Meet Holda Sek: The London student who just released their debut single
The singer-songwriter’s debut At Twenty is available from October 26th on all major streaming platforms
London is a city full of energy and talent in the arts, and its student population definitely reflects that.
An independent singer-songwriter from Shropshire, we spoke to London student and musician Maddie (a.k.a. Holda Sek) about all things music, influences, and the release of their debut single: At Twenty.
As a final-year Popular Music Performance and Songwriting student at BIMM London, Holda Sek described their music as “hyperpop” and themselves as an “indie singer-songwriter” (alongside “Van McCann singing a Snail Mail song over a Charli XCX karaoke track”).
While these are relatively normal, they curiously described their debut single, At Twenty, as “eek or some similar nerve-induced, yet also excited sound.”
They said: “This is the first song I’ve put into the streaming stratosphere since 2019, which is a bit of an eek as it’s both exciting and a little terrifying.
“The lyrics were also mostly off-the-cuff statements reflecting where I’m at now, which is the rather eek stage of trying to quantify my progress and find a balance within all of life’s going-ons.”
The single itself is a complete and well-put-together package: an otherworldly and electronic rhythm interlaces with off-kilter piano and vocals gloomily reminiscent of Billie Eilish or The Japanese House. Holda Sek’s voice cuts through a complex mix of layered harmonies of vocals, static, and various indiscernible samples, while a catchy chorus lives in your head rent-free whether you like it or not.
Speaking on influences to their unique sound, Holda Sek mentioned that they’re a “massive fan” of 100 Gecs, SOPHIE and A.G. Cook. But they specifically mentioned artist Yung Gravy as someone who impacted their attitude towards music.
They told The London Tab: “I’m definitely in my ‘Yung Gravy era’ at the moment. I think his whole brand and image are so well-crafted and how he’s built a career through such a seemingly carefree and ‘meme-ish’ way is genius.
“I haven’t quite started my quest to become a meme, but you never know!”
And listening to At Twenty, it’s safe to say Holda Sek is definitely onto something different. The song is definitely worth a listen and a re-listen to take in the full scope of the track. Significant credit must also be attributed to producer Austin Caezar for a skilled mix and mastering that give this sterling debut a professional edge.
Even though At Twenty is their debut single as Holda Sek, Maddie is not a newcomer to the London music scene. They had previously released an EP and album under Healy Maye, which gained support from BBC Music’s Introducing in 2019.
Maddie told The London Tab: “I came up with Healy Maye when I was 16, in that super long summer holidays after GCSEs when I finally had the chance to give music a go.
“I was very excited and naive about what I wanted. I made all of my songs on GarageBand using my earphone mic to record vocals, and it went as well as it could have done at the time.
“I’m still proud of what I achieved in those two years, and I definitely don’t want to delete all evidence of what was Healy Maye. I’ve just done a little bit of growing up and don’t want to be tied down to the identity of a 16-year-old me.”
The reason behind their change of name to Holda Sek is reflected in At Twenty. The singer described the song’s “reflective and introspective lyricism” as “[signifying] the change from the teenage Healy Maye to the older-yet-still-learning Holda Sek.”
They said: “Holda Sek came from a nearly-year-old list in my Notes app. I knew I wanted a new name to release music under and saw my own name (Maddie Williams) was taken. So I set my mind on wanting something a bit more silly – fun fact: at one stage, I really liked the name Kiss the Gnome.
“I liked Holda Sek because it kept this daft element through being a pun without being as outrageous as something like Kiss the Gnome.”
As someone starting in the industry, Maddie wanted others like them to “try not to let the ‘industry’ side of things suck the life and love out of what you do.”
While they remarked on how it can be tough to cut through an “over-saturated” music market with new artists sprouting out every two minutes, they also emphasised a good attitude in getting started.
They said: “I’ve actually got to a point where this over-saturation is quite freeing.
“I’m less paranoid of judgment when putting something online because out of 100,000 songs being released in a day, why would someone take the time to find my music and be horrible about it? (And in the hypothetical case where that was to happen, it’d probably be more of an achievement than anything.)
“So, although it is a rather wanky, cheese-ridden statement, don’t get caught up in industry-related existential crises. And if you do, try and flip it into a motivator.”
The London music scene is nothing if not diverse and exciting, and Holda Sek is poised to rise through the ranks of our playlists and hearts alike with this noteworthy start.
Feature image credit: @elbie.snaps on Instagram