Encompassing the genre of “Alternative Jewish Rock music,” Aaron Holder of Miami Beach, Florida took the stage on January 14 at the Avenue J festival in Coconut Grove, Florida. His 6”5 stature commanded the audience immediately, delivering a soulful and energetic performance. Playing a set of seven songs, where four of them were his new originals, Holder’s selection offered a balanced range of Alternative Folk Pop to rock n’ roll.
After releasing his debut album, “Something Stronger,” in 2013, Holder has since received numerous accolades, locally and internationally, including a recent headliner at Dolphin Stadium. For those who know Holder’s music best, his new songs demonstrate how much his sound has developed and offers a glimpse as to what we can expect next from his spiritual journey.
Originally a solo act, Holder has now expanded his entourage to include trusted, local talent: Rebecca Sterling and Andre Alvarez on drums; Jay Marder on piano; Stephanie Jaimes on cello; and Andres Daza on bass. Conjuring a vibe that promises to transform Holder’s sound on his upcoming album, it was the perfect time to catch up with Holder and discuss his past, present and future – musically and personally.
How is your music different from other artists within your genre?
There’s no other artist in my genre, because I don’t have a genre. Everyone is an individual with a specific purpose. What makes me different is not necessarily what is important. What is important is what makes my music, my music. I feel like whoever I work with, I always find something in them that is really, really inspiring. It motivates me to explore my sound and work from there. Working with other artists helps me. Whenever anyone works with anyone, you find certain characteristics that influence the way you perform. After working with someone new, I always think to myself that I have a lot of work to do, and that I always have to work -- because that’s what it takes! Nothing happens by sitting on your couch and waiting for people. It takes showing up. Whenever I work or perform with anyone else, I take it as an opportunity to learn more.
What is it about Judaism that’s translated through your music?
The most influential aspect of my music is the values that were instilled in me. It’s not about rules as much as the way you live your life. It’s about growing and becoming the best you can be. Those are the values that I grew up with. Having that inspiration helps to not only lead a happier life, but to also bring goodness into my life. Sometimes, my music has nothing to do with religion. It can be about my love for life, G-d, or whatever else I feel connected to. People view it however they can.
What have people told you about your music? How has it made them feel?
The one thing that has always stuck with me is when a guy came up to me in a supermarket and said the song “Something Stronger” reminded him of his mother who passed away about a year ago, and he started crying in front of me. For me, it was eye opening to be able to touch someone like that. The song wasn’t about his mother. It was mostly about G-d and our relationship with G-d. That comment alone made making music worth it. The fact that I touched someone and that I was able to experience it, is something I’ll never forget.
What helped you overcome the bullying?
It definitely affected me growing up, but music pushed me to express myself and to overcome my insecurities.
Are your songs written open ended because you want it to relate to anyone or because you want it be mainstream?
Whenever I write a song, it’s not because I am trying to. The song will hit me. The songs I write about are about my own experiences. Basically, the things that inspire and move me are my life experiences, and how those experiences have affected my emotions and how I communicate. I don’t consider myself to be a public speaker or a writer, so I find the best way to express the situations I’m enduring or have endured is through music. Being that I am a religious Jew, that does affect what I write about and my outlook on life. It’s not because I am religious, but rather it is what I believe in and how I live my life.
Where do you want to take your sound with your next album?
When I put on Pandora, I put on the playlist of Mumford and Sons and I can listen to every artist that comes up, such as Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, and Phillip Phillips. However, I still feel that I will always be finding my sound. I can’t say that I have found it yet, but the process of working on this new album will get me there. The first album for me was to get out there -- put out what I created and the process of writing things. People were pushing me to. My next album, B”H, will encompass my growth as a human being and as a musician, with the intent to inspire people with my passion.
How long did it take you to come up with the first album?
I started teaching myself how to play guitar and writing lyrics in 2008, and started to come up with material when I was 19. When I decided that I needed to do it, I came up with six new songs while we were in the studio. I had my engineer and producer, Ovadia Tank sleep in my home studio for four months, and we worked on the album. The actual recording process took four months, where 60% of the songs were created during this time. It’s amazing how the more we recorded the more inspiration I got and each song got better and better. I actually wrote “Miracles” and “Back For More” a month before we finished the album and they were a must to go on.
What’s the first song you learned how to play?
“Carried Away” by George Strait. My father taught it to me. My father handed me a sheet of music and said “those are chords, put your fingers there and come back to me in a month.”
What do you hope to accomplish in the long run, musically?
Just to grow as an individual and to be able to write and perform my music. I want to be able to do more concerts like Avenue J. and Dolphin Stadium Besides the US; I’ve played in Israel, Panama and Mexico, and I look forward to continue performing in cities I’ve never been.
Are you doing an official tour with your next album?
B”H Yes, but I am currently in the process of finding the right team. I think struggling is a good thing, because it helps build a strong foundation.
What do you plan to do personally in the future?
I just finished my Bachelors and now I’m continuing to work on my music while getting involved with my families business and preparing for chiropractic school. I’m happy for the opportunity to grow as a musician while planting roots for the future, composing new songs and performing.