Holly Throsby is a songwriter, musician and novelist from Sydney, Australia. She has released five critically acclaimed solo albums – On Night (2004), Under the Town (2006), A Loud Call (2008), Team (2011), and After a Time (2017) – as well as a collection of original children’s songs (See!, 2010), and an album as part of the band, Seeker Lover Keeper (with Sarah Blasko and Sally Seltmann).
Holly’s debut novel, Goodwood, was published by Allen & Unwin in October 2016. It came in at #7 on ABC’s The Book Club’s Top Ten; and was #3 on Dymocks’ list of the Best Books of 2016. Goodwood has been since been shortlisted for an Indie Book Award, two Australian Book Industry Awards, two Sisters in Crime Davitt Awards, and a Ned Kelly Award.
Holly has been nominated for four ARIAs – including two for Best Female Artist, and one for Best Children’s Album. Her record with Seeker Lover Keeper (Seeker Lover Keeper, Dew Process, 2011) debuted at #3 on the ARIA chart and has since achieved gold accreditation. Holly has toured at home and abroad with artists such as Joanna Newsom, Bill Callahan, Paul Kelly and The Handsome Family. Guests on her albums include Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Mick Turner (Dirty Three) and Mark Kozelek (Sun Kil Moon).
Holly is a council member for the animal protection institute, Voiceless. She likes good books, cryptic crosswords, small towns, and dogs.
Holly Sarah Throsby is the daughter of Margaret Throsby, a radio presenter on Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Classic FM; and John Buttsworth, a psychiatrist and art and furniture dealer. Her uncle, David Throsby is a cultural economist, and her maternal grandmother was a cellist in the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Her older half-brother, Timothy Marc, died in a motorcycle accident in Thailand in 1996. Throsby grew up in Sydney and began studying guitar at the age of 8. She studied classical guitar techniques and began composing from the age of 11. She attended Hunters Hill High School for her secondary education.
Throsby later recalled the death of her brother “I was 17 when [he] died and I had one exam left in my HSC. I went to the exam and did all that stuff because I thought you had to keep on doing that stuff and I didn’t stop… Those things affect you. I think it has made me scared. It made me scared to travel because he died when he was in Bangkok. It made me scared to get on a motorcycle, which I’ve never done. It made me scared when other people travel away from me.” After earning a B.A. degree (major in English) from the University of Sydney, Throsby worked at an art house video store for several years and travelled overseas, including living in Austin, Texas for six months.
During 2003 Throsby recorded her debut album, On Night (11 November 2004), with experimental producer, Tony Dupé, at his cottage on Saddleback Mountain, near Kiama. Throsby provided lead vocals and guitar, additional musicians were Dupé on piano and pump organ, Davey Cotsios on guitar and backing vocals, Abel Cross on bass guitar and double bass, and Joseph Fuse on drums. In Australia it appeared on the indie label, Spunk Records. AllMusic’s Mark Deming described her album of “uncluttered but emotionally resonant songs made a major impact with critics.” Chloe Persing of Woroni felt it was “a collection of quaint and delicate acoustic songs that have a lyrical focus on themes such as loneliness and distance, and have the ability to resonate quite powerfully.”
Throsby toured Australia supporting various musical acts: Bonnie “Prince” Billy (a.k.a. Will Oldham), Joanna Newsom, Bill Callahan/ Smog, M. Ward, Devendra Banhart, Jose Gonzales, Low and The Eels. She toured in the United States, attending SXSW in 2005 and returning for a support tour with David Pajo (Slint, Interpol, Papa M). Throsby also toured Europe, including the United Kingdom, with Micah P. Hinson. In September 2005 Throsby’s cover version of “Not the Girl You Think You Are” was compiled on the various artist’s album, She Will Have Her Way – a tribute to singer-songwriters, and brothers, Tim and Neil Finn. Fellow female singers on the album include Sarah Blasko and Sally Seltmann (as New Buffalo).
In July 2006, Throsby released her second album, Under the Town, it was produced by Dupé again but included a larger group of session musicians. Dupé assisted with piano, bouzouki, clarinet and trumpet; Jens Birchall provided cello and double bass; Rebecca and Samantha Brown (twin sisters) both played violin, Jack Ladder was on bass guitar and Bree van Reyk played drums. It reached the ARIA Albums Chart top 100. It also reached No. 2 on the related Hitseekers Albums chart. The ARIA Report cited her “distinctive, fragile voice” with her “country-folk sound and poignant lyrics regarding all things from howling wolves to coffee pots” which have “struck a chord with music lovers.” Under the Town was lauded by music critics; including the UK press with ratings of 3/5 in Uncut, 4/5 in Mojo, and 8/10 from Drowned in Sound’s Dom Gourlay. At the ARIA Music Awards of 2006 Throsby was nominated for Best Female Artist for the album.
