Holly Figueroa O'Reilly is an award winning, American song writer/singer, best known for her cover of Leonard Cohen's, "Everybody Knows", which was licensed through Sony Pictures, and played during the last two minutes of the FX Network's last episode of "Damages" in April, 2010.
Sign up on Holly's mailing list, and get show dates, touring updates, and much, much more go to http://www.hollyoreilly.com.
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HOLLY FIGUEROA O'REILLY
"One of modern folk's criminally ignored and unjustly under appreciated artists." Apple Itunes Essentials
"I love your sound. Great work." Brandi Carlisle
"Excellent songs, amazing voice." John Mayer
Leonard Cohen cover, "Everybody Knows", picked up by Sony Pictures for the last scene of the last episode of the FX show, "Damages", April, 2010
Featured three times on NPRs "All Things Considered".
Selected for Grammy nomination for "Gifts and Burdens", 2007
Gifts and Burdens hit number 26 on the Americana Music Association Charts, number 6 on the EuroAmericana Charts, number 6 on the Roots Music Report, and was in rotation on hundreds of stations (including KEXP) all over the US and Europe in 07/08.
Founder of "Indiegrrl", an organization for women in the independent music industry, 1998-2003 (5,000 members internationally).
While organizing Indiegrrl, worked with Mary Gauthier, Erin McKeown, Girlyman, Laura Gibson, Ingrid MIchaelson, Kyler England and Adrienne Gonzalez of "The Rescues", and thousands of other women, equally talented, but not as well recognized.)
Competitions and Conferences:
International Songwriting Competition finalist, 2007
Telluride Bluegrass Festival Songwriter's Competition finalist, 2005
Rockrgrl Conference performance review committee and panelist, 2005
JPF "Album of the Year", "Gifts and Burdens", 2009
NACA West Coast Showcase, 2004
Mountain Stage NewSong Contest Finalist, 2006
Discmakers Independent Music World Series Finalist, 2003 (2nd place)
Durango Songwriter's Expo Showcase, 2002
Durango Songwriter's Expo panelist, 2002
Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, 2002
AMG Music Pick, "Dream in Red", 2001
Featured on KMTT's, "Local Access", (Seattle's AAA radio station) in 2007, and did 4 on airs at KMTT before they stopped supporting local artists.
Rockrgrl Music Conference Showcase and panelist, 2000
(on panel with Wanda Jackson and Amy Rigby)
Played over 1000 tour dates between 1999 and 2003.
Finalist: Acoustic Live Songwriting Contest, 2002. (I came in second. Sarah Bareilles came in first.)
I asked my friend, Laura Veirs, to open for my CD release of "Dream in Red" at the Tractor Tavern in Seattle, 2001.
Showcased at the Durango Music Conference in 2002 with Colin Brooks (Band of Heathens). He introduced me to Tony Levin and Jerry Marotta, who comprised the rhythm section on my record, "How It Is".
Sponsorships with Luna Guitars and Lee Oskar Harmonicas.
Sisters Folk Festival Songwriting Contest Finalist, 2008 and 2009 (BOTH times, I got sick and couldn't perform. One of these days, I am going to Sisters!)
One More Time: Live from the IMC: 2010
Gifts and Burdens: 2007
Live in NYC: 2004
How It Is: 2003 (featuring Tony Levin, Jerry Marotta, Danny Barnes)
Dream in Red: 2001
Three Chord Plea: 1999
(Currently in the studio, recording a cover record and a record of original music…both will be released before the end of the 2010.)
Remembering Rachel: The Rachel Bissex Tribute Album (also featuring Dar Williams, Catie Curtis, Patty Larkin, Jennifer Kimball, The Kennedy's, Sloan Wainwright, and many others.)
First, Last, and Deposit: a Benefit for the Noel House
3 Indiegrrl Compilations
Holly has performed as a guest on the following records, according to the All Music Database:
2000 Lucy Mongrel Lucy Mongrel Harmonica, Vocals (bckgr)
2003 On the Mend Kym Tuvim Vocals (bckgr)
2005 Shimmer Shimmer (Skip Peri) Vocals (bckgr)
2006 Change David LaMotte Vocals (bckgr)
2008 City of Refuge Rachel Harrington Vocals (bckgr)
2008 Democracy for Lovers Paul Lippert Vocals (bckgr)
2008 The River Grace Jenee Halstead Vocals (bckgr)
2008 Giving Up the Ghost Julie Loyd Vocals (bckgr)
2010 Roads Jeremy Serwer Vocals (bckgr)
Bluebird Cafe, Nashville, TN
Passim, Boston (Cambridge), MA
Lizard Lounge, Boston, MA
The Triple Door, Seattle, WA
Tractor Tavern, Seattle, WA
Slim's, San Francisco, CA
Genghis Cohen, Los Angeles, CA
Knitting Factory, Los Angeles (the big room)
Sweetwater, Mill Valley, CA
The Bitter End, NY, NY
The Living Room, NY, NY (before and after it moved.)
Falcon Ridge Folk Festival
Missoula Women's Festival
International Women's Festival
National Women's Festival
(Special thanks to Bob Doerschuk)
Here’s what we learn from Holly Figueroa O’Reilly’s unforgettable new release, Gifts & Burdens.
