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The Sydney Morning Herald
March 4, 2005


"Holly Golightly pioneers that instrument beloved of beat poets everywhere, the bongo."

Holly Golightly doesn't need Jack White; she has managed to put out nine albums on her lonesome, reports Kelsey Munro.

Holly Golightly has been asked two questions in her life more times than she cares to remember. The first, "Is that your real name?", is followed closely by "Are you dating Jack White?" The answers, to save her the trouble, are yes and no.

The first question is Audrey Hepburn's fault. Holly Golightly is her character's name from the 1961 movie Breakfast at Tiffany's. Apart from the name and a nice line in vintage style, Golightly has little in common with her diamond-desiring namesake.

But the White Stripes question is probably her own fault, spawned after she sang It's True That We Love One Another with Jack and Meg in 2003. It was through her that the duo recorded Elephant in London's analog Toe Rag studios, the studio where Golightly has made all nine of her records. It wasn't an anti-digital statement by her: "I don't know any better," she says.

Golightly's latest record Slowly but Surely features nine originals and three carefully selected covers, including My Love Is by Billy Myles. He also wrote the classic Fever made famous by Peggy Lee, whose sound Golightly's latest incarnation most clearly recalls.

"That's very flattering, I think she's a brilliant singer, even though I wouldn't listen to much of her music. But a white woman singing a country song is going to sound a certain way, there's a sentiment to it."

Golightly says she specialises in the grand tradition of love-gone-wrong songs. "I can vent all my venom in song but I'm really quite a nice person the rest of the time."

Like Gillian Welch, Golightly's vintage style must come from somewhere. She says it's what she loves listening to: "What goes in comes out." She says she was raised by her grandparents who played a lot of "old-timey music".

"I don't know if I can even differentiate between genres of contemporary music. I don't listen to the radio, I don't watch music on the television. I've collected records for a long time and I'm interested in how things came about and in trying to make my own version of it."

The White Stripes' midas touch helped nudge Golightly into the mainstream music press, but she wasn't looking to get there. The veteran performer formed her first band, an all-girl garage group Thee Headcoatees, a splinter group from Billy Childish's Headcoats, in London in 1991. She started writing her own material a decade ago, averaging a new album a year since. She shrugs off the "prolific" tag. "Anyone who writes songs ought to be able to come up with 12 decent ones a year." Until recently, fame has not been an issue.

"It's not something I've courted," Golightly says. "The acknowledgements that I get are very nice and it's all quite amusing to me, but it's not the reason I do it." She laughs. "I don't think I'd like it if people knew who I was in the street."

It might make her occasional day job as a manager of public housing in London a little more challenging, too.

"That's actually not what I'm qualified in - I'm a horse rider by trade," she says. "I was a professional horse rider until I had an accident, so that's why I had to get a desk job."

This is by far the most unusual career trajectory I've ever heard of, let alone run in parallel with a busy, independent music career. She explains it best herself.

"When I first left school, I did an apprenticeship [as a jockey] and worked in racing for a few years, then went up to London where I proceeded to do f--- all except be a punk rocker and buy records for about five years," she says. "I got fed up with London and moved back out to the country. I was working in California training endurance horses when I got a very busted foot about three years ago."

That would explain White's line in the song: "Y'know I gave that horse a carrot so he'd break your foot." Golightly laughs.

"Yes, I had my foot in plaster when we recorded the White Stripes song."