Inspired by journeys, friends
By Robert Cloud
Holly Maxam has been writing songs since she was 12 years old and composing on an electronic keyboard since age 13.
A 2020 graduate of Waupaca High School, Maxam appeared in the Waupaca County Post in 2019 as she was beginning to produce her music digitally for online release.
In August, she released her first extended play recording, “Miscellanea.”
“My music style has changed,” Maxam said, noting that she is a self-taught producer. “When I first started to make music, I was kind of limited. My music sounds a little different than the stuff I put out before.”
Maxam said she uses Apple Logic Pro, a digital music station that allows her to sample sounds that she incorporates into the instrumental part of her songs.
In “Ropes,” one of the songs featured on her EP recording, Maxam said, “All of the percussion was made by things on my desk like beads in a jar, tapping pens on the table or snapping my fingers.”
She describes how changes in her life inspired “Ropes.”
“Just like the song mentions, around this age, you never really know what’s going on or what to do,” she said. “You can go to all different places, follow around all kinds of people while simultaneously trying to figure out who you even are. It’s a bit of a scary, frustrating guessing game.”
Born in the Philippines, Maxam lived in Washington state before moving to Waupaca.
“I’ve been traveling since I was 2 years old,” she said. “Every time I travel, I grow. It opens your eyes.”
Since graduating from high school, Maxam has lived in London and in Portugal. She worked as a grounds keeper in England and at the front desk at a hostel in Portugal.
“London was a very musical city,” Maxam said. “The people you get to meet are also inspiring.”
While living in London, Maxam went to Belgium to meet a friend for the first time she met on Omegle, an online site that connects strangers at random.
“We ended up getting along so well I went back to see him a second time before flying home,” she wrote in her EP notes. “Naturally, I was pretty sad having to say goodbye to yet another best friend, so I was inspired to write about it.”
A science-fiction novel and film inspired a song that Maxim released earlier this year.
Based on a novel with the same name by Jeff Vandermeer and film directed by Alex Garland and starring Natalie Portman, “Annihilation” depicts of a group of armed scientists who venture into an expanding quarantined zone called The Shimmer.
Inside The Shimmer, living things – plants, animals, people – are radically transformed, annihilated.
“The entire thing is almost like a coded metaphor about self destruction while simultaneously including strange aliens, mutations, suspense and all the other joys of a sci-fi novel,” Maxam said in her notes on the song.
She told the Waupaca County Post she also appreciated the dystopian themes in the story.
The recent pandemic had its own apocalyptic feel to it, Maxam said.
“You get to see a darker side of people when they’re in those types of situations,” she said.
Her song “Annihilation” is also about transcending self-destruction and growing as a person. Some of the lyrics are inspired directly by the film’s images:
I’ll grow with the daisies
I’ll be the clovers.
Others express themes from the film:
The earth is a foreign place
You call it home
But you’re in space
I am an empty house
To live around
To make no sound.
After spending a year to produce her EP, Maxam now plans to focus on promoting her work.
To hear Maxam’s music, go to hollymaxam.com.