After I was dropped from Warner Bros Records in 2016, I was faced with an unexpected existential crisis; How was I, Greg Holden, — the artist with enough gall to write his own press-release — any different from the thousands of cliché-ridden white male singer-songwriters out galavanting in the world today?
My knee-jerk reaction was that I wasn’t, and I started preparing myself for a life-shattering return home to England, tail between my legs, armed with a few good stories to tell my mates on Quiz night back in old Blighty.
So I did what any self-respecting artist would do and Googled myself for some positive reinforcement. I realized that what has and always will separate me from the pack is that I am breathtakingly handsome. Okay, maybe that’s not it. What I realized is that the most successful songs in my career to date were written either for a special cause or ended up being used in a special cause. They were the songs I’d written without ever considering how well they’d sell, or in 2019 language how many Spotify streams they would garner. Forgive the outlandish arrogance and cringe-worthy Zuckerberg-esque tone, but I realized that my best songs had quite literally helped people. The ironic part was, I hadn’t actually meant to do that at all.
By accident, “The Lost Boy” raised €80,000 for The Red Cross and ended up helping to — if in just a small way — build schools in Africa. I wrote “Boys in the Street” for Everyone Is Gay, an organization supporting the LGBTQ youth community, a creation that Tom Hanks of Turner & Hooch fame dubbed “the perfect song”. An unbelievable compliment that pulled me from the depths of hell in 2016 and provided me with a very obnoxious name drop opportunity in times of insecurity. “Home”, made famous-enough by Phillip Phillips after he won American Idol with it, has been used by countless organizations and charities over the years. There are more examples, but I’m sure I’ve sufficiently annoyed you with my excessive hubris.
So, after 10-minutes of Googling myself, I decided my intentions were pure enough to make me somewhat unique and would give my 4th studio album a go after all…
‘World War Me’ was inspired by the Great Existential Crisis of 2016, and written during the Great Existential Crises of 2017 & 2018. The songs came during a time where I was quite literally at war with myself, and to an extent, those around me. I had moved my entire life from New York to Los Angeles for my label/career, and months later it was falling apart. Now what? What was the point in making another record after I was just crowned the most anti-climactic signing in Warner Bros history? Can I really go through all that again? I am even good at this? Do I even want to do this??
I decided to make matters worse and record ‘World War Me’ myself.
I recorded all but “On The Run” — recorded by legendary producer & singer-songwriter Butch Walker — in my home studio in Los Angeles, and wrote most of it with one of my best friends, the incomparable singer-songwriter Garrison Starr.
I realize now that the record was born the day after Donald Trump was elected. We were both crushed. Myself as an immigrant, and Garrison as a gay woman, we were like the triple threat of Trump’s worst nightmares. I felt Garrison’s pain so much more though, as she felt like her own country had just abandoned her.
We sat in a cold Green Room in eastern Germany, practically in tears, and hummed out the melody of what would become “I’m Not Your Enemy”. We finished it hungover the next afternoon and played it to an arena of 10,000 people that evening. We were off to the races…
Upon our return home we immediately wrote “Chase The Money”, “Nothing Changes” — the song that seems to encompass the central theme of the record — and “What I Deserve”, based on my acquirement of a beautiful house in Los Angeles, and perhaps my overall disbelief that my life was actually happening.
I wrote “The Power Shift” to liberate some of my extreme anger towards the maddening news I was voluntarily injecting each morning, and then “Temptation” was birthed from the residual anger left over from “The Power Shift”. The unidentical twins of the album if you like…
“Something Beautiful” manifested itself when I realized I was putting way too much negative energy out into the universe, and that was the last thing the world needed more of. My co-writer and friend Richard Harris helped coax out the 3rd single from the album, and what would be the voice of reason on a pretty humorless set of songs.
I am incredibly proud of what I have achieved personally during the making of this album. Despite the fact that I am still a cliché-ridden, male singer-songwriter, I believe that people will be able to at least relate to ‘World War Me’. I have no idea if it will help them or not, but I turned the vocals up pretty loud so at least I know they’ll hear me.
“I wasn’t trying to help people before, and I’m not trying now. People can only help themselves, which is what I realized in the making of this record.”
- Greg Holden
‘World War Me’ comes out through BMG on March 29th, 2019. The day The United Kingdom is due to divorce the E.U. Coincidence? Absolutely.