With her latest CD, “Daring to Feel Everything”, Holly Almgren masterfully shares and evokes reflections, life experiences and emotions in a fun and rhythmic way. The unforgettable collection of clues he has assembled is unprecedented. Critics say the songs are rhythmic, the lyrics matter, and the melodies endure, so the first glowing reviews from listeners come as no surprise. Holly’s experiences earlier in life prepared her for the success and creative expression she enjoys today. I recently spoke with Holly. We talked about his genesis, his love and passion for music and, of course, his latest release, “Daring to Feel Everything.”

F. Briggs: Good morning, Holly. Thank you for meeting with me. And congratulations on your new album, Daring to Feel Everything.

Holly Almgren: Thank you very much for inviting me, Fran. It’s exciting to be able to talk about this project with a wider audience.

F. Briggs: You’re very welcome. Could you share your background with us?

Holly Almgren: He played the guitar, sang, wrote poetry since he was 10 years old. I used to sit in the trees and sing … imagining a crowd of people gathered to listen to me. My dad was a musician and he exposed me to jazz and bossa nova, he was interested in what I played and listened to. I started performing and writing music in my 20s, although I had stage fright and felt more comfortable composing and singing in the studio than in front of an audience. I made my first album of original songs during that time. It was arranged and produced by pianist / composer Kit Walker in Boston, with Stan Strickland again on reeds.

I have been writing songs for over 30 years. Growing up, my family listened to a wide range of music, from (Burt) Bacharach and Jobim, to great jazz singers like Ella, Sarah, Nina, Billie, Nat, Johnny Hodges; show tunes from West Side Story, The King & I, the Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, Joni Mitchell and Bonnie Raitt. As a teenager I also got into blues, soul and motown: BB King, Otis Spann, Taj Mahal, Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind & Fire, Sly & the Family Stone, Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke. My eclectic musical tastes influence my composition. At 30 I moved to New York hoping to write music for movies and jingles, but the cost of living made me go back to being a chef.

I returned to Boston at 40 to get married and have a child, and my songwriting began to accelerate. I was performing here and there again, and I was planning a CD five years ago when my dad was dying and my mom needed help taking care of him. He always said do what you love because you spend too much of your life working not to love it. I knew it was time to take my music to the next level. We didn’t know it, but my mom had cancer. He died two years later. As if that wasn’t confusion enough, my husband fell in love with someone else and our marriage fell apart. Painful, but hey, song fodder, and it prompted me to do it with my songs. (In) January 2010, a mutual friend suggested that I hire JD Steele to produce my CD. We hit it off, liked each other’s music, agreed to do the project and started recording that March in Minneapolis, with a fantastic rhythm section that featured his brother Billy Steele (Sounds of Blackness) on piano. We finished at the end of the summer.

F. Briggs: If you had to check Dare to feel it all in a few sentences, what would you say?

Holly Almgren: 13 of the 14 songs were written by me. So satisfied It was the first song that JD and I wrote together, and I finished it on the plane towards our last session. He produced and arranged the vocal harmonies, as well as singing backing vocals with Maria Benson. The CD is autobiographical, the product of a lot of improvisation between the musicians (who often play together), guided by JD and my sense of rhythm that we wanted. The songs are rhythmic, the lyrics matter, the melodies last, that’s what I’ve been told. Sometimes I call my style Buddhist jazz-funk, but there are always exceptions when trying to pin down your sound. I like that. Diversity in all things makes life more meaningful.

F. Briggs: One of your tracks is titled Nobody eats us. Could you explain how the title was conceived and what the lyrics convey?

Holly Almgren: love Nobody eats us because it is deep, scandalous and takes people by surprise. I felt so much despair and righteous rage for the human race, what we are doing to each other, to the animals and to the planet. I was learning about predator / prey balance. My mom had just died of cancer, which is her cells consuming each other. The heavier the theme, the more fun and upbeat I make the lyrics and music, otherwise it’s too dark. The song talks about us at the top of the food chain, wasteful and killing everything, including ourselves. We haven’t had a predator since the dinosaurs and we’ve become so unaware and arrogant. AIDS, cancer, and diabetes are rampant, not to mention obesity.

People have lost the capacity for satiety, they have become addicted to gorging themselves even though it is killing them and teaching the habit to their children. (We eat and we eat and we eat, we eat ourselves!). But I love people and being human. I practice vipassana, a Buddhist style of meditation. The core of the teaching is about cultivating loving-kindness to ourselves and to others as we aspire to end the suffering of all sentient beings. Being a mom who read a lot about Dr. Seuss to my son, I chuckled every time I sing Nobody eats us! We are not green eggs and ham.

F. Briggs: Thank you so much for taking the time to share today, Holly. I certainly enjoyed my time with you.

Holly Almgren: It was a pleasure, Fran. Thanks! It was fun. Daring to Feel Everything is available to try or buy at http://cdbaby.com/Artist/HollyAlmgren.

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