John Hollier, pronounced Ol-yay, is a rock & roll singer-songwriter who brings energy every time he steps on stage. I met Hollier a few years ago, and I have been fortunate to see him perform several times. If you are a fan of John Mellencamp and Bruce Springsteen, Hollier is for you. But, while you can hear those influences in Hollier’s music, don’t think he is a carbon copy. The Lousiana native stands out. Please keep reading to learn more about John Hollier and his music.
Hollier’s Musical Roots Began in Lousiana
John Hollier comes from Louisiana, a state with rich music history. The roots of a lot of musical genres began in New Orleans. Hollier said, “I grew up north of Lafayette and south of Alexandria, so this was the high ankle if Louisiana is the boot. Outside of Lafayette is my home base and some in New Orleans.” Music ran in the family. The singer/songwriter said, “My uncle played cajun music, but he wasn’t the one to teach me anything. However, he was one of the best musicians I’ve ever known, but he always said you need to learn this on your own. There were no music lessons, nobody to teach me but YouTube. Once I got to a certain level, my uncle would bring me on stage to play a few songs with them.”
Hollier began learning to be a performer in high school by playing in a metal band. The rock & roll artist said, “My brothers and I played in a metal band with some friends. It was a female repulsive act called White Hand of Saruman. We wrote all our songs and played some frat parties. It was to impress the ladies, but few females came to our shows. After playing in the metal band in high school, I began playing with Josh Blakesley, a Christian rock artist. Nobody wanted to play bass, so I picked it up. We played coast to coast, and Josh paid me pretty well.”
Why John Hollier Chose Nashville
John Hollier moved to Nashville in 2012, but only after being encouraged by his father and Josh Blakesley. The singer/songwriter said, “I wanted to move to Boston, but Josh worked with Nashville producers and offered to ask one of them to write a recommendation if I wanted to go to Belmont. In addition, my dad encouraged me to study something I was interested in, so I finished my last two years of college at Belmont after not doing so well at LSU. I am glad I chose Nashville because, based on my experiences, I would have ended up here anyway.
Hollier Cuts his Teeth on the Road
Before focusing on his own music, John Hollier spent time playing guitar for other artists in Nashville. Hollier said, “After college, I began playing with Levi Hummon, who was on Big Machine’s roster. I never auditioned for Levi’s band. My roommate got the audition but could never make any of the shows when they came up, so I would sub for my roommate. But, I eventually became Levi’s guitar player.”
Playing with Levi Hummon would lead to playing with other Big Machine artists. The singer/songwriter said, “Through playing with Levi, I met George Briner and the guys who ran Big Machine. I never wanted to be a country artist, but I appreciated those guys and their hard work. After that, I moved on to play with Cassadee Pope and Carly Pearce. So, I got to cut my teeth and watch these guys blossom into what they are doing now.”
John Hollier Wanted to Rock
After going on the road playing in pop country bands, Hollier decided it was time for him to rock. The Louisiana native said, “Around 2018, I told Cassadee Pope I was going to take a break. So, I began doing the rock roots thing in 2018 and self-produced my first EP in 2019. One of those songs got picked up on a Spotify playlist. When the world shut down, I began working with an agent. However, I am thankful for 2020 and 2021. I wrote some songs I liked and some I didn’t like, and I was able to work on being a performer.”
Learning to Captivate an Audience
Music venues are not created equal in Nashville. As a musician, you deal with customers who are there to listen and some filled with people who could care less about the music. Hollier said, “In 2020, I had to get used to sitting on a barstool and singing to people who didn’t care. But I learned from it. Playing a venue like The Listening Room challenges me because I am so used to playing with a band.” John Hollier recently made his Listening Room debut at show presented by Nashville Tour Stop.
As an artist, you have to give the audience a reason to pay attention. Your music needs to engage them. Hollier plays with energy regardless of the setting. The singer/songwriter said, “Some rooms in Nashville are harder to gain attention, especially while they’re eating salmon and caesar salad. If you are not loud and energetic, the crowd will drown you out. I used to get bitter about playing my original music to people who don’t care, but that’s not on the audience. It’s on us as performers to be entertaining enough to make them care.”
