From American Songwriter:
Drawing from a bottomless well of classic influences yet firmly rooted in the present, Hollis Brown has steadily evolved from the raw immediacy of its early releases to the more expansive, adventurous approach that fuels its new album 3 Shots. One of the album’s songs, “Rain Dance,” is the product of a unique collaboration with fabled rock and roll pioneer Bo Diddley, with Hollis Brown building a new composition around a previously unreleased rhythm track created by the late musical legend in his home studio, and featuring Bo’s unmistakable guitar work. Guitarist and lead vocalist Mike Montali writes about how this special collaboration came about.
“Rain Dance” started as a stretch of the imagination. We had just performed in New Jersey, and a rep from the Bo Diddley Estate was there and we were talking. Hearing all these incredible stories about these great rock n’ rollers is my version of Greek Mythology.
The conversation moved to “mystery tapes,” tapes in the private vaults of Bo Diddley’s home. Hours upon hours of demos and ideas and who knows what from a true legend. We had to get our hands on them. After weeks of prying and prying, “we are gonna send you a demo for you to finish, we are going to send it soon.” We heard it for awhile, still not believing it. Then we got an email, and there it was: this low-fi, beat up recording. Even though it sounded like a tin can, it still had that groove, that edge, that genius.
Then the phone rang, “Do you think you can come up with something good?” “Fuck. Yes.”
We wanted to get this on our next record, and were lucky to find a studio right away. A beautiful place called Converse Rubber Tracks in Brooklyn had a last minute opening. Friday. Two days away. Time to get working fast. I had a few different ideas for lyrics that I wanted to present. One was a traditional blues, another was a dance and boogie blues, and the third was a socially conscious blues, which eventually would become “Rain Dance.” The music is all about the driving rhythm. The hypnotic chug. The same chord over and over. The lyrics have to express something, have to mean something. We hit the studio, we pulled the track up, and there it is in all its glory. We wanted to make it seem like we were Bo Diddley’s badass backing band, so we kept his guitar and after some edits, we had something we could vibe with.
It was all recorded in a day. Every idea we could jam into one session was packed in on that one day. We set up live and played, and we just kept playing until after a few hours it just felt right. There was an incredible energy and spirit. Next, we had to figure out what do we do with all this stuff after the session, so with some arrangement adjustments, and wonderful mixing, we started to feel we had something on our hands.
It’s such an honor to be a part of this track and was a really cool project to dive into. Songs can come from all types of places, some are collaborative, some are very personal. This was heavenly.