A journey fulfilled
When she was only 15 years old, Amy Holland had her first major record label audition, singing in front of Beach Boys genius Brian Wilson at his home. She was being considered for the band’s own music company, Brother Records, encouraged by Beach Boy Bruce Johnston, who was dating her sister’s roommate.
“I was too young to realize how cool it was,” Holland recalls. “He dropped me off at Brian Wilson’s house with my guitar. It was, ‘OK, see you later, he’ll give you a ride home.’ I didn’t even know I should be nervous. I sang for him in his living room and he liked my voice. They were very interested in signing me, but then Brother Records folded. So I found some other avenues.”
Around a year later, Holland was invited to make a demo record and the producer suggested a young musician to back her on the project. It was her future husband, legendary musician Michael McDonald.
“I was offered a singles deal and Rick Jarrard, who produced Harry Nilsson and Jefferson Airplane, said, ‘I want you to meet this kid I signed, I think you will have a lot in common with him.’ It was Michael. He was 18 and I was 16, and he was hired to play piano on my record. The minute I heard him sing, it was like the voice of a 40-year-old. He had this gift I had never heard before. I was completely blown away. We lost touch for about five years, and then I saw him on the back of a Steely Dan record cover.”
Holland was eventually signed by Capital Records, and her self-titled debut album was produced by McDonald. It included the Top 20 hit “How Do I Survive” and led to a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist in 1981.
This versatile artist, who owns a home in West Maui, has occasionally performed on island, backing her husband and Pat Simmons at the Wailea Beach Marriott Resort & Spa’s New Year’s Eve parties and at a show at Mulligans on the Blue in Wailea.
“We’ve been going to Maui since our kids were born,” she notes. “We have so many memories there.”
About to release a new album, “Light on My Path,” she indicates at some point she would love to play a show here.
Highlighted by stellar production and instrumentation, her latest release is packed with memorable songs from the soulful, jazzy pop of the opening, “Bridge of Sighs” (composed by Carole King’s daughter Louise Goffin), to her tender closing ballad, “Light on My Path,” with its plaintive accordion accompaniment.
“It’s a grownup record,” she explains. “I’m really happy with it. It’s a gumbo of genres. There are jazzy, torchy songs, and it’s always fun to sing with my husband.”
Among the guests on the album, McDonald contributes his distinctive, soulful vocals to three tracks including the endearing ballad “Prove That By Me,” where they sing a duet. Also on board, Toto vocalist Joseph Williams, while one of the most striking tracks, “Gravity,” features David Crosby and Ambrosia’s David Pack on harmony vocals.
“I was thrilled when I first heard it,” she says. “In its raw form, it definitely has a Crosby, Stills & Nash vibe.”
Other standouts include the eminently catchy “Walking on a Wire,” the album’s most uptempo track with its flash of rocking guitar, where she recounts the fragility of a faltering relationship. Then there’s the eloquent “Stained Glass Love,” which recalls some of James Taylor’s classics; and “I Must Have Left My Heart” displays her gift for singing sensual torch songs.
“I felt drawn to these songs for many reasons,” she explains. “One of them, ‘We’re all Strangers Here,’ Michael wrote years ago with Danny O’Keefe,’ It’s about a woman recognizing she’s aging and the emotions that go along with that. I said, ‘I’ve got to record that song.’ “
She actually began working on the record, a follow-up to her 2008 album, “The Journey to Miracle River,” with producer Fred Mollin about 25 years ago.
“Then life happened, I raised my kids and went through an illness,” she says. “Four of the songs he originally brought to me 25 years ago were still available, so we did those.”
While her husband sang on the album, “he refused to play on anything,” she reports. “I said at least play on the song you wrote. He said, ‘I want Pat (Coil) to do the keyboards.’ I just laughed.” (Coil is a renowned keyboardist who tours with McDonald’s band).
Holland was raised in a musical home, and her mom was a singing star in the 1930s and ’40s, the voice of Possum Pearl in Popeye cartoons, and the first female DJ on WABC Radio in New York, while her father was an opera star on Broadway.
