Following the release of her debut EP Sunflower, Toronto-based Holly Clausius is a queer artist blazing a trail of her own with the release of her beautiful new single, “Big Plans.” Dedicated to social justice, the song placed 2nd in the Cross Canada Artist For Social Change competition in February. The track focuses on marginalized youth and individuals who have been outcasted in society. It is an emotional and inspiring call to action encouraging those who are struggling to find their voice to take matters into their own hands.
We had the opportunity to chat with Holly on the story behind this track and the artful music video accompanying it.
Hi Holly! Thanks so much for speaking with me today. Before we begin, could you please introduce yourself to our readers?
Hello, thank you so much for having me. First off, I’m a queer singer-songwriter (she/her) based in Toronto, Canada. I am from a really small town originally called Exeter, but I moved here in 2015 to pursue a career in acting and music. I’ve been a full time musician now since 2019 and have been a part of many different projects in the city since then.
You’ve just released your single, “Big Plans,” which placed 2nd in the Cross Canada Artist for Social Change Competition in February. How did you get involved in that competition?
I got involved because a group I’ve worked closely with called Queer Collective was helping run the event and they recommended I submit a piece. I was hesitant at first because of how busy things were at the time, but I ended up writing “Big Plans” on piano (which is not my main instrument at all) and was shocked with the response it got. My fans voted me into the top 3 and it was an honour to share my song alongside the other competitors.
The competition had a star-studded lineup of judges. What was it like performing for a panel of judges virtually?
Honestly, it was a little nerve-wracking because I’ve never played in front of that level of artist before. Also, in the second half of my song my audio cut out and nobody could hear me but I just kept going. I could also see Tegan (from Tegan and Sara) type into the chat “you got this girl, keep going, you’re a rockstar” and it helped me to keep going until my audio came back. Also the feedback from the judges was just so amazing and really inspired me to keep up all the work I’ve been putting into this craft.
Do you find it easier or more nerve-wracking than in-person performances?
I usually find it a lot less intimidating to perform online, especially because most of the Zoom calls or Instagram performances I’m doing, I barely see any of the audience’s faces. But with that specific event, seeing those judges’ faces brought back a lot of those butterflies and nerves in the best way.
“Big Plans” is a beautiful song, but it deals with heavy topics such as homophobia, bi erasure, sexism, and racism. You’ve said it’s dedicated to anyone who has felt isolated and pressured to not be their authentic self. How did you go about fitting these heavy topics into the lyrics of the track?
So when we were given the challenge of creating a piece for social change, I found it extremely hard to just pick one topic. With everything going on in our world right now, I knew I needed to write a song that had lyrics multiple communities of people could relate to. And one thing I think that connects them all is the oppression and isolation they’ve faced. Being a queer woman, I definitely took some of my own experiences into account but I also tried my best to give everyone a voice who may feel like they don’t belong or that this world wasn’t built for them. By taking this approach, the lyrics came pretty naturally to me, especially in the chorus.
The chorus of the song begins, “But I’m not backing down, it’s my turn to be loud. You have no choice but to hear my voice right now.” It’s a powerful statement I’m sure a lot of folks who are in the process of finding their voice can relate to. Are you drawing from your own experiences of growth and finding your voice here?
I am drawing from my own experience but also from the voices of so many people who are sick and tired of being spoken over or told how to exist. I know that’s very broad, but whether you are female, queer, BIPOC, disabled, trans, non-binary- all of these people have experienced exclusion and most likely have not seen a lot of people like them in places of power, using their voices and being heard from groups outside of theirs. So this is my anthem for them, for me, for anyone who has struggled to find that voice, I’m letting you know it’s your turn to speak; what do you want to say?
What would you say to someone who is struggling to live as their authentic self?
I would say that it takes time. Don’t be so hard on yourself, just find things you love and people that bring you joy and surround yourself with them. It took me years to come to terms with who I was, not just in my sexuality but in my identity and I think that’s because you’re constantly growing and changing so it’s okay if you’re struggling. It won’t always be that way. And you’ll find the people who’ll love and accept you because you’re authentically you.
The single is accompanied by a music video to highlight social change issues following the guidelines of the UN’s 17 sustainable development goals. How did you go about representing these social change issues in the creation of the music video?
I’ll start by saying I’m a very visual songwriter and musician. When I was writing it, I was already imagining the video with the different looks, each representing one of the sustainable goals. We tackled climate change/life below the sea with an oil spill look where I was covered head to toe in a molasses/glycerin mixture. We also did a look to represent equality within the LGBTQIA+ community, showing off my bi pride flag and a look inspired by the colours in it, and lastly we did a very simple but bold BLM look with an intense red eye/lip holding up a sign that reads “Black Lives Matter” -I knew we couldn’t do all 17 in this short amount of time, but I wanted to address some of the issues that mean the most to me right now. I also wanted to include a look with no makeup, just me in regular clothes because that is the main message here, “We need some kind of change, yeah we do, and it starts with YOU” – so to include regular ol’ me, its showing an example of who is going to put in the work to make this future of equality and sustainability a reality.
Is there anything you can tell us about your upcoming LP set to release in the Fall?
I haven’t officially announced the album yet, but I’ve been working away since January and all I can say is it’s about different kinds of love and fixations. For example, friendships, romance, family, addictions, heartbreak…there is a song for everybody on it. And there are so many surprises up my sleeve, y’all are not ready!
You can listen to more of Holly’s music and connect with her here.