Name: Brandon Markell Holmes
Occupation: Actor, songwriter, vocalist
Current release: Brandon Markell's Garden EP, a collaboration with Rogue Vogue, is out via toucan sounds.
Recommendations: Barkley L Hendricks - The Birth of Cool; Being and Nothingness - Jean Paul Sarte
If you enjoyed this interview with Brandon Markell Holmes, stay up to date on his work via his offical website, as well as his accounts on Facebook, and Instagram.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started writing music at 5 years old.
My early influences were definitely Michael Jackson & Whitney Houston. I loved beat boxing and making up random songs. I was also oddly inspired by Barney the purple dinosaur.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
As a kid I definitely thought I was Michael Jackson.
I was very obsessed with plays, live performance, glitter & fog machines. I often played on our patio, pretending it was a stage …The flood light was my spotlight, sadly it never got used for its intended purpose.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
My creativity has always been based in my imagination. I often got in trouble for being aloof in school daydreaming and not paying attention. It was always me living in another world.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
Definitely people not believing in my voice. Always feeling behind and wrong because I was different. Feeling bad for being unique.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
My uncle was a sound engineer & DJ. He trained me to write for myself. I've been writing ever since.
I used garage band in college. Embarrassingly, I'm just getting into the whole music tech world.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
Protools and the way I'm able to work with my engineer to paint the sounds I hear. The immediate ability to do that is remarkable.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
I’m very open. Whatever gets the job done in my opinion. Collaboration is all about malleability. Everyone has a unique way, and as an artist we have to use them all as inspiration.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
I do not have a fixed schedule. My life is driven by goals and food.
So mostly everyday, I wake and start sending emails. And then I cook breakfast. Maybe a workout or maybe a song idea. Everyday I do something toward my dreams.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
My performance at the MCA. It was a breakthrough because it was the first time I became bored with myself. Unimpressed with my artistry. I pushed myself pass my limits and began to ask hard questions. I challenged myself and found purpose in my work.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
I found that the best place of creation is when you're 100 percent in tune with the work and your body. The most brilliant moments I've felt warm, almost like I was floating afterwards. It's like meditation. It's when you're in your most open state. Allowing yourself to be a vessel is when the best work happens.
It's not a method or emotional trick. It's truly a state of being. You can truly feel it when you're in it.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
I think all sounds are. My taste might be completely different. There are some days I wanna mosh pit. There are days I feel romantic. Expression is key. Misplaced aggression with bad intentions is dangerous.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
I don’t have the energy for 1/2 the stuff that's fighting for my attention. Bad people come in all shapes and sizes. it all comes down to intention. Are you trying to imitate or pay homage? Institutionalized oppression is the issue.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?
Hearing and seeing. Sometimes I hear something but based on my visual perception it may sound like something is closer or further away. It happens a lot.
I hallucinate a lot when I'm falling asleep. I've gotten very use to it.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
For me being an artist is creating in whatever environment you can. Art is not glamourous. It's real. If you're waiting to feel good to create, you probably won't create.
I work when I'm tired. I work when I'm sick. I work when I'm angry. It's all a part of art.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
Music itself without words is very emotional. Adding words should reflect the musical imprints of whatever instrument is at hand. Music teaches us the journey and the beauty that lies in between. Beauty isn’t always pleasant, it sometimes hurts. It sometimes mourns. It's ugly.