Holly Lerski talking about her life in music
Holly Lerski formed Angelou with guitarist Jo Baker in 1996. They recorded their first demo in the winter of that year, which included a cover of the Leonard Cohen song "Hallelujah". Inspired by Jeff Buckley's version, Lerski had been a fan of Buckley's, corresponding with the artist. Local Norwich label Haven Records heard the demo and signed Angelou in the beginning of 1997, scheduling the release of the Hallelujah EP to coincide with a UK summer tour supporting Eddi Reader and Boo Hewerdine. 'Hallelujah' came out a week after Jeff Buckley's untimely death, ending the year on novelist Nick Hornby's 'Best of 97' compilation.
In 1998 Angelou released their first album 'Automiracles'. Now including drummer Phil Di Palma, the album was written by Lerski, and recorded in 10 days by producer Calum MacColl. The album featured guest vocals from Eddi Reader and Boo Hewerdine and received comparisons to The Sundays' debut 'Reading, Writing and Arithmetic'.
Their second album 'While You Were Sleeping', released in 2000, received further acclaim and established Lerski as one of the new crop of up and coming female folk artists. Written and produced by Lerski, and recorded in studio down-time, the album finished with a moving tribute to Jeff Buckley. Lerski went on to contribute this to the Buckley documentary 'Amazing Grace'.
In 2001 Spanish label El Diablo released an Angelou compilation called Midnight Witcheries. Now joined by new drummer Cath Evans and bassist Anne Richardson, this record allowed the band to be heard for the first time throughout Europe. They completed 2 extensive tours of Spain, appearing on national TV and radio. They also went on to release a further EP and 2 videos.
On hearing of their success abroad, UK music independent giant Sanctuary Records offered Lerski a recording and publishing agreement and at the end of 2001 Lerski finally signed a major deal. Angelou were soon off on the road again, this time as a duo touring Scandinavia and Europe with blues legend John Hiatt & The Goners.
On their return from Europe the band went into rehearsals for the third album, staying in a wooden hunting lodge in Derbyshire. Recorded both in Denmark and Manchester throughout 2002, 'Life Is Beautiful' was a much poppier record. It was finally released in 2003 under Lerski's own name. With the launch of the album came lives dates with The Cranberries, Jason Mraz and Josh Rouse, and support from BBC Radio 2 and most notably Wake Up To Wogan producer Paul Walters. There was also news that Lerski's song 'My Love' would be featured in a Hollywood film. It looked like the bands hard work had finally paid off, however it was not to be. In 2004 after disagreements with Sanctuary over lack of promotion for the record, Lerski was forced to leave the label and her songs behind.
In the summer of 2004, tired of the music industry and following a break up, Lerski relocated to Manchester where she began to write new material with the intention of releasing on her own imprint Laundry Label. 'Greetings From N.Y.' was Laundry's first release. Featuring on the cover a hand written postcard to Lerski from Jeff Buckley, 'Greetings' was a 'best of' CD showcasing Lerski and the band's music to date. BBC Radio 2's Wake Up To Wogan once again championed the record and 'More Than A Storm' featured weekly on his show. Starbucks at the time was also featuring tracks from 'Life Is Beautiful' on their in-store compilation.
By 2006, following the news that Sanctuary had been bought out by Universal Music Group, Lerski returned to Norwich to begin a new chapter.