RR interview: Ellie Holcomb

RR interview: Ellie Holcomb

Every holiday season, many of us enjoy the old, old story of Christmas told through the songs of Andrew Peterson and friends. Behold the Lamb of God has become a holiday tradition in the last decade, and the Proprietor serves his audience well by inviting such a talented group of friends to carry the message alongside him. Each year brings a new face or two on the winter tour, and this year Ellie Holcomb is the newcomer.

For those who aren’t acquainted with her work alongside husband Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors or her own solo releases (check out her new EP, With You Now), you’ll find that Ellie’s delicate vocals fit perfectly into the BTLOG mix.

You’re on the Behold the Lamb of God tour this year for the first time, correct?

Yes. I’m in a band with my husband and it’s called Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors, and every year for the past five or six years we’ve done a Christmas tour ourselves, and it has been awesome. But because of that, I have never been able to actually go to a Behold the Lamb of God show. We just always make sure we’re not doing our Christmas show in Nashville on the same days they’re doing Lamb of God. We usually have to make sure we go to a different city.

Last year was the first chance I had to go. We had just had our little girl—she was maybe two weeks old— and because I’d had a baby, we weren’t doing our Christmas tour to the same degree. So we ended up being in town on the same night as the show, and I just laughed and wept through the whole thing. It was so wonderful. I was like, “This is the best thing ever!”

We were at the Ryman, which is one of my favorite places to see a show. What I felt like happened in that Lamb of God show is that the Ryman, which is a concert hall, turned back into a church, and it was so beautiful. I was pretty hormonal, but I literally laughed and cried the whole time and enjoyed it so thoroughly that I want to go every year. I was like, “I have to go to this every year, Drew!” So to be asked to be part of it this year felt like one of the most surreal things that’s ever happened to me.

Well it seems like such an ideal fit. It seems at once like no surprise and yet a pleasant surprise.

Yeah, it felt that way to me a little bit too. Like, “Yes, these are my people!” I love all of them. I love all of their work. And holy goodness, I get to do this with them? Unbelievable. I am so thrilled. That’s a great way to say it.

I’m curious about your sessions with Ben Shive. What was it like working with him and just being able to get back into the studio and make these songs?

Well, first of all, I’ve always loved Ben’s music. And he and my dad actually co-produced the record, so when my dad and I were dreaming up who we would want to partner with, we figured we should get someone outside the family. Ben was our big dream kind of guy. He is able to create a sonic landscape unlike a lot of people, and especially, unlike a lot of producers I know, he’s a musician and a writer and an artist himself. To have him as a part of the team making these songs was our dream. The fact that he said ‘yes’ was a joy.

It was an unbelievable experience. I will say this, the first time I went to the Bee Hive, that little building behind Baja, I wasn’t even sure I was in the right place. And to walk in there and see The Rabbit Room in that back corner, I literally felt like I had discovered a mythical place that had come into reality. I’ve followed them on Twitter and read articles they’ve put out and love what The Rabbit Room stands for, collectively, so to see that, I just said, “This is going to be so good.”

I had just finished reading The Wingfeather Saga, which Andrew [Peterson] wrote, and so to have Andrew in there from time to time reading with a writing group or whatever, I just felt like there was a celebrity next door whom I was also friends with, so I couldn’t believe I was there. I was like, “How did I get here? This is like some mythical, wonderful, creative space, and I am so glad to be a part of it.”

Did I hear that the book series influenced a song?

One of the songs that I wrote is called “Marvelous Light,” and there was this one day that we were recording, and when we finished that song I walked out and Andrew’s sitting in the room having a sort of writer’s group and he said, “This sounds great. I’m loving what I’m hearing.” And I said, “Well, oddly enough, this song is based off one of your characters from The Wingfeather Saga.” And he was like, “What?!”

[Ed. note: Spoiler alert!] It’s about Podo Helmer—whom I love—and he spends his whole life trying to hide his past from his family and everyone else because he’s ashamed of it. All of a sudden there’s a point that comes where his past is exposed in front of the very people he’s been hiding it from. The line that Andrew wrote after this happened, they’re on a ship and it says about Podo, “and he moved about his days with wonder and ease, because he found that his whole story had been told, and he was still loved.”

I remember reading that and I had to stop because I was just weeping, and it is so much of my story. I literally told Andrew, “I imagined singing this song and dancing on a ship deck with Podo Helmer. That’s what I really want to be doing,” which is funny because he’s not real. It was so beautiful. It was like this creative community moment and Andrew was like, “Thanks a lot.” I just said, “I can’t believe I’m getting to record this with you next door.”

And so then to be invited to be a part of this tour, it just feels all the more sweet, special and amazing to me, because I feel like in a lot of different ways, the artists who are on the Lamb of God tour have inspired and blessed me, and I know they do that for a lot of other people. So to get to be a part of that community is pretty humbling and it’s a huge honor.

[Check out Ellie's new EP, With You Now, at her website.]