I hope that never happens!) I’ve mentally catalogued it as one item I would have to try to grab or throw out the window to save (that’ll really test out my flight case!).
RRX: In the musical world, there are many supporting players. Recording engineers, sound techs, cover art designers. Who are three people that support the craft that you would like to shine a spotlight on?
HM: There are many many people who I’d love to shine a light on but a few that spring to mind would be Benny Grotto, Chirs Cruz and Jeff Lipton.
Benny has engineered, mixed and produced several of our projects, more than any other engineer. We began collaborating with Benny in 2015, the first year that we were really a band. His input has worked to shape our sound and how we approach our recorded material. Benny has impeccable taste (and I don’t just mean because he likes us LOL), is an absolute wizard with pro tools and has superhuman skills when it comes to capturing sounds. I would highly recommend that anyone work with Benny (he’s the head engineer at Mad Oak Studios in Allston, MA). Jeff Lipton (Peerless Mastering) has mastered almost every recording we have ever done and on top of adding the polish and finish to our recordings he is also one of the very nicest and most supportive people I have ever known. It means the world to know you have such a talented and respected professional in your corner rooting for you. Lastly, Chris Cruz has collaborated with us on album art, promotional material and music videos since the earliest days of the band. He’s one of Chris’s oldest friends and creative collaborators as well. Cruz understands us on a creative level in ways I can’t put into words. He has at times completely astonished me with how perfectly he has interpreted our music into visual mediums. His music videos for “Fire Starter” and “Memories” are standouts to me. It takes more than a village to keep a band afloat and we are incredibly lucky to have so many supportive creatives in our lives.

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