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Pete Thorn: "Holly Henderson uses the guitar as a writing vehicle, and her solos weave melodic stories within them"

Holly Henderson and Pete Thorn in the studio (Image credit: Claudio Tristano)

In 2020, it’s social media that draws creatives together. And for British singer-songwriter-guitarist Holly Henderson, Instagram played a profound role in shaping her excellent new LP, Monday Green, an album created largely thanks to a friendship forged through the app with top-tier LA gun-for-hire and noted guitar nerd extraordinaire, Pete Thorn.

“I was already a fan of Pete’s work and I reached out on Instagram after he wrote an article about tone being in the fingers,” Henderson says. “That article resonated deeply with where I come from as a fingerstyle guitarist. We became friends, and Pete suggested we do an album together at some point. 

"David Bowie had just died and I was crushed and needed to pour myself into something creatively, but I didn’t have full songs at the time, just demos that captured moods. Pete bought me a plane ticket out of nowhere so that we could record what became Monday Green.

"Pete’s obviously amazing at getting tones, but he’s also incredible at arranging songs and picking out bits that you don’t need. He knows exactly what you do and don’t need to get the best results, guitar-wise.”

While it might have been unexpected for Henderson, Thorn was motivated by an impressive Bowie cover the singer-songwriter had posted in tribute to her late hero. Thorn was already a fan of Henderson’s experimental, “Brian Wilson-esque” Soundcloud demos, and the Bowie cover sent the decorated guitar pro over the edge.

Some of Holly’s stuff is so outside-the-box that I’d have to live with an idea for a few days before it’d click

He immediately bought Henderson airfare to LA and the two tracked the album in his studio, assisted by drummer Blair Sinta [Stevie Nicks, Alanis Morisette], bassist Jon Button [the Who, Sheryl Crow] and keyboardist Jebin Bruni [Liz Phair, Fiona Apple].

“Holly primarily uses the guitar as a writing vehicle, and her solos are really interesting because she weaves melodic stories with them,” Thorn says. “It’s much more interesting to me than playing a million notes. 

"Her fingerstyle playing really works for her songwriting, too. She plays these dense chords and arpeggiates through them using a unique fingerstyle technique. I’ve always loved songwriters - like Joni Mitchell or Neil Young - that have unique guitar styles that work well with their writing and singing styles.

"Making this record taught me to be more patient with ideas; some of Holly’s stuff is so outside-the-box that I’d have to live with an idea for a few days before it’d click. I’d usually realize an idea was exceptional eventually because in many ways, Holly has bigger ears than me and probably a lot of other people - but that’s the kind of thing that really defines visionary artists. 

"When you produce a project for someone that doesn’t really work by the rules, you realize that what matters is how the song comes together in the end - and not how you got there.”