“We're in Kansas,” explains a surprisingly exuberant Holly Golightly over the phone in her bewitching British accent. “There's not really a lot of anything around here. There's a lot of corn.”
I can't help but forgive her, or at least understand the situation. This is the third time in a little more than 15 minutes that she and I have exchanged pleasantries before I start back in with my interview. We've been cut off in mid-answer due to what I imagine is wholly inadequate cell-phone technology in the midst of endless miles of cornfields.
But Golightly (yes, that's her real name) isn't complaining. In fact, it's in these kinds of seemingly unremarkable settings where she's feeling most at home these days. She's sung about them for years, and at the end of her current tour, she'll be moving into her new house in rural north Georgia. Judging by her description, she's soon to be in the thick of country life.
“We had to dig another well, and on the second try we finally struck water. It hasn't been plain sailing, really. Uh, we do have an outhouse.”
It's seems only appropriate that Golightly—after 18 albums, multiple bands and what she reckons to be six figures in terms of tour miles logged—has finally found a place to call home. Over the years, she's become a bit of an indie-rock Dusty Springfield, mixing R&B, blues and country into a rhythmic pastiche that has garnered her a cult-following that includes big names like Jim Jarmusch, Mudhoney, The White Stripes and Rocket from the Crypt (the latter three tapping her to perform on their records).
As it happens, she's had a few opportunities to sell out, but Golightly has always quietly demurred. And while she may never create that breakthrough album that makes her a household name (even though, by literary default, her name already is), she can certainly rest on the fact that what success she has found has been on her own terms. “I don't know how to write songs, really,” she says humbly. “I'm not really that gifted or technically advanced, and I do something very simple that has a nice familiar formula. I suppose if people continue to like that, I'll keep doing it.”
She learned this persistence growing up in a household with two artist parents in an English village just outside of Rye in East Sussex. She joined the all-girl garage band Thee Headcoatees in 1991, which served ostensibly as an all-female version of legendary Brit garage group Thee Headcoats. Golightly could be seen as the Joan Jett (when she was with The Runaways) of the group—the one who wasn't easily noticeable but was quietly planning to do her own thing. And since 1995, Golightly has been doing just that, releasing a steady stream of records with varying bands and collaborators, all while becoming an indier-than-thou sex symbol in the process (when the 40-something is asked about it, I imagine her blushing as she flusters and says, “I can sort of understand it 20 years ago when I was freaking out in a bikini, but I certainly haven't done that for a long time. I don't want to pull my back out”).
Her new country-tinged record—the appropriately titled Dirt Don't Hurt, her second working as a duo with longtime band-mate Lawyer Dave—plays out much like a tribute to the simple life she once had and now craves. With heartbreaking laments and boot-stomping, barn-burning songs about God, chickens and guns, I can easily see her humming the tunes on a porch while contemplating plans for her new place—you know, the basics like, in her words, “moonshining, recording studio, miniature animal ranching, illegal architecture and founding the one true church.”
“When we build the church, they will come,” she boasts, “but there's a lot of competition. We'll have to offer something that the others aren't.”
“Drugs,” exclaims Dave, who will be living at the farm as well.
“Yeah, drugs, probably,” says Golightly.
Not surprising coming from a duo who harmonize on their new album, “I'm getting high for Jesus cause he got so low for me.” The neighbors may come indeed, or they might run the duo out of town, pitchforks in hand, after arriving in their Sunday best to find a dainty Englishwoman singing “Devil Do” from the pulpit (sample lyric: “Well, you can dunk me in the river gonna clean my sin / But you might as well dunk me in a bucket of gin / Ain't nobody gonna love you like the devil do”).
“Well, we'll do a bit of snake handling as well,” laughs Golightly. “But that's just really to stop the domestic animals getting killed by them. But we don't do that at tea time—you know, chuck snakes around the living room.”
“Well, at least there's a method to the madness,” I say, feeding off the playfulness of the statement.Golightly responds, some mischievousness in her disarming laugh, “Well, just a little bit.” Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs play with Bartender's Bible, Delaney Davidson and Pant Hoots on Monday, Dec. 1, at The Casbah. www.hollygolightly.com.