I’d like to think I have a pretty good sense of internet-gaydar, so when I confirmed the Brooklyn-based musician was out, I gave myself a pat on the back for my virtual find — and promptly set out to interview her.
Photo credit: Celesta Danger
You might have heard about Holly Miranda from a different source, like fan Kanye West. The hip-hop star pimped one of her tracks on his website, and it wasn’t long before hipster music blogs and even Vanity Fair picked up on the former frontwoman for The Jealous Girlfriends.
Miranda recently released her first solo EP, Sleep on Fire, and is touring the U.S. with songs from her repertoire, including tracks from The Jealous Girlfriends’ albums, Sleep on Fire and her upcoming full-length album, which is being produced by TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek.
She’s an 11-year-overnight sensation.
"I remember when I was 16 or 17, my uncle said it takes 10 years to be an overnight success," Miranda told me after pulling off to the side of the road while traveling between tour towns. "I’ve learned a lot of patience."
I believe her — she moved to New York from the outskirts of Detroit when she was 16, dropping out of high school and finishing her degree through correspondence.
"I came out to visit my sister who lived in New York and played an open mic at a sidewalk cafe and they asked if I wanted to show," Miranda said. "That was what I wanted to do. I was sick of living in the suburbs. I grew up in like a super religious family. I just wanted to get out."
She scored a record deal by the time she was 17, recording with major label BMG, but the end result was less than thrilling.
"I ended up walking away from [it]," Miranda said. "It’s, like, in a safe somewhere and no one’s ever heard it."
Miranda grew up singing in church, learning piano at age 6 and picking up the guitar at 14, around the time she began writing songs. After moving New York, she met the people she’d eventually refer to as bandmates for The Jealous Girlfriends, a reputable indie band that is currently on a break, Miranda said, but all continuing on their own musical pursuits.
Holly Miranda and her Jealous Girlfriend bandmates
The music Miranda makes is influenced by what she refers to as a combination of the things she grew up listening to.
"I love Jeff Buckley and Edith Piaf and Nina Simone. I grew up on Motown," Miranda said. But what most people compare her to are modern day chanteuses like Cat Power and Feist which she says she "hears all the time."
"Somebody the other day told me I sounded like Joni Mitchell," Miranda said. "What? What are you smoking? Can I have some?"
It’s true — Holly Miranda doesn’t sound like Joni Mitchell at all. She does share some elements of the aforementioned artists, especially the ones she listed as having directly influenced her songwriting, as she creates soulful dream pop that most modern day musicians likely aspire to with the help of songwriting and production teams. But Miranda records her music in a home studio and the back of the van while on tour — at least for the EP she did.