Hollis Premieres Self-Directed Video for Latest Solo Single “Let Me Not”

L.A.-via Seattle singer, songwriter, and spoken word artist Hollis Wong-Wear, known simply as Hollis, is redefining herself and going solo. Until now, Hollis has been best known for her contribution to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ 2013 debut GRAMMY-nominated album, The Heist, with the song “White Walls,” and for her role as front-woman of popular Seattle group, The Flavr Blue.

But, come 2022, Hollis releases her debut solo full-length—an alt-pop album entitled Subliminal, which she wrote and recorded almost entirely during the pandemic. Today, Hollis premieres her third single from the forthcoming album, “Let Me Not,” a vibrant-yet-melancholy track that marks Hollis’ first collaboration with Ryan Lewis since their work on The Heist.

“Let Me Not” also marks one of the first music videos she’s ever directed—something she’d like to do more of going into 2022. “I have a lot of interests as a filmmaker,” says Hollis. “Between my work directing the ‘Let Me Not’ video and thinking about like moving forward with the other videos, I want to make sure they’re artistically cohesive.” 

Hollis, who is originally from Petaluma, CA, grew up immersed in the Bay Area’s spoken word and underground hip hop scenes, which played a big part in the trajectory she’s on today as an artist.

“I first sparked my own original creative work by being in spoken word poetry and slam poetry through an organization called Youth Speaks,” says Hollis. “When I was growing up in high school, there was the hyphy movement and Bay Area hip hop in general, underground rap, [with artists like] Hieroglyphics and DJ Shadow. That really was exciting to be a part of as a young person.”

After high school, Hollis moved to Seattle to go to Seattle University, where she studied history. When she wasn’t hitting the books, Hollis followed her passions for spoken word and music and found herself spending more time on her own creative work than she did in the Bay Area.

“I honestly didn’t make music myself until I moved up to Seattle. I sang in choir and performed in musical theater and stuff like that,” she remembers. “I was a performer but I wasn’t a songwriter by any means until I started my first band up in Seattle with my friend Maddy, which was called Canary Sing.”

Through performing with Canary Sing, networking within the slam poetry community, and hanging out at some of Seattle’s biggest hip hop hubs, like Hidmo, a now-closed Eritrean restaurant and bar that hosted regular hip hop events, Hollis got to know the pair that would soon become the biggest names in Seattle hip hop—Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.

“A lot of people came through Hidmo and that’s… how I ended up getting connected with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis in an official capacity. He had asked me to be the producer of a music video that would end up being [the] ‘Wing$‘ video,” says Hollis. “Basically four of us worked for months on a shoestring budget… and very scrappily made that first music video. The song wasn’t done – I actually ended up cowriting the hook of that song and working with a children’s choir to perform it. When I started working with them, I had no idea I was going to be a featured singer and songwriter someday.”

Hollis became closer with Lewis and Macklemore, and their friendship led to her eventual feature and songwriting on The Heist track, “White Walls,” with Schoolboy Q.

Since the success of The Heist a lot has changed for Hollis. In 2015, she left Seattle for L.A., where she currently resides. According to Hollis, she wanted the change in scenery to challenge her creatively—and it ended up giving her the courage to step out on her own with the forthcoming album, Subliminal.

“I don’t know if I really would have allowed myself to come into my own as a solo artist in Seattle,” Hollis muses. “I think I’ve always loved collaboration to the point that I’ve been dependent on collaboration and it’s scary to be a solo female artist. It’s freaky. And I think I didn’t feel I needed to do that in Seattle because I was like, oh I’m already this personality, people know who I am, I have this band. The challenge wasn’t really there for me to do my own solo thing and I didn’t know how to do my own solo thing.”

Starting over in L.A., Hollis realized the solo artist inside her needed nurturing—and by February 2020, Hollis released her first solo EP half-life, a tender-hearted, intimate 5-song project. Then the pandemic hit, thwarting Hollis’ plans to tour with Half Life. She took her YouTube series Hollis Does Brunch completely virtual to benefit those impacted by the pandemic. And she dove into writing the songs that would become Subliminal.

While creating Subliminal, social distancing took away her ability to collaborate in the traditional ways, so, with the exception of “Let Me Not,” all the songs on the new album were written remotely over Zoom with her collaborators. After making the album in this way—which she says felt bizarre and isolated at first—Hollis feels more confident in who she is as a solo artist. That new-found self-possession saturates “Let Me Not.”

“Figuring out how to collaborate with people remotely [meant finding out] how to feel really solid with myself and be literally alone writing, which definitely shaped the way this album came out,” she says.

“Let Me Not” is the only song Hollis recorded in-person—negative COVID-19 tests in hand—with Ryan Lewis, and is one of the most personal songs on the album. “That song was very much ripped from my journal,” she explains. “I was doing a lot of journaling towards the later half of 2020 and the chorus refrain, ‘let me not bring down the vibe,’ was just literally something I had written in my journal three days before our session.”

