Dec 4, 2013 09:00 AM WV Sound
Keeping a beat in the Mountain State
Holly Spears’ Audience of One
It’s Sunday morning in the small, unincorporated town of Wana, West Virginia. From a small white Methodist church in the middle of a spattering of houses, the sound of the hymn “How Great Thou Art” sung by the small choir rings out. This is the home of Holly Spears.
Holly grew up walking to this church on Sundays where her father sang in the choir. She went fishing with her two older brothers on Saturdays. “Growing up in West Virginia gave me space to be more creative,” she says. “It’s beautiful there, and I didn’t have a lot of boundaries.”
Holly’s creativity was first channeled into singing when a grade school teacher forced everyone in her class to audition for a solo and Holly got the part. “I didn’t know I was good at it. It just came naturally,” she says. Holly’s mom quickly sensed her daughter’s musical talent, bought her a piano, and scheduled lessons. Holly’s musical skills blossomed under her piano teacher, but several years later, when Holly saw a Melissa Etheridge TV special, she knew she needed to play guitar. After hours of begging, Holly convinced her mother to buy her a guitar from an ad in the newspaper. That $25 guitar turned out to be the greatest investment in Holly’s music career.
After winning a jingle competition at the Morgantown-based radio station WVAQ, Holly landed an internship at the station and then connected with Blessid Union of Souls lead singer Eliot Slone. Eliot loved Holly’s music, so during high school Holly began traveling to Cincinnati on weekends to write and record with Eliot and other musicians. From there her music career took off. She connected with an investor who gave her the money to start her own record label, Girl on a Mission Music. She has since produced two full-length albums, Redemption Road (2009) and Heartache to Hope (2011), and two EPs. The Songs of Christmas (2011) and Audience of One (2013).
Holly describes herself as “a Christian who is an artist.” Though her previous albums were directed toward a mainstream audience her most recent EP, Audience of One, is a reflection of growing up in that small Methodist church. “I wanted to record songs that reflected my Christian roots,” she says. “The songs are for God, but hopefully they encourage people, too.” The EP is full of traditional hymns and church songs that Holly gives her own soulful spin to. “It’s like Sheryl Crow mixed with bluegrass and soul,” she says. The music video and photos for the EP were taken in the church where Holly grew up singing the familiar hymns.
The EP starts off with a beautiful rendition of “How Great Thou Art.” The acoustic guitar, piano, and soul singers take a backseat to Holly’s voice. “’How Great Thou Art’ is my favorite song on the EP,” Holly says. “When I sang the line ‘then I shall bow in humble adoration’ I imagined singing it to God, and it filled me with emotion. I had to stop singing.” The song is followed with “Amazing Grace,” then an upbeat version of “Nothing But the Blood,” driven forward by the drums. That’s followed by “Jesus Loves Me” and “This Little Light of Mine.” “It was fun to make to make a version of ‘This Little Light of Mine’ for grown-ups,” Holly says.
Holly is planning a slumber party tour for 2014. She wants to travel to different churches, lead worship, and spend an evening with the churches’ women talking about identity. Interested church leaders should email email@example.com for more information.
Audience of One is available on iTunes or at hollyspears.com.
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