Holly McNarland Retains Her Outsider Edge

(Feature excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com)

Following an extensive career lay off, Canadian singer/songwriter Holly McNarland is ecstatic about the June 11 release of her Universal Music album, "Home Is Where My Feet Are." However, she warns that despite its folksy title, as well as a new perspective offered through experiencing marriage and motherhood during the interim, she's still a tough-girl rocker.

"My live shows aren't going to be very mellow," jokes the 28-year-old who won a Juno Award for top new artist in 1998. However, her past tattooed image -- tank top, cigarette hanging out of her mouth, pig tails, and sunglasses -- has been jettisoned. The new album's photo cover features a reflective and outdoors McNarland.

"It's a beautiful record; it's not an angry young-woman record," says Allan Reid, Universal Music Canada senior VP of A&R. "She's matured."

Since 1997, Vancouver-based McNarland married noted videographer Jay Mirus; gave birth to her son Nege, who just turned 3; and, after the restructuring that followed the Universal/PolyGram merger in 1998, parted with Universal Records in the U.S. "My A&R guy in the U.S. got fired, and everything just fell to s***," she says. "I'm now looking for a deal in the U.S."

While she's certainly not the same artist who recorded her edgy debut "Stuff" in 1997, McNarland retains a strong artistic, creative edge. "I don't think this album is that different, other than the production and that the songwriting got better," she observes. "Song by song, it's not any mellower."

McNarland resurfaced in Canada in 1999 with her "Live Stuff" EP, which included songs from "Stuff" and her 1995 EP, "Sour Pie," initially issued independently by Vancouver-based Paradise Alley Productions. The latter record brought her significant cult status in her home country with male-ego-bashing songs like "Mr. Five Minutes" and "Sick Boy." After Universal in Canada and the U.S. jointly signed McNarland in 1996, they re-released the EP.

The 12-song "Home Is Where My Feet Are" was a laborious birth. "She's made a beautiful record, but it was a long process," Reid concedes. "It wasn't planned that way."

McNarland admits, "There were a lot of tears. There were times when I thought, 'That's it. I'm just going to have another kid, and f*** this whole rock thing.' Finally, it just came together."

Three years ago, McNarland recorded a full album of songs with producer/arranger Mark Howard in Malibu, Calif. Unhappy with the result (only six tracks were used for the final album), her Canadian and American labels insisted McNarland write more songs. She then recorded four tracks with Malcolm Burn last year in Vancouver. Only one track from that session, the mesmerizing rocker "Dallas," has been used. She finally completed the album late last year, recording five songs in Vancouver studios with U.K.-based Warne Livesey.

McNarland praises Livesey for bringing continuity to the album with his production and mix. "I was really worried about continuity with having three producers," she says. "I didn't want the album to be a s*** mix of the last five years of my life."

Excerpted from the June 15, 2002, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com members section.

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