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Making Indie independent

HOLLY’s debut, “Maps and Lists,” was produced using crowdfunding resources and will drop at a record release party at the Cedar on Sept. 12.
Singer-songwriter HOLLY is returning to the Twin Cities to celebrate the release of her new album.
Image by Photo coutresy of Marie Cameron
Singer-songwriter HOLLY is returning to the Twin Cities to celebrate the release of her new album.

For singer-songwriter HOLLY, becoming independent meant following the crowd.

HOLLY, real name Holly Muñoz, struggled for years as a part-time musician until the recording of her latest album, the alt-country “Maps and Lists,” which she financed through crowdfunding website The campaign raised $50,000 from about 300 donors, which supplied Muñoz with the means to record on her own terms.

“It’s an incredible resource for creatives now,” Muñoz said. “It’s awesome that people can quickly tap into these lines with their fans, friends and family to get direct support.”

The San Francisco-based musician began the campaign for the album in December 2013 after deciding to quit her day job working for the San Francisco Symphony.

“It was a really special experience,” Muñoz said. “The last nine months I’ve been in a vacuum of single-handedly finishing the record, producing the LPs, planning the promotional campaign, planning what the next steps are. It’s all happening. You look back and you’re like, ‘I don’t know how I’ve done all of this.’”

All modesty aside, Muñoz is naturally gifted at fundraising. The Macalester College grad spent the past 10 years working for nonprofits in the Twin Cities before moving to California last year.

“It was a lot for one person to do while making a record,” Muñoz said. “Whenever I wasn’t needed in the studio I’d be on the phone, email, texting people. I went one-by-one asking people to help. I was a professional fundraiser for 10 years before deciding to play music full time, so I had a strong set of skills that’s unusual for musicians.”

Before going solo, Muñoz led Minneapolis three-piece Aviette, who gigged in the Twin Cities and Duluth.

“We had a three-hour set in Dinkytown. They would give us free beer, and I knew six songs. I’m not even kidding. We’d play these six songs over and over again.”

After recording three albums and playing the CMJ festival, Aviette broke up in 2009.

“I think it was very typical of what most bands in the Twin Cities do. Things happen, and it seems like these things are markers of success as an indie band, but the reality is that music is a hobby,” Muñoz said. “I feel like I was always more ambitious. I was like, ‘wait, you guys don’t want to do this full time?’”

This ambition led Muñoz to consider a crowdfunding campaign for “Maps and Lists,” as she approached recording with the thought, “What would happen if I put all of my resources into the promotion of this record, if I actually pursued a career as a musician?”

Things began to click, and she was soon in touch with San Francisco-based musician John Vanderslice, who produced the record.

Everyone — Vanderslice excluded — thought the $50,000 goal was too lofty, Muñoz said, but the producer’s prediction she’d reach that number was right.

“I just have faith that it [was] going to work out. Holly’s smart, I didn’t have any doubt,” Vanderslice said. “I say yes to producing, depending on the band. I didn’t have reservations about [Holly].”

This past summer, Muñoz toured to support the album, and a subsequent tour is booked this fall. Muñoz approached touring in a true-to-form DIY fashion.

“I don’t need to wait if a booking agent wants to represent me,” Muñoz said. “What if I book my own tour in people’s living rooms and backyards, churches and record stores? It actually works.”

In addition to the record release party at the Cedar this Friday, the album will also have celebrations in San Francisco and New York.

Inspiration for “Maps and Lists” came in part from “The End,” a graphic novel from Minneapolis artist Anders Nilsen. The book, Muñoz said, “is about what it’s like to lose a part of oneself.” She immediately wrote the title track as a tribute to her emotional connection with the novel and sought Nilsen to design the album’s cover and gatefold artwork.

“[I thought] I should probably introduce myself to him,” Muñoz said of working with Nilsen. “We became friends, and I finally worked up the courage to say, ‘Hey, there’s this song that I wrote ….’”

Nilsen said Muñoz approached the artwork’s direction the same way she recorded the album, giving him the reins for creativity to flow.

“She [wanted] me to do my thing. She gave me a lot of freedom to go nuts with it,” Nilsen said. “It’s nice working with a friend. I know her, and she’s pretty generous.”

The generosity extended to her supporters, as Muñoz’s campaign has become one of the most successful musical fundraisers in Tilt’s history.

“It was cool to see that there isn’t a right way to put this record out,” Muñoz said. “I think it’s an exciting time for independent artists.”


 What: HOLLY record release party for “Maps and Lists”

When: 8 p.m. Friday

Where: The Cedar Cultural Center, 416 S. Cedar Ave., Minneapolis

Cost: $15–18

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