Ed Nimmervoll, an Australian music journalist, declared Under the Town to be his Feature Album for the week of 5 September of that year. He explained that “she’s moving on, growing. What hasn’t changed is the revealing, daring nature of her songs, Holly musing on life and love in a quiet breathless provocative voice, accentuating every word. She’s sensual and fragile. The songs are filled with images and feelings that spill between the songs.” Mess+Noise’s Craig Mathieson opined that “playfulness comes easily, but it’s the unease that lingers” while her “voice has an airy, splintered tone – certain syllables crack under the pressure – and she uses it to move easily between gently plangent pop and formal folk constructs.”
Throsby promoted the album with a national tour, interrupted by a short tour of New Zealand. She described her writing process to Laura MacIntyre of MediaSearch website, “I’ve never had any music lessons, I don’t understand music theory. I make chord shapes, but I really just make things up as I go along … I have ideas for a song, a song can start from one word, one image … Melodies seem to pop out of thin air often, as if the song is already written, the melodies just seem to come. It’s almost involuntary.”
Throsby’s third album, A Loud Call (July 2008), was produced in Nashville by Mark Nevers (Lambchop, Andrew Bird) with string and horn arrangements recorded in Kangaroo Valley (near Kiama) by Dupé. It includes guest vocals by Bonnie “Prince” Billy and guest musicians from Lambchop and Silver Jews. A Loud Call was hailed by the Australian and the British press as Throsby’s strongest work. Joel Bryant of Same Same website praised its “instrumental depth, a notable departure from the bareness of her previous albums.” Daily Mirror’s Gavin Martin described Throsby as “sylph-like” and that “Pumping up the volume is not in [her] game plan” on her “alluring album” as she “knows decibels aren’t needed to capture emotional wonders.” Mark Deming of AllMusic felt she was “able to sound fragile and strong at the same time; there’s a wary vulnerability in her breathy vocals, but the emotional power of her music is enough to persuade anyone that this is someone who possesses a firm will when she needs it.”
A Loud Call peaked at No. 34 on the ARIA Albums Chart – her highest placement as a solo artist. At the ARIA Music Awards of 2008 it provided her second nomination as Best Female Artist. Throsby toured extensively in Australia, as well as tours in Europe with Paul Kelly, The Handsome Family, and The Tallest Man on Earth – who covered Throsby’s track, “To Begin With”, at his subsequent live shows. Throsby played at the St Jerome’s Laneway, and Splendour in the Grass festivals in 2007 and 2009.
In October 2010 Throsby released an album of original children’s songs, See!.Billed as an alternative “black sheep” children’s album, See! was recorded in January of that year with guest cameos by Darren Hanlon, J. Walker, Jack Ladder and, her mother, Margaret Throsby. It was released through ABC Music. Throsby and her band, The Hello Tigers – with Bree van Reyk on drums and percussion and Jens Birchall on cello, bass and mandolin – have performed the album as a live show at festivals in the Australian state capitals.
Throsby told Darren Levin of Mess+Noise, “I thought it’d be fun to make one for friends who had kids… hanging out with them, and babysitting them, and driving around in the car listening to this children’s music that just made me want to stab my ears out… I thought it’d be a nice idea to make an album that wasn’t like warbling ‘Itsy Bitsy Spider’ over a really bad background.” At the ARIA Music Awards of 2011 she was nominated for an ARIA Award for Best Children’s Album for See!.
In February 2011 Throsby released her fifth solo album, Team, which peaked in the ARIA Albums Chart top 50. It was recorded in a 19th-century church in Wildes Meadow with Dupé producing. Team received four-star reviews in the Australian and British press and was lauded as her most experimental album, eschewing traditional song structure for layered, intersecting vocals expressing varying points of view around the subject of a relationship breakdown. Chris Trout of Drowned in Sound found she was “a brilliant writer of melodies, even when shackled to a trad blueprint” where “the lyrics are affecting because the imagery Throsby employs is neither too personal and specific… nor too self-consciously ‘poetic’… to communicate much to the listener except that she is in the presence of a Good Writer.”
Throsby’s debut novel, Goodwood, was published by Allen & Unwin on 28 September 2016.
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