Horsham-based singer-songwriter Hollie Rogers is seizing the opportunity to pursue her dream career.
The 27-year-old guitarist is a familiar face (and voice) on the town’s music scene and now aims to go full-time with her soulful alt-folk sound.
It’s a bold and scary step and Hollie’s just left her job as Pennthorpe School’s Head of Drama to make it.
But she says that her excitement outweighs the fear.
“It’s something I feel I probably should have done a long time ago,” Hollie explains, speaking to the County Times two weeks after winning the Acoustic contest at Horsham’s Battle of the Bands.
“With every year that went by I was feeling more and more regret for not having given it a shot when I was doing it full-time before.”
Hollie developed a love for playing music during her teenage years in Penzance.
“I think I was 16 when I learnt the guitar,” she says, admitting that she first picked up the instrument to “look cool and impress the boys”.
But then, inspired by artists like Joni Mitchell and Damien Rice, Hollie started to create heartfelt and mature songs.
And she made an impact.
At 19, while studying Drama at Exeter University, she got a deal with a small label in Cornwall and released her first album. As her reputation grew she started supporting acts like Midge Ure, Paolo Nutini and Suzanne Vega.
But Hollie’s music took a back seat as she worked more and more on a teaching career and it was years before she released her next album, the crowd-funded All That Fire.
However, with a second record out and encouraged by work colleagues, Hollie has made the firm decision to get back in the game.
“It was just niggling away at me,” she says. “If I hadn’t done it that feeling would have just got stronger and stronger.”
So how does Hollie create those tender, atmospheric and often poignant numbers that she’s become known for?
“I don’t choose what I write about,” she says, explaining her organic process. “I write about experiences, I suppose. Relationships and love and hate. But if someone said ‘can you sit down and write a song about X?’ I don’t feel I could just sit down and do that. It kind of happens by itself.”
Once again, Hollie’s skills are getting her noticed. She appeared on BBC Introducing, All That Fire received great reviews and her list of gigs is growing. The next big one in Sussex will see Hollie support blues singer Jo Harman.
“It’ll be a real honour to open for her,” says Hollie. “I’ve seen Jo play on a couple of occasions and she’s amazing.”
“I’m also recording a new demo in October with a producer that works with Jo,” Hollie adds, explaining that she’s in touch with James McMillan from Quiet Money Studios in Hastings.
It seems that Sussex is the ideal place for a young folk musician, especially Horsham with it’s pretty scenery and easy connections to London.
The community is great too, says Hollie: “Musicians here are very supportive of each other and there’s no kind of competitive nature. Even in something like Battle of the Bands you feel like everyone’s got each other’s back.”
This seems important for someone trying to carve out a music career, something that’s notoriously difficult to do.
“There is isn’t very much money in it unless you’re one of the really lucky ones,” Hollie admits with a calm matter-of-factness. “And I’m not doing this for fame and fortune and all the rest of it. But it would be nice to be able to make a living just from playing music.
“That would be amazing.”
Hollie’s upcoming gigs
Sept 2: The Hanger Sessions, B52s, Horsham. Sept 7: The Queen’s Head Acoustic Showcase, Barn’s Green. Sept 9: Cranleigh Arts Centre. Sept 10: Support for Jo Harman, Coolham Village Hall.
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