McNarland doing things her own way now

Holly McNarland -
Holly McNarland
— image credit:

These days, Holly McNarland has no shackles to the music industry and is free to make music when she wants, how she wants and with whom she wants.

And on July 5, what she wants is to share her music in an intimate Cobble Hill setting.

The Juno Award-winning singer-songwriter with the unique whisper-to-a-scream voice released her first independent album, Run Body Run, two years ago, and she's sharing that new music in an acoustic tour.

Run Body Run is the result of more than a year's work, in and out of the studio. For McNarland, it represents a move to become closer to her fans.

"When I was with a label, I felt very far from and separated from my fans outside of playing shows," she said. "Now there's no separation—I'm not using an agent, a manager, or a record label. I'm going to my fans directly for support via social networking, and it's been amazing.

"Seeing how much people will back something up when they truly believe in it and feel connected has made me want to be a part of the music world again."

Since moving back to Toronto with her family, the mother of two, who has a Juno Award and gold and platinum albums under her belt, has been writing for other artists, as well as composing her own songs.

Through her son's school, she met other musician parents and began getting encouragement to put together a new band. She booked a show in Toronto, and it sold out.

"I hadn't played in a band in four years," she said. "It was a really good feeling to come back to that."

The title track on Run Body Run was inspired by McNarland's daughter, who was three years old when she wrote the song.

"Hearing her tell herself that she can do anything is really inspiring — like she can do anything with words," she said.

"It took me a long time to make this record and I'm really close to the songs — I had five years of songwriting to choose from, so I took my time and chose all of my favourites. The songs on this album kind of bridge the gap for me as a songwriter, between the country I grew up singing with my mom, and the rock my voice leans towards."

McNarland first burst on the music scene with her 1995 independent EP, Sour Pie, and her 1997 major label debut, Stuff, which was certified platinum and featured the hit single "Numb."

She won a Juno for Best New Solo Artist in 1998 and toured all across North America, performing for thousands.

Home Is Where My Feet Are came out in 2002, followed four years later by the acoustic EP titled The Komrade Sessions, a recording McNarland says she did "Dogma-style and just for me."

Chin Up Buttercup was released in 2007, featuring stand-out tracks "Sad Songs, "Dry As A Bone," and "Every Single Time."

Outside of her pop/rock career, McNarland also acknowledged and embraced her Métis roots, performing at some of Canada's most important Aboriginal events. She headlined the 2004 National Aboriginal Achievement Awards in Calgary and was highlighted, alongside Buffy Sainte-Marie, at the 2008 Celebration of Aboriginal Canadian Women.

Now, between parenting, McNarland writes whenever the mood strikes, triggered by things around her —people, places, film and other media.

"I love the way things have changed," she says. "I don't want to be signed. I like calling the shots, and I'm not really comfortable being told what to do, what to wear, what I can and can't say in the press. I have a book of passwords that connect me directly to my fans. It's a pretty great place to sit."

McNarland performs at the Cobblestone Inn at 8 p.m. with special guest Nicola Linde. Tickets are $20 in advance, and doors open at 7 p.m. Advance tickets are available at the Cobblestone Inn or online at www.ticketzone.com.

To learn more about McNarland, visit www.hollymcnarland.net.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.