Holly Auna started as a small-town girl who grew up on a farm in Southern Indiana learning how to play her guitar around campfires before playing hundreds of shows at venues all around Louisville, KY area. Over the last 10 years, she has traveled back and forth between Nashville and New York City writing music and playing shows. At the age of 19, she signed a deal with the Disney Network where they featured her original music on the Disney Stars YouTube Channel. In the summer of 2019, she went on her first tour, The Test Drive Tour, with Americana artist, Joshua Hunt, hitting many cities along the east coast. Her second tour, “The Spring Fling Tour” scheduled to hit many cities across the Southeast, was recently canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Growing up in a small town in Southern Indiana, what music did your family listen to?
Just like the Garth Brooks song says, I grew up listening to a “worn out tape of Chris LeDoux.” I grew up riding horses, going to rodeos and camping and I loved listening to an old cassette tape of Chris LeDoux that my dad had in his flatbed truck. As I got a little older I joined a classic rock cover band and began listening to more classic rock and 60s-70s singer/songwriter folk music. Early 2000s country also had a big impact on my life.
Having your songwriter dad’s support your choice of a music career. How did those first guitar lessons at age 14 build the foundation for your music?
My dad isn’t a songwriter, but he has always supported my music — both of my parents have. They took me to 100s of guitar lessons and helped me set up for 100s of gigs. They started taking me to Nashville for shows and co-writes when I was just 16. I couldn’t have done this without them.
Genre bending Nashville artist. In what ways does your music bend the genres?
I’ve taken to calling myself a genre-bending artist because everyone seems to have a different opinion on what genre my music is. I recently did a post about my new single “Water” asking my followers what genre they think it is. Here are the answers I got: indie-country-post-alternative-rock with a dash of singer/songwriter, soul, blues, Americana, Pop Rock, Pop Country, Country, Easy Listening, Country with a hint of pop, and one comment in all caps just read ALL OF THEM, ALL THE GENRES. I laugh to myself and say that I don’t care what genre people call my music, I’m just glad they’re calling it something.
Yes, I did, all of these song cuts were written with the artist and for the artist. I love writing for other Nashville artists. I love going into a writers’ room with an artist and finding out what kind of song they’re looking for and helping them write it.
“Water”, the first single off your upcoming record. Was the song (co-written with Lydia Dall and John Townsend) inspired by a personal experience or more a generalized response to the feeling of drowning under the weight of the loss of someone you love?
Songwriting is strange, sometimes we express things in unconventional ways. To anyone reading this who hasn’t heard the song, “Water” is about loving someone so much that you know you’ll wait forever for them, even when you know they aren’t coming back.
I wrote this song about my boyfriend, not because he had ever abandoned me, but because for the first time in my life, I understood loving someone so much that you would wait for them, no matter how long it took. It was actually a unique experience for me to show a breakup song to someone I’m dating and say, “Hey I wrote this about you!” Luckily, he’s a songwriter as well and understands the obscurity that sometimes comes with putting our feelings into art and said it was “very sweet!”
What can fans expect from “Queen of the Concrete”, your first full band record that you’ve been working on the past couple of years?
I cannot explain how excited I am about this record. This record maps out the last five years of my life, starting when I lived in New York City. The song “Queen of the Concrete” talks about how I know I should have been so happy living in Manhattan but something was off and I knew I needed to come back to my roots. My favorite line is, “I’d rather feel the grass on my feet, count the stars as I fall asleep than be locked in this castle with nothing that I really need, queen of the concrete.” The rest of the songs on the record take place in the turmoil, tears and joy of my life as I moved back to Nashville from New York.
I’m co-producing this project with my bandmates, Dan Kozlowski, Ryan Oetken, John Townsend, and Matthew Foss. These boys are some of my very best friends and I’m so blessed to have them be a part of this project. They’ve worked with me every step of the way from arranging the songs, to playing them around Nashville, to finally taking them into the studio.
The Songwriter Diary. What inspired you to start the weekly artist/songwriter online feature?
The Songwriter Diary feature series is a direct result of quarantine. I miss my songwriter friends. I miss co-writing, playing songwriters’ rounds, and talking about songs with my Nashville friends. This songwriter feature series is a fun weekly way for me to play music with my friends, and each week it helps me and one other artist cross-promote our music so their fans can meet me and my fans can meet them!
