Summer has come to an end but we can all go back with the nostalgia invoking sound from the mind of London Singer/Songwriter who Honey Gentry who NME called “the rising singer-songwriter making elegantly sad pop to break your heart” released her latest EP Dreamlover last month! What better way to relive the summer than this sultry fever dream that pulls you back to the days being able to wear short shorts, Longer days, Being able to go all day without a sweater on, People not judging you for eating ice cream at two am now it’s going to just awkward rolling up to the McDonald’s drive-through with a winter jacket asking for soft serve … Alright just me on that one? Gentry captures all those memories for us who are mourning the close of summer, I was lucky enough to speak with Honey Gentry about Dreamlover, her past project Moonlight that was released last summer, and what’s next for her.
Boston Hassle: When I first listen to your music your past EP hadn’t come out and now you have released two EP’S ! what has that journey from that initial release Moonlight that features the song Heaven California a song that really hooked me on to your music, to the new EP that’s out now? What are the differences and similarities of promoting? How are you different as an artist?
Honey Gentry: First of all, thank you! It really means a lot to have had you as part of the journey for this long, I truly am grateful. Funnily enough, Moonlight was not the start of the journey at all. The journey didn’t even start with Honey Gentry. I started writing songs properly back in 2015. I was 21. I felt ancient to start writing songs. It was something I had wanted to do since I was a kid, and I had never mustered the courage or self-confidence to commit my ideas to paper. I wrote prose obsessively as a child and teenager. I went to film school and wrote screenplays. My mum was writing a crime novel for most of my teenage years. So I was always writing, and around writing, and in the back of my mind, I knew I would one day write a song. But it was the idea of performing something I had written – even in private, to record it – that put me off for all those years. It felt too intimate.
It wasn’t until 2015 that I made a new year’s resolution to actually write and record music. By the spring I had written and produced my first song, and by the end of the summer, I had written and recorded my first EP, posted self-conscious Facebook posts to my friends which felt like sharing it with the whole world. I released via Bandcamp and funnily enough, I did get some attention via blogs, Tumblr, and some friends. I remember my release being quite high up on the ‘bedroom pop’ tag on Bandcamp at one point, right next to Nicole Dollanganger. I’m still in touch with a lot of the bloggers who covered my music in those days too.
In 2016 I released my second EP, and after that EP I was looking for some new inspiration so I took up the guitar, and as soon as I picked up the guitar I wrote Honeydew and Angel Honey. I wrote obsessively on the guitar with the four chords I knew, and that’s how the early Honey Gentry demos came to be. I connected with Ruben, sent him the demos and his sketches that he sent back to me really solidified the direction I knew I wanted to go in.
We spent the rest of 2016 and all of 2017 really honing in on the sound that we would eventually record for Moonlight in February of 2018. So by the time, it came to the release and PR of Moonlight, I had already built a little network of bloggers, friends, social media connections that knew a little of what I was about. I had shared pretty much all of the development process, which I think people appreciate if they are interested in you as an artist. Those were much the only people that knew about me up until that point.
With Dreamlover I have a little more established groundwork, I feel like people have a little more of a solid understanding of what I’m about and what my music will sound like, which is a good feeling because I think we’ve deepened and expanded on that sound. So I hope everyone who’s been with me so far will continue to stick with me.
BH: What were the strengths you’ve gain throughout this process of writing creating music and promoting it independently as you have been these past few years? Is there anything you gained that made you look back and would want to do differently with your past EP?
HG: I think the main strength is an inner sense of peace about it all. I do put myself under a lot of pressure, but it’s an internal pressure. Sometimes I try and give myself a break because I’m doing my best with the time and resources available to me. But in general, I have more of an inner peace about being accepted or liked, I don’t worry about those things at all. I’m incredibly grateful for everyone I reach who listens and responds positively, but it doesn’t stop me if they don’t. And for me, that’s something that took a lot of time and hard lessons to learn.
I don’t think there’s much I would do differently, because I did it all myself so I was only doing what I thought was best at the time. And if I’d had someone do it for me, I wouldn’t know everything I know now. I see it as all positive – the delays, the mistakes, as well as the successes and progress.
BH:Moonlight EP was very guitar-heavy with nostalgia weighted with each passing note that tugged my heartstrings and reminded me of childhood summer afternoons, then this past winter you released Aphrodite which was more of a ballad then turned into pretty percussive song, what was the inspiration for that song and the direction it took with its sound?
HG: Nostalgia has been an incredibly influential but underlying theme for almost every song I’ve ever written. Either within the production, or the lyrics (usually both). I’m just a nostalgic person. So I’ve never really produced anything that too closely resembles modern pop, simply because it wasn’t something that I thought would fit me stylistically and I’m more interested in digging into the past.
