Patrick Holland is Starting “Fresh”

The musician/producer on falling out of love with DJing and going where your art leads you.

I had a romantic idea of a fresh start — playing rock music and singing songs, like I was a teenager fantasizing about my 20s. But I was 28 looking at 30, and I’d never been in a band. 

I didn’t hate my current situation, but I definitely had fallen out of love with it. Touring alone as a DJ is a crash course in staring at your ego; your most vapid self. Since 2015, I’d been perpetually on tour in Europe, with recurring stints in Australia, Asia, and South and North America. I was making records as quickly as possible to keep industry momentum up, with not much concern for how I felt. The shows had started local and humble within a fun DIY scene, but progressed to corporate venues and festivals as the scene I was involved in moved into the mainstream. 

I had a great team of agents who worked hard to keep the train running, and I didn’t want to be the one to bow out because I “wasn’t feeling it.” In 2019 I’d shifted to touring as a live electronic act at festivals and one-offs, which helped keep morale up while on the road by adding variety and more focused creative intention behind the live aspect of my project. But something felt amiss. What I missed most was being in the studio, and I didn’t have the funds to rent space while on the road, so I stuck to the narrow windows back home in Montreal to be creative. 

The whole reason I started with music was to make it freely, which was becoming less of a priority in practice. While I love DJing, it was secondary and functioned as a means to fund the music-making. So in late 2019, I made a conscious effort to write songs and stop making dance music. It was a chicken or the egg scenario — something had to come first — so I bet on a shift in the studio and hoped the rest would follow. I hadn’t thought about how I would release it, but I committed myself to it regardless. When all touring was canceled in March 2020, I was in Australia wrapping up a run of live dates. I flew home, and dove into the record I had then recently started, ditching the demos and plans I had for a potential dance music LP. For two years, I didn’t release music. I’d flipped my creative process upside down, trading synths for microphones, and eight-minute-long tracks for short pop structures. 

When the prospect of touring opened back up in 2021, I didn’t jump at the chance to DJ again — instead, I filled in as the live bassist in my favorite band TOPS. I learned a lot while playing roughly 70 shows in the band, across North America and Europe, which made me feel less naive about changing things up. Traveling with a band is famously tough, but being collaborative on stage with friends is incomparable to DJing alone. What remained naive, though, was my stubborn drive to distance myself from previous work in order for a new narrative to translate internally and publicly. My intention was to start with a clean slate, but there’s no way to force that on fans, new and old, when I’ve already released 20-plus records into the creative pool. The whole point of making this change was to experiment uninhibitedly without being pigeonholed yet again, but I found myself repeating familiar patterns of neglect in order to fit into an industry niche. 

Committing to the jump is intimidating. Stepping out of one global touring market and hoping the others will be welcoming makes me rethink the decision constantly, but I’m learning to not let that fear dictate my creative choices. There’s no job security as a touring or recording artist anyways, even when things seem comfortable, so why not mix it up and keep growing when it’s all my choice to live this risky lifestyle? I’m seeing this new chapter as more of an expansion of my world rather than shifting from one to another. Even though the industry pins DJing and live music as separate entities, it doesn’t mean I have to. I’m hoping the two can coexist more closely for me soon, but for now I’ve got the songwriting itch and enjoy working with live instruments. This isn’t my reverse Kid A moment; I’ve always tried to step outside of myself with each record, though in the past I don’t think I was reaching far enough. My scenario isn’t unique, many other artists have done the same, and I hope more continue with confidence in doing so — keeping things interesting and us all on our toes. 

Now that the record is out, witnessing the reception has been interesting — some say it’s alienating and others don’t think I took it far enough. I’m just happy that You’re the Boss stretched me to the point of not looking for a fresh start.

Patrick Holland is a Montreal-based artist, producer, engineer and remixer. He has been known in the past for his electronic releases under aliases such as Project Pablo and Jump Source, as well as his production and remix work for artists such as TOPS, Cut Copy, Jacques Greene, Homeshake, and more.

Now with You’re The Boss, Holland is re-introducing himself and making his first foray into guitar-driven indie pop. Written and recorded in tandem, You’re The Boss finds Holland self-producing, playing almost every instrument on the record, as well as singing and writing his own lyrics for the first time. The album also features vocals from Holland’s bandmates in TOPS. Though it’s full of firsts, You’re The Boss sounds like the work of an indie artist decades into their career.