Lucinda Williams, Ryan Adams, Susan Gibson Changed Ali Holder’s Life
Ali Holder’s music has been described as a combination of Lucinda Williams and Ryan Adams, and the Austin-based singer-songwriter doesn’t disagree. “I grew up listening to Janis Joplin and Willie Nelson, and they were really my first influences in music,” says Holder, who was born in Wichita Falls, Texas, and earned a master’s degree in art education at the University of Texas in Austin. “However, when I was 14 years old and actually getting emotionally moved by music, it was Lucinda and Ryan Adams, Patty Griffin, Gillian Welch, and Uncle Tupelo. So, yes, that makes sense to me, and I am super-flattered by that compliment.
“To me, Lucinda was everything back then and mostly still is,” she adds. “The Car Wheels on A Gravel Road album was everything I loved in one place – love, loss, growing up, the South. And Ryan Adams spoke very loud to the emotionally angsty romantic I was and still am. I love the different worlds they have entered into musically throughout the years for better or worse.”
With such prolific influences seeping into her music, what are her own musical aims? “I am definitely a songwriter,” she says. “I love the words. I love the music as well, of course, and how it brings a song to life. Although I write the music and lyrics in tandem, the music usually doesn’t find its home until I’ve been playing it with the band for a while. My aims are to just constantly evolve as a writer and a musician. I would love to explore all parts of the music world as time goes on. I love playing live, but I would love to venture into a writers’ room in Nashville or collaborate with the visual arts, literature, or soundtracks.”
Holder’s most recent release, a six-song EP titled From My Veins Will Fall, was released in September. To make it, she isolated herself for 10 days at a ranch in Medina, Texas, reading Stephen King when not working on the EP.
Holder says the recording is different from her full-length 2013 debut album In Preparation for Saturn’s Return, which was “an amalgam of writing over the years” and “a sampling of different genres.” One song on the debut was written 10 years before the album’s release, and another song was written about a month before it was recorded in 2013.
On From My Veins Will Fall, Holder wrote most of the songs in a week during a writing residency in the Texas Hill Country. “I think the EP is more cohesive in writing and musical styles,” she says. “I was able to organically find more of a sound for myself this time around.”
Holder will be performing in Austin and a few other Texas cities until late August, when she heads to California for three shows, and to Montana for another. She says she must have seen a thousand “best” concerts as a spectator, but one that immediately comes to mind is a Van Morrison show.
“It was somewhere in Arlington, Texas, when I was in college living in Dallas-Fort Worth between 2004 and 2009,” she says. “It surprises me that this popped into my head, but it was a truly great show. I think what struck me was Van’s stage presence and how pristine his voice still was. Also, he had a ridiculously large band and trumpet section, and it was overwhelmingly beautiful. This was before I ever played with a band, and I was amazed how that many people could work for the greater good on one stage.”
The concert that most influenced Holder as a musician, though, was in 2001, when she was “14 or 15 years old.” She saw Walt Wilkins, Susan Gibson, and Owen Temple play at a songwriters’ show called Lazy Boy Supper Club at the Royal Theater in Archer City, Texas.
“For me, that was the tipping point,” she says. “Seeing and hearing Susan blew me away. Until then, there weren’t any women I had seen live except for a few famous country singers here and there. But I knew in that moment it was what I wanted to do. It prompted me to get a guitar and start writing.”