Aphrodite was a pleasant experiment really, I’m delighted that people liked it as much as they did. And it’s the first Honey Gentry release that is entirely self-produced, recorded in my bedroom, etc. which felt validating in some way. I wrote the lyrics as more of a poem, I had no plan to turn them into a song. But then I was experimenting a little, literally in Garageband, trying to see if I could do something new outside of the realm and sound of Moonlight but still be true to Honey Gentry. And that’s how Aphrodite was born. Being an ode to an ancient deity I thought the production should probably have a timeless, ethereal, transcendent quality to it, so that was where the orchestral sounds and influences came in.
BH: You get compared to Lana del Rey a lot And I do see those similarities but I do see your creative independence from that idea I’m sure Lana inspires your music but who are some other musicians that inspire the music you make?
I think this is a passage that almost all artists go through while we are still developing our unique spin on the world, to be compared to huge and established artists who have already broken new ground in the path we are trying to walk. And Lana is definitely an artist who has broken new ground, I’ve mentioned before that seeing her success made me feel like what I wanted to do could be achievable on that extremely big scale. I thought artists who make music as I do could only ever be unknown indie artists (well maybe I will lol). So I love Lana for giving me that “dream big” example and her truly DIY roots.
Going forward I’m hoping to be able to be known to people just for being Honey Gentry though. Not to be considered too similar or even derivative of anyone else, and to have a “Honey Gentry” sound that’s unmistakable.
Strong influences for me would be artists that I grew up listening to as a kid and teenager, many of them women: No Doubt is my most consistent inspiration growing up and I trace them back as the source of my SoCal obsession. Gwen Stefani especially for her individuality and fearless exploration of vulnerability; I also love Tori Amos for her rawness in her songwriting; Courtney Love for her determination and character; Hope Sandoval (extremely strong influence for me as a singer and performer but almost nobody seems to have noticed); Stevie Nicks for her enchanting, imaginative lyrics; Heart for their raw passion in a man’s world and unmistakable talent; Kate Bush for… being Kate Bush; Lady Gaga for inspiring me to take up the keyboard; Marina (and the Diamonds) for making me not feel stupid for taking up the keyboard. Jeff Buckley’s Grace is probably what I consider the perfect album.
There are many many other artists and bands that I love that I find endless inspiration in – Sufjan Stevens, Neil Young, Nirvana, The Pixies, Joan Baez, The Dresden Dolls, Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, the Cure, Brand New, Led Zeppelin, Placebo, the Carpenters, ABBA, Britney Spears, Madonna… I’m just a fan of music and can find inspiration listening to almost anything.
BH: You’ve collaborated with people on past project from the music to the stellar music videos, talk about what it’s like to have that support as an independent artist. Also, who are some of the people who have helped you along the way?
HG: For my own music, everything is handled by just me and Ruben I’m quite insular. We make the music together and I do everything else from the videos to the cover art (and I’ve learned a lot doing that) to social media, building my website, too, until very recently, all PR.
When I’ve done collaborative work in the past it’s usually as a featured artist, so bringing another angle to someone else’s work. That’s something I really enjoy doing because it gives me a chance to explore different genres and how my voice and style can sit across more than one type of music without committing to a complete shift in sound, which is refreshing.
BH: You are from the UK which is a whole other playground for a musician, what it’s like to be an independent musician in London, what is the music scene over there like?
HG: Well, I’ve only ever been an independent artist in London, having never lived anywhere else. I’m sure it’s similar to being an independent artist in most other large cities – it’s overwhelming, there’s lots of competition; it feels like everyone knows each other except you, and at the same time that everyone is anonymous. Neither of those things is 100% true in reality. I do think being from and based in London has opened up opportunities for me that I’ve been able to grab, usually last minute things that crop up that I don’t have to travel more than an hour to be able to make the most of. Live opportunities, meetings, gigs to go to, people to meet. And we do have some great venues. But for me, what I consider the most game-changing aspect of being a musician in 2019 is actually the internet. You can be based literally anywhere in the world and still release music the way I do right here in London. And probably pay about half the rent.
BH: What is some advice for any Aspiring independent musicians out there based on your own experience of being an independent musician?
HG: Following on from my point about the internet, I would personally say that to be an independent musician you have to be tenacious and explore absolutely every avenue you can. Almost being entrepreneurial in your approach. If you encounter a problem you can’t get over, find the way around, through, or over it. If you want to know how to do something that you can’t do, don’t wait for someone who does know to come along. Google, learn, self-teach, make mistakes, cold-email, google some more. I think it’s in my personality to be independent and to want to do things myself and to literally never give up, which is a blessing and a curse – as an independent musician it happens to be a blessing.
BH: You’ve come so far but looking more into the future what is next where you do you see yourself is there a possible LP? What do you think that’ll sound like?
