In a world filled with violence, bigotry, and prejudice, it can be hard to remember that there are others still longing for peace. Originally from Scotland before emigrating to the US, Greg Holden comes to us today with his track “I’m Not Your Enemy” to remind us to hold on to love and the changes it can bring.
Beginning with a simple dry strumming pattern and the voice of Greg, he tells his experience of life as an immigrant and how unwelcomed he’s felt despite his own open arms to the new people he’s met on his journey. He eventually builds to a duet between himself and Garrison Starr, and, while their duet has a lot of strength to it and builds vocal intensity, it’s overall a rather sparse song instrument-wise.
Aside from the simple strumming of guitars, a bit of reverb and high-pitched organ-like sounds, the song stays relatively calm and consistent. This deliberate choice evokes a sense that Greg and Garrison have become weary of watching so much destruction and pain caused by undeserved hatred and fear. It’s a simplistically powerful way to bring a sense of pleading for us to believe in the power of love:
I’m not your enemy
just an unfamiliar friend
you might not recognize me from
before the world began
and how could you know
after everything they told you
that I’m not your enemy
I’m not your enemy
I’m not your enemy
only love can save us now
While we may not recognize some people and may even feel a little fear, Greg and Garrison challenge us to look beyond that fear and hatred and find the human elements that we all share. It could be as deep as our common regrets, vices we may have, or the things that keep us up at night. Or it could be something a simple as a shared interest in a hobby, sport, or TV show.
Whatever it is, Greg and Garrison beg for us to seek the humanity in all of us and to break our habits of hatred and bigotry.
If you let go of these fears, you may be surprised at how well you get along with the people that once scared you. Who knows, you may even invite these people to speak at your wedding or over for weekly dinners. The only way to find out is to stop the knee-jerk reaction of hatred and to begin accepting people as they are.
So, why keep thinking about how things could be with more love and acceptance? Get out there and love the world with all you’ve got as it’s the only thing that can save us now.
What was the inspiration behind your track “I’m Not Your Enemy?”
That song was written the day after the last U.S. Election. I was on tour in Germany with my good friend Garrison Starr. We were both quite horrified that he who must not be named had actually been “elected”. Myself as an immigrant, and Garrison a lesbian, both felt quite rejected, seeing as in Trump’s eyes we were sort of enemies to him and his followers.
Instead of writing the **** you song — I wrote that later don’t worry — we decided we’d write something a little more compassionate and non-confrontational in an attempt to bring a divided set of people a little closer together. We’d seen way too much divisive and aggressive behavior by that point. So that afternoon we sat around a piano and wrote “I’m Not Your Enemy” in about an hour. That same evening we played it in an arena to 10,000 people who didn’t know who we were. Not the easiest place to try out new material but we were feeling pretty good about it, and it went great.
For “I’m Not Your Enemy”, which came first: the music or the lyrics?
Everything sort of came at the same time. It was a relatively trouble-free birth.
What do you think is most important: the music, words, or neither?
I think both are just as important as the other. The words are what give the song weight, but the music is what gets people’s attention and creates emotion. If you put the lyrics to “Imagine” over Rebecca Black’s “Friday”, I’m not sure it would’ve had the same impact on the world, but if you put them to Coldplay’s “Fix You”, it might have been just as powerful. Music and lyrics are like a relationship; if one isn’t working as hard as the other, it’s going to fail.
I understand that you’ve written a few of your songs for a few causes, such as for The Red Cross and Everyone Is Gay — an organization that supports the LGBT youth community. Do you have any other causes you believe in or any plans to perform or write tracks for causes that you believe in?
I never really plan to do it. It sort of just happens. Sometimes the song already exists, and it just gets picked up by a charity or organization. My song “The Lost Boy”, was written after I read a book called What is the What? by Dave Eggers, a true story about a Sudanese refugee. I didn’t write it for the Red Cross, it just by chance found its way to the right place at the right time.
Another organization that I really care about is the Blink Now Foundation (blinknow.org), run by an amazing young American woman called Maggie Doyne. A few years ago — as I understand it — Maggie was backpacking in Nepal and came across a group of poverty-stricken kids with no families or homes to go to. Some were sick. Maggie decided to stay and build a home for them. She left her life in America and just stayed in Nepal, she’s still there now doing incredible work. She’s a beautiful person who I was fortunate enough to share coffee with once.
I hear you’ll be coming out with your new album World War Me on March 29th. Congratulations on that! What was the inspiration behind that album and how long have you been working on it?
Thanks! Well, the last two or three years have been incredibly challenging for me mentally. I’m not even sure if I can explain why. I’ve just been putting myself through mental torture and it’s been really affecting my life and my career. I wouldn’t call it a mental illness, but sometimes it feels like it. Anyway, this album, for the most part is about that struggle. Not every song touches on it, and some are totally unrelated, but the title and a few of the key songs certainly grasp onto the concept.
So, pretty much all of your recent project World War Me has been DIY, such as recording the album, writing press releases, and releasing without a label. That’s awesome! What’s been the most rewarding part of this experience? What’s been the scariest or challenging?
I’m licensing it through BMG, and they’ve been a great help. But I recorded the record by myself which was something I’ve considered for a long time. But, back to the mental stuff, I’ve just never really seen myself as capable. I have some deep-rooted insecurity with production/engineering, and that was certainly the most difficult part of this journey. Comparing it to other records really made it difficult sometimes. But, I made it out alive and I’m already starting the next album in the same way. I’m becoming quite the masochist.
What inspired you to choose the DIY path with your album World War Me?
Personal growth and the fear of financial loss.
Do you have any hobbies outside of your art that affect your music or lyrics? If so, what are they?
I love photography (@gregholdenfoto), and I’m pretty big into food and different cultures. Those three combined have always taken me to places that I may not have gone before, and that certainly inspires my songwriting, and my life. I’m also into golf but I’m not sure that helps…
I noticed in your YouTube bio that it states that you had almost given up on the music business a few times in your life. Where do you think you’d be now if you had given up on it?
It still says that on there? Whoops. Honestly, I think about quitting at least once a month. When your passion becomes your job and your paycheck, it changes the way you approach it, and how you’re affected by it either going well, or terribly. I can’t help but torture myself when things aren’t going great, and there’s the kicker; things are going great, I just can’t see it sometimes.
What are you looking forward to most in 2019?
I’m doing a lot of touring this year, and I love being on the road, so that’s exciting. I’m hitting Europe, the U.S. and South America hopefully. But, I’m doing a lot of mentoring this year too — sort of by accident — on songwriting. That’s taking me to some pretty cool places like Mexico and Hawaii. I did one program last year in Palm Springs and got a lot out of it, and without trying the opportunities have continued to present themselves. It’s a new thing, but I’m open to it.
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