A Quick Chat With This Week’s Top Pick for Woman Crush Everyday, Holly Rey
12 Questions is a weekly interview series that celebrates Africa-based female professionals who work in the music, media and entertainment industry. The multi-layered presentation is intended to inspire a bright new generation of young ladies to carve their own paths and overcome common challenges while learning about a few personal experiences from some (notable) professionals in the creative industry.
This week, we had an in-depth conversation with South African singer, songwriter, and award winning recording artist, Holly Rey.
Tell us about your journey and how you started in the industry?
My uncle is a gifted musician and he introduced me to music and playing instruments at an early age. I then went to a boarding school in the Natal Midlands where I took guitar lessons and studied music on the drums, I was also in the school choir and Marimba band.
I left boarding school due to health issues and was approached by Mbongeni Ngema to record an album at KZN Music House. I guess the KZN Music House was my introduction to the Music Industry.
Is there an interesting story behind your name?
Depends on what you call interesting? I was at the KZN Music Imbizo in 2017 and I met a lady who works for a large digital platform.
We were talking and she told me that she is a huge fan of my music and believes the only reason I am not “bigger” than I was at the time was because I went under the name of “Holly” and there are a number of international female indie artists that go under the name of “Holly” so my name makes it difficult for people to find me.
That was quite a wake up call. I chose Rey because it has a happy ring to it and it went perfectly with HOLLY. It’s amazing what the name change has done for me, almost instantly my fanbase on social media started to grow so there was allot of truth in what the sweet lady was telling me.
What does House Music Mean to you?
EVERYTHING! I don’t remember life before House Music. It has changed my life in so many beautiful ways. House Music has taken me places and afforded me experiences I don’t think any other genre of music could ever have offered me as young white South African girl.
I believe I am who I am as a human being because House Music shaped me. The people I have met, the amazing beautiful adventures I have had and the music I have experienced would never have happened if I had not gone on a road trip to Cape Town with my band who listened to House Music from Durban to Cape Town and Back again when I was fourteen years old.
It changed my life. House music is love. In fact one day I am going to write a book or a research paper about the impact of House Music on South African Society.
Thoughts on the current state of State of SA Music in the digital age?
The whole world is watching us at the moment. We need to thank the legends like Black Coffee, Shimza, Micasa, Mafikizolo and so many more for how they have put the spot light on South African House Music and they do it so generously, especially Black Coffee, that guy is superhuman. The world is ours because they have paved the way.
From a constructive point of view, we need to do allot more to open up the industry. The industry is a very tight, well guarded closed circle and just when you think it’s opening up you see the same people coming together to close the ranks and defend their space against intruders. It’s sad really. The industry is big enough for everyone. I cannot wait for the day when the word “Blocking” is not a part of our industry vocab.
We need to share the information on how to be a successful independent artist and how to get your music onto digital platforms that pay artists, we need to help young artists understand how the economy of music works so that more young people can be empowered to build viable careers for themselves.
Did you have a bitter experience not being taken seriously as a women in the industry?
I am not a bitter person so I can’t say that they were bitter, they were lessons on how to navigate my way as an independent female artist.
I learnt very early on that I was going to have to fight for my creative identity as a female artist. Most of our creative work as women in music is with our male counterparts and many producers are very cool super evolved human beings who give you the space to express yourselves and then there are the others.
These days I refuse to fight so I would say I am more selective about who I work with. Collaboration is key. Working on my project the YOU EP was the most beautiful creative experience, I got to work with an incredible mix of male producers who brought out the best in me. I love this project because it was made with so much love and nothing but good vibes and great times.
The biggest challenge faced by women in the industry?
There are not enough platforms provided for up and coming female artists. It is incredibly difficult to break through as a female artists because in most cases the “upcoming” slots are given to male artists.
We don’t want to take those opportunities away from the male artists, it is just that there needs to be greater balance and female artists need to be afforded the same opportunities as men. It is difficult for us to build relationships with the promoters and influencers in the industry because we are not chilling with the boys forming close friendships which result in opportunities.
It’s a difficult dynamic and I don’t know how we will ever overcome it as women but perhaps it is through creating our own opportunities like Shekhinah has done with Rosefest. More corporates need to partner with females in the industry to provide better opportunities and create a balance that allows for the development of women in the industry.
The biggest reward?
From my personal experience in the industry, I am living my best life right now. I get to do what I love every single day with people I absolutely love and adore as friends and team members.
Music is an incredible medium that unites and brings people together in a way that nothing else can. There is no greater reward in life than getting to be on stage, connecting with thousands of people through the power of music. I absolutely love my life in music.
Can you list the Top 4 social media do’s and dont’s for fellow professionals?
- Respond to messages (except the “Hey’s” 😉 )
- Engage with your followers
- You have to be interested to be interesting
- Positivity is contagious so spread it
- Engage in Social Media fights
- Respond to negativity
- Only self promote, promote the things you love too.
- Unless you are genuinely raising awareness about a particular initiative or social issue don’t share pictures of yourself helping others, your just feeding your own ego! People in vulnerable situations do not ask to have their story shared on social media, sharing it can be a form of exploitation. The man upstairs is watching and he knows the good you do, you do not need to post it on social media to get affirmation.
What would you say makes your personal brand unique?
Honesty. I will never do anything that I do not authentically connect with and I believe that being authentic in everything you do makes it easier for people to connect with you. I always do what I feel is right. I do not entertain nonsense on any level.
If someone wrongs me or if I feel that someone or something is wrong for me I will cut them loose or I will not be involved with anything I do not agree with.
Can you pick 3 women that you admire in the industry? Why?
Only three? There are so many!
- Busiswa Because she is Fierce and unapologetically who she is, an inspiration to young women to GET IT!
- Simmy Because she is such a darling person, surrounded by positivity and I love that she is true to herself, I am a huge fan of her music.
- Shekhinah Because she is a force to be reckoned with, exceptionally gifted and I think she is doing great things for women in the industry.
- Moonchild a modern day Lebo Mathosa. I absolutely love her spirit and I am a huge fan of her music.
- Sho Madjozi for owning her space and inspiring an entire generation of young South African women and girls to believe in the power of who they are.
- DJ Zinhle for her grace under fire and her incredible business acumen.
- Nhlanhla Nciza a style icon and incredible musician and perhaps my favorite female artist from a music perspective.
Any advise for female artists wishing to follow in your footsteps?
You do not have to tolerate abuse of any nature. There is no song, gig or opportunity worth being exploited for. Stand your ground, if a situation makes you feel uncomfortable, get out.
A man may retaliate by bullying you through his connections and position as a man, do not rise to it, do not give it credit of any shape or form. Move on and keep creating. Let your work speak for itself. Be gracious, be kind and always leave the door open for other women in the industry.
You can follow Holly Rey on Facebook and Instagram for regular updates about her weekly events and/or to keep track of her activities. You can also watch the visuals to Holly Rey’s most recent offering, entitled “Wanna Be” below, and do feel encouraged to share your thoughts and comments with us about her and/or this discussion further down below.