Interview | Malcolm Holcombe – True Americana Man
Malcolm Holcombe is currently bringing his unique style of Appalachian music to the UK on a 13 date tour which takes him to England, Scotland and Wales.
His twelfth full length album, Another Black Hole is out on Gypsy Eyes Music.
He spoke to Jeremy on the Honky Tonk Radio Show ahead of his gig at West End Club in Barry, South Wales on Saturday 14th May
JR: Hello Malcolm, thanks for taking time out to talk to us. How are you doing?
MH: Pretty good, but it’s a little early! It’s lovely to be over here
JR: First off congratulations on the album – its been getting terrific reviews
MH: By the Grace of good God – there are a lot of nice people over here in the UK, they’ve been awful good to my family for many years.
JR: I think I’m right in saying this is your 12th full album and has 10 new songs?
MH: Well, I don’t know if there’s anything new under the sun anymore but if you hang around a barbershop long enough you get a haircut! I’m just scribbling around here. My good friend Jared Tyler from Tulsa, Oklahoma is on it and I’m glad to have him with me (on the tour) – he’s going to be playing some dobro and opening the show as well. He’s a songwriter and also a young scrapper.
JR: He’s been with you for some time now, playing dobro and lap-slide too?
MH: Yes, and he’s a singer, a very gifted young man. We’ve been working together for getting on for 20 years. We’re looking forward to doing some pickin’
JR: Let’s talk about the album – what is the creative process you go through when you start putting a new song together?
MH: I don’t have a method. An old friend of mine, God rest his soul, said: ‘son, if you like to eat corn you gotta get out the hoe’ – you’ve got to make an effort to put the pencil lead on the paper.
JR: Your music is rooted in the Appellation Mountains of North Carolina – and when you are away on tour do you have to take yourself back there in your mind before you go on stage?
MH: No, I just get on my knees and pray, a short little prayer. I don’t drink anymore, so I stick to pineapple juice – its pretty tasty stuff – or have a cup of coffee and a cigarette, and the rest of it is ‘come as it will’.
JR: Your guitar playing style is unique – its your trademark really – tell us how it came to develop?
MH: Well, I listened to a lot of people in the neighbourhood, then I watched people on the television like Flatt & Scruggs and Tony Narata – I loved they way he played without picks using his thumb – and a lots of guys around Nashville. I used to make flat picks out of pieces of Clorox jugs but I kept dropping them, they slipped out of my hand so I just threw away all the picks and just started noodling around. The old Mel Bay Chord Book had pictures of where to put your fingers but after the first page I got a little confused, so I just move the fingers around to find something that’ doesn’t sound too disonnate, It’s a crap shoot, Jeremy! You’ve got to make an effort – suit up and show up, pull up your socks and try to be present in the moment.
JR: You’ve been on this path a long time. When did you actually start playing?
MH: Since I was a young teenager. My story’s not different to lots of other folks, except that some are fortunate in getting an education in music, but I was too …distracted to pursue a formal education. It was a hit & miss kind of thing. But at the end of the day I learned from a lot of good people who put their arm around me and shared their experience, strength and hope with me. They took time to show me stuff on guitar. They are inspirational – the people that take time off their own path to pick you up from the side of the road.
JR: In the past couple of years interest in your music has grown considerably. Does that make performing it any different?
MH: I don’t think about it. All this glitter-glatter and hearsay can be taken with a grain of salt. I just like pickin’ and I love meeting people – everybody’s got a story. I get to see some of this beautiful world, its not a yellow brick road – not all of it – but there are people who laugh and smile and sparkle. I try to be of service to people a little. My lovely wife who has been my companion for 14 years, and our son, instill a positive purpose in me trying to continue on down the road.
Malcolm played to a packed house at the West End Club in Barry on 14th May. It was a wonderful performance that emanated truth,sincerity, grit – and wit “If your dog is telling you what to do and his lips aren’t moving, then don’t do it”
He’s a performer who can tranfix his audience – and a genuinely lovely guy. Catch him if you can.
Malcolm continues his UK tour until 21st May – the details are on his website:-