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Classical Pianist Holly Bowling Shares Haunting Nine Inch Nails Cover

Over the weekend, Holly Bowling performed Nine Inch Nails‘ original “Hurt,” from The Downward Spiral in Portland, Oregon at the Old Church. The classical pianist, who has made her claim to fame through her vicarious reinterpretations of compositions by Phish, Grateful Dead, and beyond, delivers a haunting version of the song, penned by Trent Reznor, once reimagined by Johnny Cash, as a separation from the normal jam band go-to’s.

“A few weeks before my show in Portland, I was sitting at home watching this HBO series called The Defiant Ones,” explains Bowling. “One of the episodes focused on Trent Reznor and as I was watching it I realized I hadn’t listened to any of his albums in a long time. It’s incredible music and there’s so much going on in the production, it’s amazing to listen to not just to experience it on an emotional level but to peel back the layers and explore the sounds and the space. As I sat there listening to these songs I hadn’t heard in forever, I started thinking about how I would interpret them for piano and the challenges of creating the landscape of ethereal sounds and feedback and all the layers behind the chords and vocal line, how to create an effect that simulates closing down and opening up a filter, etc. I realized a few things pretty quickly as I was sitting there: that I wanted to put the hours in to answering these questions and exploring new techniques, and that I needed to play it in Portland because it was absolutely the right room to do it in.”

“The Old Church is a really special room to play music,” she continues. “There’s a lot of history there and you can feel the past and the passage of time. The acoustics are amazing, and the audience there is always pin drop silent, which opens the door to play stuff that’s more subtle. You can play with sound and tonal colors in ways and increments that get lost in a louder club and really experiment with what the piano is capable of creating. On top of that, you have this space that used to be a place of worship and has this etching of the past all over it. All of these things combine to make it feel like a place where it’s okay to tap into some serious emotions that you might usually hold closer to your chest. The last time I played there really cemented that feeling for me. The show was on inauguration day and there were really heavy emotions all the way around and huge protests in the area surrounding the venue, and I chose to play a bunch of stuff that spoke to what was going on that day, even if wordlessly. It was a really intense night. So against that backdrop and history, the Old Church was the right place to play a song with this kind of emotional weight to it. Plus there’s some serious power and symbolism in playing a NIN song in a church.”

“Initially I actually considered doing Closer’ or ‘Something I Can Never Have’ but once I put on ‘Hurt’ I knew it had to be that song. I wanted to play it for two reasons. One, it’s a masterpiece of production with plenty of stuff present in the soundscape to use as inspiration, since my goal was to use e-bows and muted strings and other extended techniques to pull a full palette of sounds from the piano. The second reason was emotional and personal. The reference to addiction is something that hits close to home for a lot of people right now. There’s been too many goodbyes in the last couple of years for too many people. It’s really out of control. So I wanted to play it for the feelings it evokes and for the goodbyes that have been said. It’s such an incredible, beautiful, heavy piece of music and its only growing more powerful as time goes on.”

See the video below, check out the full show’s audio, and catch Holly Bowling in a city near you.

The new video is released ahead of a full solo tour that starts next week in Decatur, Georgia. From there, Holly Bowling will make stops throughout the east coast, eventually heading west in November. Visit Holly Bowling’s website for more details.

Holly Bowling // 2017 Tour

10/10 – Eddie’s Attic – Decatur, GA
10/11 – The Evening Muse – Charlotte, NC
10/12 – Cats Cradle – Carrboro, NC
10/13 – Isis Music Hall – Asheville, NC
10/14 – Isis Music Hall – Asheville, NC
10/15 – 5 Points Music Sanctuary – Roanoke, VA
10/17 – The Hamilton – Washington DC
10/18 – The Ardmore Music Hall – Philadelphia, PA
10/19 – Stage One – Fairfield, CT
10/20 – Narrows Center – Fall River, MA
10/21 – Whisperdome – Albany, NY
10/22 – Port City Music Hall – Portland, ME
11/01 – Rex Theater – Pittsburgh, PA
11/02 – Buffalo Iron Works – Buffalo, NY
11/03 – Gallery 365 – Toronto, Canada
11/04 – Founders Brewery – Grand Rapids, MI
11/05 – Cliff Bells – Detroit, MI
11/06 – Bop Stop – Cleveland, OH
11/07 – Woodlands Tavern – Columbus, OH
11/08 – City Winery – Nashville, TN
11/09 – Kransberg Center – St. Louis, MO
11/10 – The Famous Mockingbird – Cedar Rapids, IA
11/11 – Dakota Jazz Club – Minneapolis, MN
11/17 – Mezzanine – San Francisco, CA
1/17/18 – Jam Cruise 16 – Miami, FL

[photo by Andy Hill]