Developing as a Songwriter
Every songwriter has different reasons for writing that first song, but many have one thing in common, picking up the guitar for the first time. Hollier said, “I began writing from the moment I picked up the guitar. I remember writing terrible songs, but I would write a verse or chorus and play them for my little brother. Sometimes he liked them, and other times he said it wasn’t good. In hindsight, the things I was writing in 6th, 7th, or 8th grade were never songs. What I thought was songwriting was me experimenting with what a verse or chorus was. We all think we know that, but when expressing yourself on paper, you have to figure out how to support a song’s elements.”
Writing songs involves a lot of trial and error, and one of the best ways to learn is to experiment to figure out what works and what doesn’t. But, the singer/songwriter said, “songwriting was always there, and so was me learning Sweet Child of Mine, Crazy Train, and all those guitar hero songs. I was always putting my spin on stuff. When I was a kid in Catholic school learning to play piano, I remember changing the melody or the groove. When I asked my mom what I was doing, she said I was jamming. As opposed to reciting, I was having fun playing the same notes.”
Hollier Releases “Reckless Love”
John Hollier released his latest single, “Reckless Love,” on March 11, 2022. It’s the first single off an album to be released later. After seeing Hollier perform this killer song many times, I was excited to add it to our new music playlist on Apple Music and Spotify. It is a rocking tune that will have you tapping your foot and bobbing your head. Before you know it, you will join in on the chorus and sing, “put your money now where your mouth is, your lips are moving, but you ain’t saying nothing at all.”
Hollier said, “I wrote the song with Henry Conlon at the end of 2020. I had a chorus that I kept playing and playing. I usually write by myself, and I had written pages of lyrics trying to piece this song together. So, I had Reckless Love as I would have known it. Henry lived right next to me, and he came over one day for coffee between classes. So, I played him the chorus, and we talked about the verses. Finally, he said can I write this song with you, and I said absolutely!”
So, naturally, I wondered who they wrote the song about? The singer/songwriter said, “It’s about a fictitious girl, the same girl in Conlon’s single, “Lucy.” Henry and I have written five songs together about the same fictitious girl. The song steals some themes and stylings from country music, but it’s a Springsteen and Mellencamp approach to recording. My producer, Eric Masse, told me he was not a guy who was going to doctor me up. He said come in and be ready to go. So we recorded it live, analog, old school with some great musicians.”
Hollier’s Reflection on Recording his Debut Album
It will be tremendous if John Hollier’s debut album is anything like the first single. The singer/songwriter said, “We just finished tracking my debut album. It was my first time working with someone who told me no. So, it was a learning experience working with a real producer in Eric Masse. He was nice to me but stood his ground on things. I had never had anyone challenge me creatively, but I appreciated it. I am excited about the record we have and where it could lead. Recording everything live was different for me, but it changed my writing style and thoughts on the recording process. But, I don’t know if we could recreate some of these songs even if we tried.”
Fun Facts with John Hollier
Besides playing in a metal band in high school, I wanted to know some other fun facts about John Hollier. The singer/songwriter said, “I have played The Ryman Auditorium and The Grand Ole Opry as part of the band. It was an extraordinary moment, and I have been around long enough to know something like that may not come around again. I have also been to forty-seven states with only Alaska and the Dakotas remaining.”
Now, I would not be doing my due diligence if I didn’t ask a Louisiana native if they could make a good Gumbo. Hollier said, “I can make a good gumbo, but it’s not my favorite, but most won’t admit that. My favorite gumbo is at a place called Luc’s in New Orleans. It takes me about 4 to 5 hours to make it. It’s very spicy because of the juices collecting in the birds I cook in the oven. That makes it spicy. So, you might need Tums, milk, and a day off work afterward.”
I have enjoyed Hollier’s music for a couple of years now and am thrilled I had the opportunity to sit down with the singer/songwriter and learn more about him. If you are new to John Hollier and his music, I hope that you believe in his talent as much as I do. Undiscovered Nashville is looking forward to the debut album from John Hollier, but in the meantime, we will rock out to “Reckless Love” and his other music.