When you walk into the Great Hall of Chicago’s Union Station, you can’t miss the marble floor and soaring Corinthian columns lining the five-story atrium.
The stunning architectural landmark isn’t just a gem of the city — it’s one of the many unusual places you’ll now find Kalamazoo native Nashon Holloway singing with complete strangers.
“The sound echoes in such a way that you can perform a duet with someone from across the room,” Holloway told Revue. “Imagine looking up and someone 30 feet across the room can speak in a normal voice and you hear them amplified loud and clear.”
The experience is emblematic of Holloway’s whole philosophy on music, one where the idea of harmony should extend into all of life, well beyond music. In this philosophy, music itself serves as the truest form of connection.
Holloway recently wrote a song about the station’s transcendent acoustic phenomenon. It’s one of many new experiences she’s soaked in since relocating from Kalamazoo to Chicago earlier this summer, when the 26-year-old singer-songwriter got a day job working at a fitness company.
Her ties to music, however, go back way before working a 9-to-5 job or busking in the Windy City back to when she first began singing with her family over 20 years ago. The earliest duets came courtesy of her sister Adrienne, who she says is a better singer, and her mother, who turned down a recording contract from Columbia Records years ago.
|The Palace & The Hut Album Release Show
wsg. Kalamazoo Funk Collective
Bell’s Eccentric Café
355 E. Kalamazoo Ave., Kalamazoo
Sept. 30, 8 p.m., 21+
$5, bellsbeer.com, (269) 382-2332
“Folks are walking around with perfect pitch, can play any instrument and sing anyone under a table,” Holloway said of growing up in her very musical family. “I’m a novice at best in my tribe.”
Her first musical memory followed church on a Sunday when she was about three years old. She was in Ryan’s Restaurant in Kalamazoo when the Patsy Cline classic “Crazy” came on the radio.
“My family was eating and laughing, and suddenly I start crying and causing a scene,” she remembers. “Apparently, they asked me what was wrong and I said, ‘This song! This song makes me feel like I’ve done something wrong, but I haven’t done anything!’ My mom had to explain to me that Patsy Cline was sad, and that I wasn’t. I now realize that God blessed me to empathize.”
Holloway carried that sensitive spirit and artistic nature with her throughout high school, but never studied music traditionally. Even while a student at Western Michigan University, she majored in English and Philosophy, enrolling in a few music courses but never auditioning for the School of Music.
“I didn’t think I could get in!” she said.
Still, her roommate convinced Holloway to participate in WMU’s American Idol-style competition, which she won freshman year. Only afterwards did she audition for and join WMU’s acclaimed vocal jazz ensemble Gold Company. The experience was terrifying and heartbreaking for Holloway. She could barely read music, yet every day she stood next to other performers who had studied their whole lives.
“Past all the fear and pain there, it became the catalyst for some of the greatest professional experiences and personal relationships in my life,” Holloway said of Gold Company. “God bless [former director] Dr. Steve Zegree. I love it more and more as I grow older because I’m learning what love is. Strength doesn’t just happen — neither does peace.”
Holloway formed her first group, The Blend, while at WMU. Later, she met her boyfriend and collaborator, guitarist Bryan Blowers.
Since graduating in 2012, she’s performed her unique combination of rock, soul and jazz with Blowers and her backing band, The Soul Messengers, all over the area.
“Ultimately, Bryan and I moved for music and [to] build our career, and also to stay close enough to remain committed to the Kalamazoo community which raised us from the beginning,” Holloway said of living in Chicago.
Outside of West Michigan, she has played as far away as Lincoln Center in New York with Gold Company, and even Dubai, where her sister lived, in 2014.
“In Dubai, I remember walking out on this terrace overlooking the city. It was just me and my guitar, and there was this breathtaking view of the entire city,” Holloway recalled.
That experience directly informs the name of her debut album The Palace & The Hut, which she took from the title of a short story by Khalil Gibran.
Holloway recorded at Overneath Creative Collective and La Luna Recording & Sound, both in Kalamazoo, and will return to Kalamazoo for a string of shows this month culminating in the LP’s release at Bell’s Eccentric Café on Sept. 30.
“There will be a horn section, background singers, two drummers, bass, guitar, keys and me singing something I believe in,” she said.