In Conversation With Holly Rolfe

Singer/songwriter Holly studies at Leeds Conservatoire and is looking forward to the release on 26 January of her song, Words Ain’t Enough, followed by the video on 2 February. We thought we’d find out more…..

Is the Conservatoire your only link with Leeds?

“I moved to Leeds in September 2022, the only reason being to study at the Conservatoire. Back then, I would have said the Conservatoire was my only connection to Leeds. However, now I feel quite different. In 2023, I started busking in Leeds City Centre (and other places such as York and Harrogate). I then went on to play at HMV Leeds to support the launch of my CDs being in store as well as frequent gigs at Pizza Express.

I started 2024 playing at Hyde Park Book Club and I have some really exciting venues booked in for this year, too. Having the opportunity to busk and gig in Leeds is beyond amazing as I truly feel like I am connecting to the City more and more each day. My goal is to explore the music scene here as much as I can to connect with Leeds as much as possible.”
Tell me when you first realised you could sing.

“Ever since I can remember I have always sang – despite what it sounded like. My mother realised there was a special connection with music during my Y6 performance with my friends singing ‘The Cup Song’ by Anna Kendrick. I had prepared it with them during our lunch breaks and even added harmonies on top, only because in my brain it worked and sounded pretty – without me actually realising what a harmony was as I was only 10! From then onwards, I began singing lessons and haven’t stopped.”

What was the point at which you knew you wanted to make a career from singing?

“When I began busking at 14, I realised I could do more than just sing in my bedroom – I could get my name out there, gain more experience and make money with it. This was a game changer because my mindset shifted and I began to look at music more than just a hobby but a career that I could really delve into.” 

What about songwriting? 
“I studied music GCSE in secondary school, where I wrote songs for my performances, but it wasn’t until COVID that I sat down and started writing songs with the intention of them being released onto streaming platforms. Despite the horrible situation the virus put us all in, I wanted to make the most of the time I had alone to develop my skills and really put my attention on songwriting.” 

Currently, you’re self-promoting.  Do you have access to local venues for live performance?

“Yes, I started busking up in Leeds last year going onto playing at HMV and Pizza Express. However, my goal this year is to play more venues where I can just perform my own material. For example, the first Saturday of this year I supported the incredible Isaac Malibu with his headline show, playing my own music which was terrifying but such an incredible experience. I have other gigs booked at The Domino Club and Headrow House, where I can really promote my own material live.”

You’ve chosen a challenging world.  How are you preparing yourself for that?  Do you have a range of support?

“I am so incredibly lucky to have the most supportive family and friends. The majority of the time, I believe I am never going to make it and all this is for nothing, but they remind me each day to keep pushing and make the most of it whilst I can. Studying at the Conservatoire really motivates me as I am surrounded by hundreds of incredible musicians who are constantly reminding me of why I love this industry.” 

Describe your inspiration.

“I take a lot of inspiration from Musical Theatre by the way music is written, with intricate harmonies which can be heard in my previous EP. We study many different styles and composers, so I have noticed the more I study the more I can develop my own sound. Pop is my biggest influence and has been since I can remember, specific artists being Mimi Webb, Belleh Mae, and Lauren Spencer Smith.” 

What’s your next step?

“My next step is to keep on promoting my new single ‘Words Ain’t Enough’ whilst getting straight back into the studio to work on my other songs, which will hopefully be released this year, too. My goal is to support more incredible artists around Leeds on their headline shows and to keep on writing as much as I can.”

Words Ain’t Enough – Reviewed below by Shania Liza Gaddu:

Holly Rolfe is a singer based in Leeds. She has recently released her preview for her new song ‘Words Ain’t Enough’. She started singing when she was 14, busking on the streets, and has now come as far as releasing her own music on platforms such as Spotify and Soundcloud.

Holly’s voice is superb in the video. I have listened to a couple of her other songs, too, and for someone so young and new to the scene, she is clearly a talented vocalist and lyricist. Her songs are about relationships and the struggles within them and they come across really heartfelt. She reminds me of Holly Humberstone – they both have the same catchy lyrics and are similar in sound, style and in the topic of relationships and heartbreak.

The video explores the doubts that surface in a relationship as a result of jealousy and mistrust. As someone who has also found myself ‘question[ing] what’s right between my head and my heart’ when someone has given me 10,000 reasons to leave them, the song captures the bittersweetness of loving someone and knowing they’re not right for you, a feeling I know a lot of people will have had the displeasure of experiencing, as well as trying to figure out which is the best way to navigate an already unpleasant and difficult situation. Holly’s connection with the rest of us is real.

The dancers deserve a special mention: they work so well together and through emotive movement, further emphasised the message of how something can seem so right on the outside, but once the cracks start to show, Words Ain’t Enough to stop those pesky, doubtful thoughts from arising.

Photographs provided by Holly Rolfe.


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