Hi Dre! What does identity mean to you?
I think of identity like a soup: a combination of individual ingredients, but greater than the sum of its parts when assembled in the right balance. And even if an ingredient is removed, the soup will forever be altered by its presence. Identity is cumulative like that. Steady Holiday is a big part of my identity, but certainly not all of it. Different contexts require me to be different… ingredients? (I’ll retire the analogy.) I’m also a partner, a sister, a vegetarian, a Japanese-American, a bidet advocate. If I’m being honest, I’m mostly a bidet advocate.
How did the name Steady Holiday come about and is there a distinguishable/crucial separation between your public persona and who you are as Dre?
The name “Steady Holiday” sounded to me like a film from the 60s that I must have missed, or something vaguely aspirational. It’s more of a feeling than anything specific. I came up with it to help me compartmentalize music from the rest of my life. It’s nice to have that little bit of distance between my public-facing persona and Dre: the bidet advocate. But I give myself the liberty to identify as either/both interchangeably.
Your newly released LP Newfound Oxygen feels like an emotional exhalation of the past three years: it taps into a collective sense of us reawakening from suspension and suddenly finding we’re not exactly where we’ve always meant to be. To be drawing so successfully from this feeling of recognition, do you mind sharing if you had a singular big moment of this in real life or was it a series of smaller moments?
I might have been ahead of the pandemic curve in terms of personal reckonings! I had become quite unsatisfied and cynical about certain aspects of music in the years leading up to the pandemic. By the time it arrived, I knew it was an opportunity to reset. Lockdown dovetailed with being willing to start over and repair some things in my life. The big decision I made with Steady Holiday during that time was to self-release an album, which also meant… learning how to self-release an album. It was a huge learning experience, full of mistakes, but it set me on a path of taking ownership over my career in a way that I hadn’t before.
What was your process in externalizing these complex feelings into words, music, and the imagery of your album and music videos?
That process is both extremely precious and not at all. Precious in the sense that I’m almost always crying as I recount the feeling or event I’m writing about. Lots of tears; it’s just how it happens! But I try to set boundaries around that fragile headspace: writing with intention, but also walking away when necessary. I discuss a lot of tough subject matters, but I’m not tortured by them day-to-day; it’s an important distinction.
Visually, I mostly collaborate with my husband Isaac, which is my greatest joy. He’s one room away as I’m sobbing through ideas. By the time they’re complete, he usually knows how to bring them to life.
‘Can’t Find A Way’ and ‘Asleep’ are particularly heartbreaking and necessary acknowledgements of the loss that ultimately sparks growth. The string arrangements of these tracks soar with that sentiment. Can you talk a bit about your connection to orchestral scoring/instrumentation?
Strings have a way of twisting the knife. It feels like cheating to add them to songs that are already emotional, but sometimes it’s exactly what’s needed. I grew up playing the violin and listening to Motown and pop from the 60s and 70s, so a lot of what I draw from comes from those eras. Those devastating strings in ‘Without You’ by Harry Nilsson were particularly influential on ‘Can’t Find A Way’. My friend Ari Balouzian, who produced this album, is an excellent string player and we recorded a lot of the arrangements live together.
In ‘The Balance’ and ‘My Own Time’, there are declarative moments that evoke a sense of speaking to the universe, yet also to the listener in intimate privacy; these relations are underlined by the shared humanity of existence which comes through in ‘Under The Moon’. Do you find it challenging to navigate the vulnerability of your craft and the knowledge that it will be experienced by the public?
The longer I’m alive, the more I realize how deeply normal all of my feelings are. Insecurity, jealousy, abandonment—so unoriginal! Embracing this has made me more confident in sharing these emotions in music. I’m not as concerned as I used to be with how they reflect on me personally, because I know there’s some universality to it all.
Do you mind sharing which track you feel personally and emotionally closest to, and why?
‘Bomb Shelter Comatose’ hits the hardest. It’s about when things are “good enough,” and how that state can define the way we live our lives. I feel particularly susceptible to accepting the status quo and it freaks me out. I’m constantly fighting off the scarcity mindset that leads me to accepting the bird in the hand.
One last question for fun: if you could score a film from the past, which one would you pick and why?
Fargo is one of my favorites. The balance of complicated characters, humour, darkness, and absurdity together really does it for me. I’d love to soundtrack that movie in the way that Aimee Mann’s songs are the musical bed for Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia, another film I adore. That would be a dream.
With the exhilarating launch of Newfound Oxygen, what’s next for Steady Holiday/Dre?
I’m working on making the live show more dynamic to be more than a straightforward concert. I don’t know what that means just yet, but that’s the intention! I’d also like to make an album that is distinctly rhythm-based from start to finish, which is something I haven’t done before. I’m active on Instagram, so that’s the place to stay updated with whatever these things end up being.