Fabian Holland has been creating music and performing since a youngster. He grew up in an artistic household where performance and artistic expression were a part of everyday life, his mother was an artist and encouraged Fabian’s creativity.
Fabian started playing guitar at the age of seven, taught by his father who played guitar and harmonica. His early influences came from his dad’s blues records listening to blues guys such as Sonny Boy Williamson, Muddy Waters, R.L Burnside and Son House. Fabian Later attended the Academy Of Contemporary Music in Guildford (UK), studying under the watchful guidance of the sadly missed guitar virtuoso Eric Roche.
“One of the finest acoustic guitarists on the current scene in the UK” – Folk Radio UK
Lyrically evocative, sometimes moody and melancholic, Holland’s unadorned music has a flip side of songs of upbeat, wry humour but always acutely observed – songs of people and places, strangers and kin, human frailties and foibles – sensitive sonic snapshots producing perfect visual imagery, by turns unsettling and reassuring.
Today his new album ‘Songs from Under the Red Bakery’ comes out and we cornered him for a chat.
indieberlin: Tell us a little bit about your musical background
Fabian Holland: I got introduced to a lot of great music through my Dad in my early years and then started playing guitar when I was 7. From then I went from classical guitar to electric, playing stuff like Chuck Berry and B.B. King. Then in my teens I was in full on grunge bands in the 90’s and 00’s. I eventually came back to playing more acoustic after I had an amazing guitar teacher called Eric Roche, He’s considered almost a legend now in the acoustic guitar world. And then that kind of led me into my interest in more grounding music like Folk and Blues.
“in my teens I was in full on grunge bands”
indieberlin: Tell us something about yourself that you always wanted to say but no one has ever asked you yet.
Fabian Holland: I’m really into engineering and electronics. It’s sort of related to my music really because I build and fix stuff that I use with my music. Last year I designed and built a Lapsteel guitar specifically for my new upcoming album ‘Under The Red Island Bakery’.
“I wish I could say it just comes out naturally”
indieberlin: How does the songwriting process work for you?
Fabian Holland: I wish I could say it just comes out naturally and it does sometimes but most of the time I have to sit myself down and force it out, then once I start, I’m off and it’s fine. I’ve always written the music first and then added the words after. With the way I play most of the time I’m playing the main melody line on guitar anyway so that works for me.
Indieberlin: In these lockdown days, how do you find yourself spending time / keeping sane?
Fabian Holland: I’ve been so busy since the lockdown that I haven’t really had a moment to stop and think about it. With the release of the new album coming up there’s so much to organise. I’ve also been doing lots of guitar teaching online as well which helps with not having any income coming in through tours any more.
“Why did we move to Berlin? The UK decided to leave the EU and I think that was the final straw”
Indieberlin: Some people say that after this lockdown a lot of things will change – with society, with work, with culture…what would you like to see change, especially in the music industry – and what do you think will change?
Fabian Holland: I’d like to see more investment in the health service and less people taking unnecessary short flights everywhere. I’d like to see more people supporting their local music venues, I’ve played so many great small venues all over the world where most of the staff are just volunteers. That’s so amazing to me and I think it’s important we all support that. I think what will mainly change is we will have a big shift towards the digital world, more people through this lockdown are being forced to do everything digitally when maybe they wouldn’t have before and I think people will continue to do so after the lockdown. Is that a good or bad thing? I don’t know? maybe a bit of both?
Indieberlin: You moved to Berlin from the UK not that long ago – why did you leave England, why did you choose Berlin?
Fabian Holland: I was living in London with my girlfriend with our newly born son in our overpriced tiny one bedroom apartment and then the UK decided to leave the EU and I think that was the final straw. We had lots of friends in Berlin since my girlfriend is from Germany so it just made the most sense. We love it here, although we’ve never experienced living in Berlin without a kid so I feel like I haven’t had the chance to really explore Berlin properly yet but there’s always time for that further down the line I guess?
“A lot of my songs are stories so I’m always on the look out for a good tale to tell”
indieberlin: Where do you get your inspiration from?
Fabian Holland: Everywhere, anywhere. A lot of my songs are stories so I’m always on the look out for a good tale to tell. I’m listening to a lot of piano players at the moment and I got a lot of inspiration from that when I was writing for my new album. A new instrument or guitar tuning can create a spark or just playing and improvising is still a great way to get inspired.
indieberlin: What was the last concert you went to?
Fabian Holland: I went to see Blanco White do a show here in Berlin a little while ago, he’s a fellow musician I know from London. His stuff is great and he’s doing really well at the moment, go check him out.
“In Berlin the audience really takes the time to listen”
indieberlin: How do you think the audience in Berlin is different to the audience in London?
Fabian Holland: In Berlin the audience really takes the time to listen, this is important because my music can get very quiet when I’m performing. London is so crazy, even the gigging scene is a rat race and people are less willing to hear you out.
indieberlin: Do you prefer to play big festivals / stages or smaller club gigs?
Fabian Holland: Smaller clubs for sure! It’s great fun to play on a big stage but it’s easier to connect with your audience in a small venue. You can see the audience a lot better and talk with them individually. This is really important to me, half of my show is about interacting with the audience through my music.
Noel Maurice is one of the founders of indieberlin. Originally from the UK via a childhood in Johannesburg, he has been resident in Berlin since 1991. Describing himself as a ‘recovering musician’, he is the author of The Berlin Diaires, a trilogy detailing the East Berlin art and squat scene of the early 90s, available on Amazon and through this site.