In time, besides releasing her own albums, she’s sung on recordings by her husband, Kenny Loggins and Simmons. And on Joni Mitchell’s “Dog East Dog,” she joined Don Henley, James Taylor and McDonald on one track.
“That was a thrill of a lifetime,” she recalls. “She was one of my biggest influences. My mom was my biggest influence, but Joni just spoke to me.”
Her songs have graced a few movies, including Al Pacino’s “Scarface,” “Teen Wolf” and “St. Elmo’s Fire.” One of the songs she sang in “Scarface,” “She’s on Fire,” was sampled a few years ago by hip-hop star Lil Wayne on his album “Rebirth.”
“That was pretty funny,” she says. “People were calling me up. All of a sudden I had credibility with kids.”
About to launch “Light on My Path,” which will be released Tuesday, Holland is feeling excited.
“It feels really good,” she said. “It was a blast last year doing it, and now we’re getting ready to put it out. It’s been a wonderful journey.”
Ebb & Flow Arts is known for presenting novel multimedia programs that may mix contemporary music with art, dance and film. On Saturday at the Historic Iao Theater, the group will feature another unique concert that will include a preview of a 3D film by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Tom Vendetti, selections from E&FA’s video/electronic music series and music by the Maui Jazz Quartet.
A work in progress, Vendetti’s new film, “The Tibetan Illusion Destroyer,” documents the final days of a Mani Rimdu ceremony in Nepal.
“Mani Rimdu is a 19-day sequence of sacred ceremonies and empowerments culminating in a public festival lasting four days,” explains Vendetti. “It is a recreation of legendary events and the establishment of Buddhism in Tibet.”
Originated at Tibet’s Romgbuk Monastery, the ceremony is now conducted at the Tongboche and the Chiwong Monasteries in Nepal.
“A purpose of the ceremony is to destroy illusion that leads to human suffering and promote empowerment for prosperity, happiness and a long life,” Vendetti says.
“We are thrilled to present a wide-ranging multimedia show with 3D film, plus our finest jazz musicians” says E&FA Executive Director Robert Pollock. “Tom Vendetti’s preview documents a fascinating glimpse of Buddhist tradition.”
The performance by the Maui Jazz Quartet features Danny M on bass, Brian Cuomo on piano and Paul Marchetti on drums, joined by John Zangrando on saxophone and flute.
* The free “3D Film, Jazz and Electronic Music” program will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Historic Iao Theater in Wailuku. This event is part of E&FA’s annual North South East West Festival 2016.
It’s a long way off, but it’s exciting news that Daryl Hall and John Oates will play the Maui Arts & Cultural Center on Oct. 29.
Since their career began in the early-1970s, Hall & Oates have sold more than 13 million albums and 6 million singles in the United States alone, with 34 chart hits in the Billboard Top 100. The duo’s many memorable pop and Philly soul-flavored hits including “She’s Gone,” “Rich Girl,” “Sara Smile,” “Maneater,” “I Can’t Go for That,” “Private Eyes” and “You Make My Dreams.” The best-selling music duo of all time, last year they released the DVD/CD “Live in Dublin.”
* Tickets go on sale to MACC members today and to the general public on May 26. Tickets are $59, $69, $89, and $129, with a limited number of $149 seats.
In other upcoming concert news, multi-platinum-selling musician Joan Osborne will play the MACC on July 28. Best known for her enduring hit song, “(What If God Was) One of Us,” Osborne continues to release terrific albums that showcase her soulful vocals, including the 2013 Grammy-nominated “Bring It On Home.”
“As a singer, Joan Osborne has one of those voices (along with Susanna Hoffs and Bonnie Raitt) that makes any song she interprets that much better,” praised a PopMatters review of her latest album, “Love and Hate.”
Osborne has sung on tour with the Grateful Dead, Phil Lesh and Friends, and the Funk Brothers, and was featured in the Grammy Award-winning documentary “Standing in the Shadows of Motown.”
Stay tuned for ticket details from the MACC.