As is so often the way in the digital age, it was the internet that gave London songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Holly Henderson her big break. In 2017, she posted a cover of Bowie’s Lazarus on Instagram, and it quickly caught the ear of LA session guitarist and YouTube star Pete Thorn (Chris Cornell, Melissa Etheridge et al), ultimately leading to the release of her debut long-player, Monday Green. Produced by Thorn – and also the inaugural release for groovy NY/Tokyo-based label, Trend & Chaos – the ten-track album is an earthy indie rock belter through and through, with a tightly layered production and arrangement style that serves as the perfect platform for Holly’s voice.
However, there’s a more delicate side to the 23 year-old’s music, too, as this exclusive video performance of her upcoming single, Back After Sunrise, and its accompanying behind-the-scenes video, reveal. Paring back to acoustic guitar and vocals, Holly’s masterful, understated delivery showcase her exceptional talent for imparting the emotional content of a song.
For the session, we recorded Holly at Castle Gibson’s MC Motors, a stunning East London warehouse with an evocative post-industrial atmosphere. Our initial assessment of the room’s quirky natural ambience turned out to be optimistic, as the character of the reverb just wasn’t particularly appealing. After a bit of playing around with microphone placement, we abandoned the idea of using AKG C414 room mics, and opted for an sE Electronics Z5600a tube condenser mic on the guitar in parallel with the DI signal, and a Shure SM58 dynamic mic for the vocal (and whistling). The z5600a – chosen because it complimented the DI surprisingly well – was angled towards the guitar in such a way as to minimise spill from the vocal and room without compromising the natural sound of the instrument. The SM58, on the other hand, is known for its strong rejection, making it the ideal choice of vocal mic, being all but entirely deaf to spill from the guitar.
Both mics and the DI were connected to a Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 audio interface, which in turn fed into Logic Pro X on a MacBook Pro. The reason we brought the Scarlett 18i8 to the session rather than a smaller interface, was that its four mic preamps would have provided all the inputs needed to capture the guitar, vocal and room – so, obviously, it was more than sufficient for our simpler two-mic setup. With its testing dynamic sensitivity, ’Back After Sunrise’ makes for ideal source material through which to appreciate the 18i8’s superb preamps, featuring integrated Air high-frequency enhancement circuit, and class leading 24-bit/192kHz converters.
With the mics set up, the awkward room ambience taken out of the equation as much as possible, and all input gains set correctly on the Scarlett 18i8, the actual recording process was plain sailing, thanks to the simplicity of the setup and the exceptionally mic-friendly sound of Hollys voice.