Hollyn Talks Hip-Hop, Freestyle Battles with TobyMac, & ‘Party in the Hills’
At just 20-years-old singer/songwriter Hollyn is already making a big impact on Christian music. She has collaborated and toured with TobyMac, has done songs with Andy Mineo, Steven Malcolm, Aaron Cole, KB, and Derek Minor, and her latest release One-Way Conversations reached No. 2 on the iTunes Pop Chart.
Hollyn’s record was released on Friday, February 10, and her voice was beaming with excitement. The singer had worked tirelessly for almost two years putting this album together and the release date had finally arrived.
“The full length is really exciting because I feel like it’s a lot more tuned into who I am now and what kind of music I want to make from here on out,” she revealed. “Doing this new record was something really special for my team. We just worked really hard in making sure we loved every song.”
Prior to this, she had released a short EP in 2015 to just showcase who she was and give her a bit of a kickstart on Gotee Records. She was immediately thrust into touring with TobyMac on the Hits Deep Tour which also featured established artists such as Colton Dixon and Britt Nicole. Now she’s touring with Third Day’s Mac Powell, Matt Maher, Mandisa, Ryan Stevenson, and Capital Kings.
This lengthy time on the road is why Hollyn’s project took nearly two years to record. However, during that time she was able to learn and grow and ultimately add to her musical repertoire.
“I put my heart and soul into it so I’m just excited to see other reactions that people have,” she said of the album. “Every song is a circumstance that I’ve gone through in the past year and a half, so getting to relive all those things and all those songs again is just really cool.”
She continued, “Each song on the album has a message. The last song is called ‘Girl’ and there’s a line in that that says ‘What’s next, one step at a time, enjoy the ride’. I think this whole album for me is just saying, ‘Ok, whatever happens, whatever circumstances I go through, it’s ok to take one day at a time and to just pace myself and enjoy where I’m at instead of diving into the next season constantly’. It’s better to take one step at a time and enjoy where you are at with the people you are with.”
Hollyn worked with an extensive team to help create the sounds and music of One-Way Conversations. Some of the names include Bryan Fowler, Dave Luben, Witt, 42 North, Cobra Music Group, Capital Kings, and the team at Gotee Records. The singer also plays guitar and piano as demonstrated on her early YouTube videos. However, her instrument skills did not make it onto the record. She said most of the music was actually created without her being present. Whenever she did have time in the studio, it was to record her vocals.
Speaking of working with Cobra Music Group, Joseph Prielozny asked Hollyn if she’d like to do a collaboration with his 4 Against 5 artist Steven Malcolm. The result was the song “Party in the Hills” featuring Andy Mineo.
“They came to me and said they wanted me on the song. It was super great to be a part of that. It’s a fun and carefree song to dance with your friends and just hang out.”
The song is originally Malcolm’s track but Hollyn asked if she could put it on her record. That is why the track is on both of their albums, and the music video says featuring Hollyn and Andy Mineo instead of featuring Steve Malcolm and Andy Mineo.
“We both were a part of it and I asked if I could use it. If they didn’t give me the permission I wouldn’t have used it,” she explained. I just loved it so much, I wanted to show them some love on my project. I feel like it helps the record a lot and gave it another upbeat track.”
The music video for the song looks like it was a blast to shoot and is filmed on the properties of some pretty impressive mansions.
“The video was so sick,” she exclaimed. We went to LA and shot in the Hollywood Hills in Malibu and got to see some pretty awesome houses and awesome views. Super fun. Those guys are amazing I love their hearts and the purpose of why they do music.”
As mentioned before, Hollyn has also worked with Derek Minor for his song “Change the World.” On her EP, she covered the song “All I Need is You” by Lecrae. Her frequent nods toward hip-hop are what make her more than just a pop singer. She has a certain vocal quality and attitude in her voice, better yet, “authoritative swag,” that makes her a compelling feature for hip-hop. This is most likely due to the fact that she’s a big fan of rap music.
“I’m a huge hip-hop fan. In the Christian world, I really love Andy Mineo. He’s my favorite. Steve Malcolm’s new stuff is super dope too,” she said. “I like Drake, Chance the Rapper, and J Cole. I listen to everybody.”
She continued, “I feel like rap is taking a really religious stance right now. A lot of people displaying their faith. I’m excited to see how that plays into the culture and everything. It’s probably really the only thing I listen to.”
In the future, she’d love to work with KB and Lecrae, but she’s open to anything as long as it makes sense and they share the same vision.
“I feel like sometimes when you just want to get a feature to look cool it might be compromising what you stand for. It depends on the song and artist,” stated Hollyn.
Admittedly, Hollyn is not a rapper but she said it would be fun to try it out on a song someday.
“If someone wanted to feature me or something, I would. I feel like my rap ability is more like singing rapping. It’s not full out ‘gangsta rap’. It has some of that melodic vibe to it,” she said with a laugh.
While on that topic, the semi-serious question of Hollyn squaring off against TobyMac in a rap battle came up.
“I don’t know if I would ever challenge him to a rap battle. He would totally beat me. He is an amazing writer, and I am so glad I got to sit under him and see how he writes and that whole process because I definitely learned a ton from him,” she said. “I guess it would be interesting to see how it went. I’d probably do ok.”
Working with TobyMac has exponentially helped Hollyn’s career. When it comes to success and even being ministry minded, there is no greater story to what TobyMac has been doing since 1987. He has done it all from rap, rock, hip-hop, reggae, pop, and dance, and Hollyn is taking advantage of the wisdom he can impart.
“Toby’s amazing, and working with him and being on the road is like being on the road with one of your best friends. He is in it for you and is with you and wants to know your creative process,” she said. “He has advice and gives it freely and isn’t afraid to say what he thinks but in a humble way and respectful. He’s always leading and guiding you in a direction that maybe you don’t even know you should go. I didn’t know what kind of music I wanted to make. I was really trying to find my own voice and find myself because there were seasons that I’m glad I had him and Gotee directing me.”
She continued, “I was afraid of saying ‘Hey, this is what I want to do’. So being on the road with him has been amazing. His heart is pure and he just loves what he does.”
On the last tour with Toby, Hollyn opened the show and played two tracks. She does appear with Toby on his songs “Lights Shine Bright,” “Backseat Driver,” and “Funky Jesus Music.” On this new leg of the Hits Deep Tour she’ll be doing three songs: “Can’t Live Without,” “Love With Your Life,” and a part of “Alone.”
“In the summer and fall we are really gonna play the heck out of these new songs,” said Hollyn. “It’s just a different environment on Toby tours. We have to play to the audience what they know, so they know the two songs that have been out on the radio.”
As of right now, Hollyn is just “living in the moment” and enjoying the feedback of her new album. Wise beyond her years, she knows that you shouldn’t jump into the next thing too quickly. You have to “savor the moment” or you won’t “appreciate it as much.”
“I’m just sinking this all in right now and on tour with my friends, hanging out and enjoying myself.”
In the late spring and into the summer she will be doing the festival circuit. In July she will be part of the DC Talk cruise and is in talks about her Fall schedule.
“I’m excited to see the doors that’ll be open,” she concluded.
To purchase Hollyn’s One-Way Conversations click here.