Stay Terrified:
A Deep, Dark Interview with Reuben Hollebon

Photo by Myriam Santos

Sometimes it seems like deep, dark, emotional songwriting has become a long lost art. But then you slow down for a minute, and take the time to discover artists like Reuben Hollebon, a man who writes songs so intense, they’ll begin to haunt the darkest corners of your emotional world.

The English musician, producer, and engineer is set to release his debut album, Terminal Nostalgia, this May 20, and he just shared the Damian Taylor mix of his song “Faces”, which you can check out below. Hollebon took a break from brooding to speak freely with us about recording, performing, and staying terrified…

We really dig the songs! Tell us about Terminal Nostalgia…where was it recorded? What was the most challenging part of the process?

Reuben Hollebon: Many thanks. The record was formed in a cluster of studios, and livings rooms, whilst I brought it together in my studio in South London. It’s tough to match a vibe between different spaces but I’ve got enough common practices that it feels glued correctly. It took more than one awkward birth to understand how to form the album and my method prevents one track being finished until there’s an understanding of what bookends it.

Your song “Common Table” is about sharing a meal with company. Who – dead or alive – would you most like to dine with, and why?

RH: It comes from that idea, but alludes to sharing everything after life with everyone else, no one need be left out, even those who never were. Personally I’d like to get the cast of Winnie the Pooh drunk and hold the standard dinner time debate, chaired by Tom Waits of course.

You hail from Norfolk…how would you say the landscape of your home turf has influenced your music?

RH: It’s a colour, and an approach. The stillness is quite a phenomenon, owls and harnessers, graveyards so full of history and humans that they come half way up the church door, the level of darkness when away from unnatural light surprises almost every night. There’s an osmosis of any experience.

You’ve worked as a recording engineer for the likes of Paul McCartney, Courtney Barnett and others….have those experiences helped you to shape your own signature sound? In what way?

RH: I’ve not consciously settled on a sound yet but what there is, is a summation of the musicians, producers, engineers and friends that I’ve learnt from, and an obsessive want to hear all music. Before long the brain can handle Harry Partch followed by Nirvana and then KRS One. During an uninspired moment you can do a lot worse than listening to records for 9 hours. The other important note is to practice constantly, at everything, your instruments, performance when recording, being on stage.

There is so much emotion behind that lovely voice of yours – how do you mentally get to ‘that place’ when you perform live?

RH: Simple routines define what becomes a meditation, I want to be on stage more and more and yet stay terrified, and then get back up.

You seem like you might be the ‘romantic type’…what makes a good love song? What are some of your favourites?

RH: I’m not sure my songs could be described in that manner, there’s just one love song on the record “Come Back Early,” it was a note at the time to put someone in particular in front of music for a while. Love songs are a tough breed, as they depend on the listener’s distinct situation, and in the wrong moment can be the most crass of art forms. One good one that comes to mind is “Don’t tell our friends about me” by Blake Mills. As for myself, I tend to stay near the sincere as opposed to sentimental romance, actions always hold more note than the magic allure of words.

What else is in store for you in 2016?

RH: This year I intend to be on the road for most of it, I’d still perform anywhere for dinner and a bed for the evening. I’m playing music for a few hours everyday regardless of what else is going on, and that turns into writing which follows into records. | Terminal Nostalgia