Mr. & Mrs. Smith is a one-person band. This is that person. Her name is Hollis Smith – and somehow, the more I learn about her, the bigger of a mystery she becomes.
I know she turns 31 this week, and I know she recently moved back to her hometown in the Florida panhandle to take care of her ailing grandfather. She’s proudly Southern. Rather than try to describe her sound - and as you'll see, Hollis isn't a fan of labeling things anyway - I strongly urge you to check out her music here.
Hollis is also a bisexual who grew up in a conservative church. But I didn't know that when I asked permission to use her music for our movie, which is about a homosexual who grew up in a conservative church. Her gritty song “Even Angels Bite the Dust” will serve the story well … and I also talked Hollis into letting us get to know her a little better.
Thanks for doing this, Hollis. How is your new year so far, my dear?
So far it's probably the best start to a year I've had in ages. I have a new hobby I'm thoroughly enjoyin’ and very excited about the new songs on the album due to release in February. I feel great things to come for 2015.
New hobby - is that the taxidermy thing you mentioned?
I've always been interested in taxidermy and now livin’ back up home, it is very accessible as well as meetin’ a mentor and others willin’ to help me with this new endeavor. My oldest niece gave me an artsy taxidermy book for Christmas which in a way kick started the process. Her boyfriend now gives me "spare parts.” I believe that one should not waste things; this is my way of makin’ use of these lovely creatures.
What was going through your mind when you wrote "Even Angels Bite the Dust?"
Let's just say I was truly put to the test in 2014. Several long friendships I had to end due to how I felt I was being treated. During the time of Angels bite the dust which was spring, had to correct myself, I had to get a five-year injunction against someone whom I thought was my best friend. So basically it just boils down to I don't care who you are, but I care how I'm treated.
Why do you go under the name “Mr. & Mrs. Smith?”
I switched from Hollis to Mr. & Mrs. Smith in 2010 feeling that it better expressed me as a whole person. I don't see gender, nor do I relate to a single gender identity, since a young age - regardless of upbringing and family beliefs. It has made my life harder but I wouldn't want to be any other way. It took years to feel OK in my skin.
The topic (of the film) is kind of a tricky issue for me. I was raised Southern Baptist and had my grandma tellin’ me homosexuals go to hell. If that is the truth she was tellin’ her own granddaughter that she was going to hell. I am bisexual in the truest of forms. The gender of a person means nothin’ to me … it's the person. Yes, I have loved women, Yes, I have loved men – but I as a person do not change from one side to the next.
There is still the lil’ girl in there who went to Bible School twice every summer and loved it and that person in there who still gets teary eyed at church … Now I do consider myself a spiritual/religious person, but due to many factors do not believe in organized religion.
Your website describes your music as "a fiery brand of blues and deep southern noir with experimental plays on sound and song structures, sparse, and haunting." How did your style develop in your head when you were starting out, and how has it evolved?
I suppose when I started out playing which was 15 years ago, I started out writing my own songs. It wasn't until about 2010 when I started doing my own versions/cover songs. Not really sure how I came to the sound that I put out today. It is a never ending journey to stay true to myself and find my sound. I'd say more of "me" comes out sitting at my desk at night playing and writing than any other time. It's always hard for me to describe my music. Though I feel I am getting closer to expressing what I feel is my true genre- raw country type of blues.
What about your lyrics? You're so young, but some of your songs reflect someone who's experienced a lifetime of pain.
Oh gee, like I said on the phone, sometimes I don't feel so young. I started out living and experiencing the adventures of life at 15, travelin’ around the world, livin’ quite a few places. Perhaps I just feel strongly.
Who are your musical inspirations?
Well, first thing that comes to mind is old timers sittin’ on stoops playin’ the blues. Outlaw/old school country, basically any music that gives me goosebumps - that's what inspires me.
Did you have these old-timers in your life as a kid? Relatives, friends of the family, strangers?
Not really. I more so feel like I was once one of these fellas singin’ the blues or a lounge singer in a dark smoky bar, say in the 20's. Not really sure where these feelins come from - I just know I have the blues and growls in my gut.