Steady Holiday

by Dan MacIntosh

Steady Holiday is the lovely Dre Babinski. When she sings her precious songs, many times accompanying herself on violin, she often hearkens back to the classic pop tunes of Bacharach/David. The music is both beautiful, and emotionally touching.

Her 2016 album, Under the Influence, marks Babinski's debut venture as a recording artist, after spending many years as a touring and recording musician-for-hire.
Dan MacIntosh (Songfacts): The first word that came to mind when I first heard your music is "precious." So my first question is, have you ever written songs that express anger?

Dre Babinski (Steady Holiday): Anger comes out in various ways. I think that the way it comes out in my world, at least in my past, is in a very self-deprecating way, and it comes out as insecurity. I take ownership over a lot of feelings that oftentimes aren't even mine, so it's kind of tricky to decode sometimes.

Songfacts: I notice that you play guitar and violin. What instrument do you write on and what's your process to writing songs, generally?

Dre: The process usually starts with a vocal melody and lyrics. Almost always. And usually without an instrument.

Songfacts: But do you hear instruments in your head?

Dre: Always. Especially strings. Writing and arranging for violin is just something that has been a part of everything I've done in music.

Songfacts: Is that the first instrument you learned to play?

Dre: Yes. Absolutely.

Songfacts: Are you classically trained?

Dre: I suppose so, but I was only trained for a very short amount of time. But I took lessons and know how to write and read.

Songfacts: Who were your influences when it came to the violin?

Dre: Motown. And Burt Bacharach. String arrangements in beautiful pop songs. That's all I want to do.

Songfacts: I can hear the parallel between classic Burt Bacharach and Dionne Warwick because it sounds like a lot of your songs are sort of modern versions of classic pop. So would you say, as a songwriter, Hal David and Burt Bacharach were your influences on you as a songwriter?

Dre: I'm not really sure where songwriting happens for me. It's still completely mysterious to me. But subconsciously, absolutely. I adore those songs. I think they're wonderful and precious.

I'm not much of a songwriter that listens to something and is inspired to make that kind of music. And because songwriting is so new to me, I don't even know how to fake it. It doesn't happen to me. It just comes from a really honest place.

Songfacts: You said it's new for you. How long have you been writing songs?

Dre: Ever since I started playing guitar. Six or seven years.

Songfacts: There is a song in your set that has a pattern that reminds me of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." What was that song called?

Dre: It's called "So Long," and it's on the record.

Songfacts: And was that a subconscious influence, perhaps?

Dre: I adore Leonard Cohen! Yes, absolutely.

Influences are a weird thing. You know, I love listening to music. I never relate the two: Listening to music and then writing a song with that in mind, it doesn't happen like that for me. But those are things that I love. Burt Bacharach, Leonard Cohen, Harry Nilsson.

Songfacts: What songs are you most proud of on the new album?

Dre: The first single on the new album, called "Your Version of Me." That is a high point for me.

Songfacts: What is it you like about it?

Dre: It's one of the most bold songs I feel like I've written. Lyrically, especially, because it's a complete confession of insecurity. It's about when you just hide and let someone else tell you what to do because it's oftentimes much easier.

Songfacts: What are some other songs you like?

Dre: "Open Water" is the most recent single and I released a video for it. That song I'm very proud of.

Songfacts: What's it about?

Dre: It's about a literal fear of water that I have.

Songfacts: Really?

Dre: Yeah, I'm not a strong swimmer and I'm extremely anxious around water. And it also represents something that I very well could learn. It's something that can be learned, and yet I haven't in a very childlike way.

Songfacts: Did you have a bad experience when you were younger?

Dre: I have had bad experiences. Yes. [She pauses. Seemingly unwilling to elaborate.]

Songfacts: You say that songwriting is still relatively new to you. Did you do something else and then went into music?

Dre: I've done music for a very long time, mostly just playing violin. Playing in lots of bands and touring quite a bit.

Songfacts: What are some of your most memorable experiences, as far as touring?

Dre: You know, the most recent band I was touring with – they're called Hunter Hunted – they are just some of the most lovely people I have ever met. I played with them in a hire capacity - I was a hired member - and they really showed me that touring could be fun and sustainable. I was pretty exhausted and thought I was done being a hired gun. I was just doing it for so long until I met them and started having a lot of fun and doing it in a really healthy way, being active and being conscious on the road. It's just a really difficult balance to strike sometimes.

Songfacts: Was there a moment that prompted you to step out on your own?

Dre: I was struggling a lot with being in that role, and constantly putting myself in a position of service, which I've done with jobs and bands and relationships across the board. And it all came to a head a couple of years ago and I decided to remove myself from a lot of things all at once - take a step back and really look at how I was living. And as I got healthier, things started lining up. Especially creatively.

Songfacts: Your image on stage seems to be as crafted as your songs are. What kinds of things inspired this image, such as the backdrop that was behind you [during a recent Coachella appearance]?

Dre: It's a play on the album artwork.

Songfacts: Your outfit looked like something from ancient China.

Dre: Cool!

Songfacts: Is that what you were going for?

Dre: It's a look like Ty Dollar $ign or something. I like really intricate designs. I like the idea of framing me so it looks a little otherworldly or dated.

Songfacts: Why is the album called Under the Influence?

Dre: Because a lot of these songs came from a place where it was either under the influence of my own negativity and fear and insecurity. Or literal, actual influences.

June 30, 2016
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