.KALINDERS MUSIC: Singer songwriter Holly Tzeigon-Whitaker on the rise

Sonoma County-raised and UC Berkeley-educated Holly Tzeigon-Whitaker, who now resides and works in Oakland, has just entered the music scene in a big way. Her latest single, Convenient Hell, which dropped on all streaming platforms last Friday—along with a dreamy, softscape music video on YouTube—is a song that captures the ear and the heart all at once. It’s got a melody one can’t stop humming, and lyrics with impact and story. Tzeigon-Whitaker’s sound is just the right balance of pop and folk, inviting body sway and feel in equal amounts. She’s on the rise, and it’s exciting for music lovers everywhere.

Just before her single was released, East Bay Express (EBX) had a chance to sit down with Tzeigon-Whitaker for conversation on her background, musical inspiration and the adventures behind making the Convenient Hell music video. 

EBX: What’s your background? Is it musical?

Holly Tzeigon-Whitaker: Not really—I have no professional training at all. Completely self taught. It started for me really as a hobby when I was gifted a guitar as a teenager. “Moody Elliot Smith covers in my bathroom” type vibes. I was always obsessed with music and wanting to go to shows, but I was very shy about it and played really for myself. Then one night in college at a music and story talent show at a UC Berkeley COOP, I sang on a mic for the first time and it felt really good. I thought, “This is cool…I think I’m into this….” The rest is sort of history.

EBX: When did you write your first song?

HTW: I wrote my first song four years ago—I can’t actually remember what it’s called right now! I started sharing my music more on my social accounts, and as time went on I reconnected with a friend from high school who played bass and wanted to jam. I thought we would just be jamming covers, but he wanted to play my songs! I really respected him as a musician, so that he wanted to play my work was really validating. He took me by the shoulders and told me I was a songwriter. We ended up starting a band, and that’s how Kalinders was born. 

EBX: What is Kalinders? What does that mean? 

HTW: So I literally looked at my calendar one day and found myself thinking about the passage of time, and how songwriting marks that passage. How it’s a snapshot so specific to a time, that then grows and changes as you play it and play it. And the spelling was a play on Kali, the goddess of chaos. Time, chaos—it felt right.

EBX: Do you feel your time in Sonoma County inspired your work?

HTW: Early on, I was living in Sebastopol, working on a goat farm, and you know, I kind of grew up on ’90s country. That and the landscape of Sonoma County really influenced my sound, but it’s changed a lot since I’ve moved back to Oakland. My mom loved classic rock—there was an era that was only Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Fleetwood Mac in her car. So there’s that influence too. There’s a backbone of wanting to write songs that feel classic and timeless. I want to make music that’s harder to place. 

EBX: Are you planning to pursue music full time? 

HTW: That is the goal and definitely the approach I’m taking with this release. I have another single coming out in early June and studio dates booked with Maryam Qudus Comment endto track an EP later in the year. The goal is definitely to do this full time—I’ve really been approaching the release of these two singles as my opportunity to get signed to a record label. Covid has made things very stop and go, which has been an incredible opportunity for introspection, but now things are really taking off again. It could take some time to get to a place where I feel like I can do it full time, but that’s definitely the goal. 

EBX: On your website, you talk about an experience of intense solitude in 2019. Can you tell me about that?  

HTW: Yes—this was when I was living in Sebastopol. I’d recently come back to CA after time in New Orleans and a lot of traveling, and it was really difficult to put down roots—I felt really exhausted and sick of struggling, and suddenly this amazing in-law unit on my ex’s property in Sebastopol arose, and it felt like the best option. I  was working on a farm in Petaluma at the time also, so I just spent a lot of time alone. It was so magical and healing in so many ways, and also really challenging. It created this incredible womb-like space to start writing. At that time in my life, I really hadn’t found my own voice, sound, look, etc. And of course, it’s still a major amalgam of so many creative voices and influences, but that solitude was a very clarifying, potent time. I found more of myself. 

EBX: How did Convenient Hell come about?

HTW: I wrote this song in fall of 2019—I was living back in Oakland, and a lover of mine was struggling with the fact that he was addicted to smoking weed. And it’s such a strange thing—substance abuse is always so hard, but especially with weed, which is so normalized, he was really struggling to take it seriously. I had just gotten into Dolly Parton’s America and was really reflecting on how much she embodies other people’s experiences; it’s such a tricky thing to do, but I started to truly try to empathize with him, consider the temptations, consider the pitfalls and challenges that an addict confronts. He would talk about how there was a dispensary on every corner, and how hard it was to resist temptation over and over again in such a short span of time. So it was an amalgam of those things. And when I write it’s very stream of consciousness—it’s what’s pouring out of me. I wrote the melody on the keys, thinking about some of the pop songs that are about really dark things, and what came out felt right, like it mirrored the subject matter, making something so enticing and alluring that’s actually dark, and hard and challenging. That’s the sweetness of the tune and the intensity of the lyrics. 

EBX: Tell us about making the video.

HTW: I made this with my friend, Aidan Jung, who is a director of photography. I had this vision to film it on a ferris wheel, and once I shared it with him, we really couldn’t shake it. We couldn’t find a ferris wheel anywhere closer than the Santa Monica Pier, so we drove to LA and stopped at the Madonna Motel as an additional location perk. We literally started talking about the premise of the video on the drive down. It was so on the fly, and we had so little time, but it was an epic adventure and road trip—Adian was so down, and is such a fun person to work with. The whole shoot literally happened over the course of 48 hours. We were racing against the setting sun to film on the ferris wheel. I fully sprinted down the boardwalk to catch one ride on the ferris wheel before the sunset—and we got the shot. The whole thing felt really magical. 

Kalinders new single Convenient Hell is available on all streaming platforms, and the video for Convenient Hell can be found on Youtube

A Convenient Hell Single Release Show with For Your Pleasure, Beep Beep Liam and Audrey Claire will be held Sat, Apr 30, 7-11pm, at a private residence; dm @kalindersmusic for address. 

Kalinders and Poppy Patica will have a livestream through the Complex SF Fri, May 6, 6-8pm.

Kalinders, Mac Cornish & Ha Vay will play at Amado’s SF Thu, Jun 2, at 7pm. Amado’s SF, 998 Valencia St, San Francisco. $15 advance, $20 at the door.

For more information and updates visit www.kalinders.com 

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