You posted on Instagram how grateful you are that we have music to help us through the pandemic. Which songs do you find yourself listening to when times get really tough?
I like putting together playlists for myself of songs that always make me feel good. I don’t mean exclusively happy songs, just songs that hit my heart in just the right way. Genre wise my playlists are all over the place and include artists like: John Mayer, The Band Camino, Five for Fighting, Coldplay, Ed Sheeran, Kenny Chesney, Ingrid Michaelson, Joy Williams, Alter Bridge, Borns, Ariana Grande, Barns Courtney, and Taylor Swift. I have also listened to the Hamilton soundtrack on repeat so many times that my Spotify Daily Mix 2 is exclusively songs from Hamilton. But when things get really tough and I just want to cry, I listen to my favorite song ever, “Front Porch” by Joy Williams and I let myself cry.
Social distance drive-in shows. What do you see being the new ‘norm’ in the music industry until full, in-person concerts are allowed to return?
I have been extremely cautious during quarantine. I have asthma, I’m a singer, and I don’t want to make things harder on our healthcare professionals so I try to take every precaution I can. Last weekend I played my first drive-in show. It was incredible. The cars parked just like a drive-in movie theatre, facing the stage with their windows down. I think that with the right organization this could easily be the future of concerts for the next year.
Rather than drive-in shows, most musicians, myself included, have turned to online shows. I think there will start to be more platforms where musicians can perform online for money because while Instagram/Facebook live is great for connecting with fans, there’s no way to monetize it and substitute the income we’re all missing from not being able to tour.
Self-care during the pandemic, Weight Watchers accountability. What is the best advice they have given you to stay focused on a healthy lifestyle during the quarantine?
For the entire year of 2019, I did Weight Watchers and lost 45lbs. At the beginning of quarantine, I completely dropped the ball. Honestly, with the emotional stress of the world, I didn’t want to be thinking about counting my food at that time. For the first three months of quarantine, I let myself eat whatever I wanted but I made sure I wasn’t overeating and that I was staying active. Somehow, I only gained 3lbs during those three months! I’m back on track now, counting points and remaining active. It’s hard for me not to self-indulge during this time period. But I keep reminding myself that just because everything has stopped doesn’t mean I have to stop. I only use the WW app, I don’t go to the meetings so I’m honestly not sure what their advice has been to WW members during this time.
Holly Auna on TikTok
Holly Auna (@hollyauna) on TikTok | 2.6M Likes. 192K Fans. Hello Loves! Singer/Songwriter Giveaway at 200k Follow my…
TikTok. Of all the videos on the site, which has been your favorite?
How do I choose! My favorite TikToker is definitely Adam Rose (@realadamrose) he’s an actor and makes my favorite silly TikTok videos. I don’t think I can choose a favorite TikTok video, but I have to say I don’t know what I would have done during quarantine without my TikTok community. I dove into TikTok last year around Christmas, since then I’ve grown my following to 188k and I actually got verified last week! It’s been a wild experience. I’ve loved watching and making so many ridiculous videos and I absolutely love my sweet supportive followers!
Hamilton the Musical on Disney+. Which other shows have you been watching during the quarantine?
I can’t explain how happy I am that Hamilton is finally somewhere I can watch it whenever I want! Speaking of Disney+, my boyfriend Josh and I recently finished watching every Marvel movie in chronological order — a project we started right before Christmas! I also recently watched The Office for the first time from start to finish. But rather than TV, I listen to a lot of audiobooks. I’ve actually completed the entire Harry Potter series twice since quarantine began. Speaking of books, I’ve also used quarantine to start writing a young adult fantasy novel! I’m hoping to have it finished by the fall!
Besides roller blading, what other outside activities have you been able to do?
In this heat, my main outdoor activity is rollerblading because it creates my own breeze as I skate, but I still find time to walk outside in the evenings.
My favorite outdoor thing I’ve done recently was playing an outdoor drive-in social distanced show at Nashville Craft Distillery with Lockwood Barr and Joshua Hunt! I really hope I get to do more safe social distanced outdoor concerts before the end of 2020.