Now presenting: Holly BB. The Chinese-American audio-visual performer, or “bedroom producer,” once again residing in New York City. She grew up in the city, but where has she been since? For the past three years, she lived nearly 2,800 miles away in the City of Angels, Los Angeles. As an artist, Holly can at least set the record straight for which city has the better club scene. That said, she is a lot more than just a girl returning to her hometown.
Your question might be, “What is Holly BB’s sound?” The biggest hint is the “BB” in “Holly BB,” which she explained stemmed from two things. “The ‘BB’ derived from the Cantonese word for ‘baby’, so I kept it because that was my nickname as a kid.” Holly explained in a moderately crowded Starbucks. The other origin: Frank Ocean’s 2011 song “Holly Baby.” It is the former that suggests an element of her original sound. In 2018, Holly visited Hong Kong, where she obtained old Cantonese CD’s. Since then, Holly began sampling Cantonese pop music from the last century, mixing it in with other audio, such as old records on public archives, or live recordings from the beach.
Holly’s musical journey started as a DJ around 2013, around the time she began attending the American University in our nation’s capital. “I had a radio show at my college station. While I was doing that, I became friends with a lot of producers in DC and they taught me Ableton,” Holly recalled. “I was very insecure about what I made. That was way more closeted bedroom. I didn’t publish anything until a few years ago.”
Holly’s primary focus in school was film, not music, which she continues to explore today. In fact, it was the inciting decision to move across the country. Keeping her career and creative outlet separate is something Holly is adamant about. “I went to LaGuardia High School. I didn’t major in music, I majored in art. I felt like it ruined art for me,” she admitted. “That high school is so rigid, it just ruined art for me. I feel like music, because I didn’t study it in school, I am doing it for fun.” Even her bio on Spotify will read to you, “Just for fun.”
The move to LA presented a different path for Holly. While she may have kept DJing in her back pocket for the sake of fun, she encountered tribulations that tested her perseverance. “The hardest part I encountered was that if you’re an open-format DJ, you’re expected to please the crowd and play what they want to hear, mainstream music, things they listen to on the radio,” she revealed. “When I was DJing on the East Coast, I was playing a bunch of remixes that I like that other people were super into.”
There were other disparities between the “Best” coast and the “Beast” coast. According to Holly, no one is dancing in LA. “I feel like in LA, they’re at a party for Instagram or the aesthetic. In DC or anywhere else on the East Coast, people go because they have a community there, they actually like music and they’re all experiencing it together.” Maybe everyone in LA is so used to being quiet on sets, they just don’t have the energy in them.
Holly isn’t all thumbs down for LA. She still found positive takeaways hidden beneath layers of superficial interactions. “Well besides the weather, everyone is creative. A lot of people are creative in NYC, but everyone’s job in LA is in the entertainment industry, I feel.”
With a global pandemic keeping millions of Americans indoors, Holly’s transition from DJ to “bedroom producer” is one of the most coincidental but necessary changes she has made. She is putting her time as a DJ aside, and embracing a new and evolved version of her art. “It’s funny, now that I am at home I use my bedroom, but in LA it wasn’t technically my bedroom, it was just my apartment. I will use my own equipment and computer. I send stuff to other people to master it, but mostly I do everything on my own, so more like ‘D.I.Y.’.”
Her latest track, “Loaded,” reached listeners on February 28, around the time COVID-19 started sweeping across our planet. And she’s not stopping there: similar to other producers and artists alike, Holly is gearing up to release her next single. “May I” is set to reach Spotify on May 1 — see what she did there?
Holly BB’s next release will be the only marker of time in these blended days-weeks. Until then, cozy up with her latest single, “Loaded,” (below) and remember: stay home and stay safe.