HG: I would love to work on an album and am toying with the idea of focusing on that for the next period of time. I am very much an album-listener as a music fan. So I’ve always aspired to put together at least one coherent, beautiful album. At the moment, as for what it will sound like, I have no idea. I hope it will be beautiful – my main goal with music is usually to be transportive, to remove the listener from reality for a while because that’s what music was for me growing up. So I’d want my album to be quite an experience.
Knowing me though, I’ll crack under the idea of going a whole year without releasing anything so there will probably be a couple of singles or an EP in the meantime to hint to the direction.
What is something you hope people will take with them from this new EP?
I’m not sure if there is one tangible ‘thing’ I’d like people to take away, because I’m not really one for conveying obvious statements or messages, rather trying to create an environment the listener can live in for a while, then come to their own conclusions.
BH: What is the catalyst of this EP? What’s at the core? What makes it different from the last EP?
HG: The differences I see between Dreamlover and Moonlight are that Moonlight was an exercise in building the sonic “World” of Honey Gentry. I see those songs almost as little films or stories, snapshots of places, people. At it’s core, Dreamlover contains a lot more direct truth, is much more about exploring the internal than external, with more of a focus on the Self. In that way, it’s a lot more “me”.
Where did you put for inspiration for this EP? It seems like a whole new sound but it still grounded with some of the roots of moonlight?
I don’t know if it’s a whole new sound (maybe it is and I’m just so used to it I don’t hear it) but we definitely explored some new avenues, especially with Daydream Baby which I felt really pulled out those country, folk, Americana influences to the foreground. Dreamlover is darker sonically, it feels a lot more true to my love of bands that made crawling, dark pieces; whereas Daydream Baby feels almost pop to me.
I think the late-80s to 90s rock/pop and indie probably has had the most impactful influence on my work and I hear that in Now I Wait and Heart of Gold. I feel like my music channels songs like Wicked Game and Fade Into You more than I’d care to admit, but it’s because it was literally the music of my childhood. Same with Ruben. It all comes together. So Dreamlover is grounded in the same roots simply because it all still came from my past and my heart which is always my key objective.
BH:Besides the comparison to Lana del Rey people really do compare your style and aesthetic to the 70s and 60s do you agree with that? Are there any downsides to that?
HG: That time, musically, stylistically, politically, culturally is a source of huge interest and inspiration to me, so I definitely agree that it comes across in what I present, what I’m drawn to in fashion and so on. As for the books, films, significant people and events, and music of that time, it’s endlessly fascinating to me because it’s a reflection and a mirror of that time.
Culture is changing constantly, but to look at the 60s and 70s – less than one human lifetime ago – and see how much has changed in society thanks to the combined efforts of a lot of people fighting extremely important and unprecedented causes, is really quite inspiring and that spirit lives on today as unfortunately, a lot of that fight continues.
There’s no downside to that really as it’s just a truth about who I am and what I’m interested in. I guess the only downside if there is one, would be people potentially seeing it as a purely aesthetic or shallow thing, (not that there’s anything wrong with that) but ultimately I can’t control it if people interpret my interest that way.
BH: Your work has a very cinematic aesthetic which I love! is it something you intended incorporating into your music because just from the music videos to the instrumentals in your songs it feels like a score to a major motion picture. Would that be something you’d be interested in? Also, lotta artist make their albums and to film is that something you would love to do down the line?
HG: Thank you! I think any inclination towards the cinematic would probably be because I really immersed myself in the world of film for a few years while I studied filmmaking. In the end, I decided it wasn’t necessarily a career that I wanted to pursue, but creatively I really did spread my wings at film school. Filmmaking was something I had absolutely no experience in so I had no preconceived notions. I started editing during my studies, and I think it was my main area of interest beyond screenwriting. So that’s a skill I took straight into my time as an independent musician.
The first time I used archive footage, which is pretty much all I use for my videos, was in a documentary module being taught by Liz Mermin, who is a great documentarian and who I later went onto work with for a short time in another capacity by pure chance. I had almost no money during my time as a student (who does!) And archive footage was a way for me to gain access to imagery that I could have never afforded to shoot myself. Imagery that could convey something so personal to me (as was the topic of my documentary) and yet so universal to the human experience. I fell in love with that practice and pretty much never stopped. Plus I hate being in front of the camera so making ‘proper’ music videos is not a high priority for me at the moment.
I would absolutely love to be more closely involved with film in the future, and in fact my song Angel Honey has been used in a short film by a British filmmaker – I’m not sure I can say much more just yet but I’ve seen the film and I’m so happy with the scene that he used my song for. I suppose to write a soundtrack album of songs to accompany a movie would be a full circle to all of my artistic loves to date.