From the Scranton Pennsylvania Hill Section to the Hollywood Hills….

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Hollywood Hills, Scranton Hillsection

I went  into college not giving it much thought-my future I mean. My dad was adamant about me getting a college degree. Him and my mom were working middle class people born and raised in Scranton, Pennsylvania. They worked their asses off to help give me and my sister a college  education. Dad suggested I become a teacher.  I remember a lot of kids  going to school to become teachers because they would get the  summers off. I guess that was reason enough for me too. I said ok. As long as  I could move away from Scranton and be on my own I would have done anything really.  I wasn’t a complete rebel or “punk” at that stage really-I did what I was told, went through the motions  and got good grades. I just really didn’t  care about anything enough to  give it too much thought or get stressed  or upset about it.  Soon enough though I really started disliking people telling me what I should or shouldn’t do and who or what I should be. How did they know? I didn’t even know– so I’m pretty sure THEY didn’t really know what was best for me.  Looking back now  I guess I could call it  intuition— an inner knowing that my path wasn’t going to be very similar to  everyone else’s. I was right.

I always loved singing and playing the piano and by the time I left high school I could play  every broadway show tune you could think of. I was a pretty goofy kid. I loved being the center of attention. I liked entertaining and making people laugh and I was definitely always up for a party. One weekend during my early college days I ended up trying out to be  the singer of a cover band in Scranton called Tin Pan Alley (oddly enough I would end up rehearsing  in the real TIN PAN ALLEY in London a few years later with my band Love Zombies …the same place The Sex Pistols and other legendary punks rehearsed and  started the famous British punk scene).

( Tin Pan Alley, Denmark Street- London, England)

I didn’t  actually get the gig but it was a life changing moment. Up until then I never had an “A-ha” moment.  I always enjoyed singing and playing instruments but  it wasn’t until I was standing in that basement in the hill section of Scranton, PA  with a  microphone in my hand , the room at my command  and my voice blasting for the first time out of those amps with a loud rock n’ roll  band behind me  that my life changed. It was the drug of being on stage and I was hooked.  I knew right then  what made me feel alive. I knew right  then what I wanted to be. I knew right then what was  worth fighting for- (and believe me I fought ) and since that day I have never turned back.

What I DIDN’T know right then…was how much of a ball ache ( a rewarding ball ache ) it would be!! I made dozens and dozens of calls inquiring about any kind of singing audition posted on the internet -just ask my roomate- she got so tired of hearing it she started wearing earplugs. You have to remember that at this time  I wasn’t in LA or NYC yet where starting a band wasn’t too hard to do since they are the places you go to  “make it” .  I was still  in Pennsylvania -so  trying to find a cool rock band in Scranton was like trying to find a needle in haystack.

Eventually though I  ended up in a  covers band. So while the other students were out on the weekends getting  shit faced at the keg party or bar  I was there too doing my best impressions of Cindy Lauper, Gwen Stefani,  Avril Lavigne or whoever was hot on the top 40 chart that week. Sure  I did  my fair share of getting sh*t faced too, preparing for the future rock n’ roll school to come. I made pretty good money singing other people’s songs which helped with the bills. Studying the greats would prepare me for my own band -with my own songs- one day.

( Whistles, Scranton PA)

My parents weren’t as excited as me about my new found career choice and after about 10 major changes —and well over a hundred gigs later- I somehow ended up  leaving  school with not only one but two Bachelor degrees—one in History ( I know..History?!) and also one in Radio Broadcasting Communications . My dad could now rest assured that if things didn’t work out with the whole Rockstar  thing I could always guard the dinosaur exhibit in a museum or whatever else you do with a history degree. While all the now university-approved historians  announced their post graduate plans on the last day of class … when it was my turn I proudly announced that I was moving to NYC to become  a Rock star!

( The Library Bar, New York City)

Fast forward  through countless bartending and waitressing shifts, shitty dumpy apartments and random roommates, many moments of fear, insecurity , loneliness,  depression,  emotional turmoil,  failed relationships, brutally cold winters, ex band mates, empty pockets, self doubt, ( the whole “who the fu*k do you really think you are -your not good enough”  self talk),   along with a thousand other emotions and experiences  that come with choosing the unpredictable lifestyle  of an artist and that  feeling and inspiration I get when I  step on stage or write a song is still there.

If you would have told me in some of those moments of despair and self doubt that one day not far off  I  will have played at CBGB’s,  recorded with Matt Sorum from Guns N’ Roses, be living in the Hollywood Hills, gone to Rob Zombies birthday party,  had drinks with  Marilyn Manson, Natalie Imbruglia and a bunch of other famous people ,  lived in and toured throughout Europe extensively, toured in Japan , been booked by the same agent who books bands like  Eminem and Coldplay , played sold out shows  in London with my band Love Zombies,  have headlines written about me  in Classic Rock magazine, record my first LZ album with world renowned producer Alain Johannes (No Doubt, Queens of the Stone Age, Chris Cornell Arctic Monkeys),  and my second at Abbey Road Studios in London  -playing  on the same piano that John Lennon played Imagine on? Would I have believed it? … um…er…well …maybe?

Hollywood, California- Me and Matt Sorum from Guns N’ Roses

( Abbey Road, London England- with my band Love Zombies and our fans)

After all I’m just a girl from a very small town. I didn’t know anyone in the music or Entertainment business when I ventured out of the safety, comfort and security of all I had ever known. I had no connections. I had no money. I just followed an unexplainable force that at times really didn’t make sense-and to be honest-it still doesn’t- but it continues to lead the way- and  for better or worse- I listen to it.

With or without the list of worldly “successes” I mentioned—what I have learned is that to me real success is devotion to your own unique  path. It’s  continuing to do whatever it takes to do what inspires you.  Like anything in life nothing’s  really guaranteed. One minute your on top and the next your not. One minute you have lots of money and are living the dream and the next you can be  broke and waiting tables  again. Most artists are kind of like professional gamblers-  we continue to play our hand  with all our heart hoping we get lucky but the chips always  fall  where they may. At the end of the day though I really  believe that everybody is a creator. Maybe not in the musical or arty sense. But we all create choices , we create our life’s experiences and  we create our own playlists and  soundtracks. Years ago I chose to help create the  music for some of those soundtracks and  I found out that it has brightened up some people’s lives. To me it’s  you the listener that makes all of it matter. I  look forward to many more -sometimes hard and ugly – but always worth while experiences along this musical journey . Heres to hoping that you are part of that journey.

If you would like to hear the most recent milestone of that journey click here to listen to my band Love Zombies debut album  Passionfruit.

Thank you for being a listener and making it all matter.

Hollis J

Love Zombies <3

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