• There is magic in music – magic enough to sometimes see the future unfold in song.
• You can make your debut, starting fresh, more than once.
• Life can be generous, even in its cruelty.
Begin with the music. The melodies and words are magical enough. They speak with a folk-inflected eloquence darkened only slightly by modern ironies. “Your sickness is my weakness, ‘til you’re ready to say goodbye,” she proclaims on “Lay Them Down,” while on “One More Time” she ties passages of day and night, rain and sun, into seasons of the heart, always with a lilt that lifts each tune toward the light of gentle surprise.
It’s music like that that inspired critics to call O’Reilly “one of the best new songwriters around,” (Tret Fure) “a force to be reckoned with,” (Rockrgrl Magazine) “incredibly exciting,” (The Recording Academy) “criminally ignored and unjustly under-appreciated …” (Apple ITunes)
If all this sounds familiar, it may be because you’ve heard these same raves applied to Holly Figueroa. In fact, O’Reilly’s voice – alternately smoky, fragile, teasing, and earthy – recalls that of Figueroa, to an uncanny degree.
There’s good reason for this: Figueroa and O’Reilly are the same person – yet also different in more than just their names.
In this respect, Gifts & Burdens is both a farewell and an introduction. Much has changed in O’Reilly’s life over the past few years. And strange as it seems, she was forecasting these changes in these songs, without even knowing it at the time.
Flash back to 1996. Holly Figueroa has left her youth in Ohio behind and put a life together in Washington State that combined the pleasures of family with her love for playing music. Traveling often with her daughter and younger son, she grew a following one venue at a time. From the Bitter End in New York to the Sweetwater Saloon in San Francisco, she shared stages with Dan Fogelberg, Barbara Kessler, Rose Polenzani, and Caroline Aiken, or headed the bill herself. Word spread faster when NPR's "All Things Considered" discovered her and twice gave her national exposure. Her albums – Three Chord Plea, Dream in Red, How It Is, Live in New York City – inspired comparisons to artists whose only similarities are excellence and individuality: Lucinda Williams, Ani DiFranco, Joni Mitchell, Emmylou Harris …
This was her position last year as she entered the studio in Tacoma with a group of friends, including producer Evan Brubaker, and began cutting the tracks that would become Gifts & Burdens. She brought the best of her recent material with her and nestled it into intimate acoustic settings. The results were beautiful, sometimes almost painfully so – yet even though she was performing her own songs, she had no idea that they were speaking to her about changes yet to come.
“All my songs on Gifts & Burdens were written between 2003 and ’06,” she says. “Looking back on it, I can only say, ‘Wow, how could I not know I was in trouble?’ I had no idea that in writing these songs, I was writing about my own life.”
That revelation hit in September 2006, one month after finishing the final tracks, as her husband announced that he wanted a break from their relationship. It wasn’t a divorce, nor was it exactly a conventional separation; they remain close to one another and partners in raising their children.
Whatever it was, though, it changed everything overnight.
“I listen now to ‘One More Time’ and it’s like … duh,” she says, laughing. “I know that duh isn’t the most literary way to put it, but it says a lot. Or I listen to ‘What You Wanted,’ which I thought I was writing about some friends of mine who were separating. Eventually I realized that I was writing about how my husband felt about me and how I felt about him a lot of the time.”
With this perspective, these songs began to feel more like messages, though at first O’Reilly was in no mood to listen. The project gathered dust as she reassembled the pieces of her life. Each day felt like a step forward, from trimming down to the point that this summer she will run her first triathlon. At the same time she pulled back from music, focusing her energy where it was most needed. A feeling arose that her days as a musician were past.
“I couldn’t even look at my guitar,” she says. “I just wanted to concentrate on my kids and my health. I had toured so much, especially with my daughter since she was little, and I wanted to make that up to them. But then Evan kept after me. He said, ‘You know, you need to get this record out.’ And preorders kept coming in, around 600 after a while, some of them for as much as $300. So I had to do this. It was really difficult, but we took care of the mastering, figured out the artwork … and we did finish it.”
She finished something else too, as she traded her married name for one that honors her lineage back to her Irish forebears. And with her family’s encouragement, she has transformed the difficulties of 2006 into a process of rebirth and reclaimed the place she had once nearly left behind.
“I realized that when I stop performing, it’s like I’ve stopped breathing,” she explains. “It’s like, I have to eat. I have to breathe. I have to perform. But if I had to choose between performing and writing songs, I would definitely pick writing. Of course, I’m fortunate in that this is a choice I don’t have to make.”
The Seattle Weekly says of “Gifts and Burdens”, “the tunes often have a wistful, lonely, late-night quality about them but, at the same time, are not really a downer,” O’Reilly is singled out as “sounding both compellingly contemporary and ancient simultaneously” by the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange. Gifts & Burdens has already inspired a flurry of praise, though none closer to the mark than Seattle Sound’s review: “a gentle, moving example of well played Americana.”
For everyone who has weathered a storm and found the promise of peace in the light that follows, Gifts & Burdens bears special meaning. This music is about us as much as it is about the extraordinary Holly O’Reilly – and that, too, is magic.
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