Now transformed into an upbeat headbanger with a sneaking, ominous keyboard line, the song and its video depict Hollis, obviously feeling weighed down by the heaviness of the world as she knocks her “head on the wall all night” and “feels like throwing herself out the window.” We see the artist’s helplessness and confusion as she sits in an empty theater, lies alone in the grass, and performs a house show with an angry grimace.

In the end, she doesn’t want to “bring down the vibe” by being honest and open about her emotional state and the state of the world—even to herself—a notion that captures the pain, anxiety, fear, and descent into numbness that has gripped many of us since March 2020. That said, the track is anything by upsetting— its honesty makes the listener feel a little less alone.

Why get so existential, even political, in a pop song? Hollis points to her long history of social activism and volunteerism and her firm belief in using her platform to promote social change and awareness. As is evident in “Let Me Not,” as well as another recent single “Grace Lee,” about Chinese-American social activist Grace Lee Boggs, writing pop music is not about Hollis’ ego, but about making a positive impact on the world.

“I’m not super excited about the premise of building my personal brand. If it’s for a larger purpose and I can do so to encourage connectivity, that’s when I feel most empowered and excited about the work,” says Hollis. “I love pop music and I think what really motivated me to come to L.A. was that I’m very passionate about my personal politics and about learning and how I can integrate that into [my music]. There’s so much potential in popular culture to shift and create change.”

Follow Hollis on InstagramTwitter and Facebook for ongoing updates.

Hollis Does Brunch Series Combines Music and Food to Help Those Affected by COVID Shutdowns

Photo Credit: Janae Jones

When talking to musician Hollis Wong-Wear, it feels as though she has all the time in the world for you. This is indicative of the enjoyment she gains from meeting people and creating connections. “I am a very passionate host and I love bringing people together and cultivating a cool vibe,” she says as we chat over the phone. “My sense of self as an artist is inseparable from the community.”

Beginning her music career as one third of the band The Flavr Blue, writing music for other musicians and her band, it wasn’t until recently that she felt ready to create her own collection of work. “I had become this master facilitator. When I work with other people I can take on the responsibility of doing something as a joint venture to motivate me,” the singer-songwriter explains, adding that when it came to creating with her own voice and story it felt akin to an uphill battle. ”It goes back to that insecurity of ‘Why does my voice matter?’”

Her anxiety is more than relatable; in a social media-saturated world, anyone and everyone is clambering to have that big break in their career, whether they’re an artist, musician or writer. Knowing she was more comfortable collaborating and building community, Hollis used those skills to her advantage. She created her unique Hollis Does Brunch series, which takes place in a number of cities across the U.S., and acted as a Trojan Horse to get her used to performing her own music and telling her story. She released her debut solo EP half-life last February. A deluxe version of the EP arrives May 22nd, with two music videos to celebrate – live recordings of her singles “Sedative” and “Back To Me.”

Organizing food-related events was an organic step – growing up in her mom’s Chinese restaurant in the suburbs of San Francisco made Hollis a moth to a flame when it comes to good meals and community spirit. “I think food is kind of like the first art form that I really, truly understood… the idea of gathering people around music and food was a concept that, for me, was a natural connection,” she says. “My end of goal of why I create anything is to bring people together in a meaningful way and forge connections. When we did the [last in-person] Hollis Does Brunch session in Seattle, people brought their kids, their parents and their friends. It was fun and inclusive – people were drinking cocktails and feeding their kids! I want these sessions to feel good and welcome for all.”

When the current pandemic hit the States, it became clear that our lives would change drastically, and that necessary social distancing measures would protect lives. With this in mind, Hollis decided to move her brunch sessions online, creating weekly live-streams and raising money (and perhaps most importantly, awareness) for those most severely affected by the situation. She admits she had some personal motivations, too. “I love hosting and the worst thing for somebody who loves to host is not being able to have any people over to their house! So I thought: how I could scratch my ‘self-care’ itch? How can I extend that in a digital space?” she says. “If I can be a resource to others, that’s a privilege. I’m happy to get into the weeds with live-streaming because it provides that. I wanted the sessions to be about community – less ‘oh they watch me perform!’ and more about bringing in the insights of other folks. My heart hurts so deeply for all of the restaurants that have closed and laid off employees.” By organizing these sessions, Hollis hopes to provide a degree of nourishment both mentally and physically. It’s a symbiotic relationship as it brings Hollis herself a degree of commitment and structure.

Bars, restaurants, diners and cafes all played vital roles in how we lived before the pandemic. They were places of refuge and relaxation; after a busy day we flocked to them with friends, eager to shed our everyday stresses. For students and freelancers, cafes were the perfect hideaway when unable to focus at home. They housed our small ensembles to large gatherings; we shared birthdays, holidays and celebrations there, and in some cultures, wakes to remember lost loved ones. Yet they’ve endured some of the worst effects of the pandemic, the results of which has left many owners wondering if their small businesses will survive, and how they’ll pay workers who relied on tips.

These online brunch sessions raise funds for those groups especially in need during this time, such as Feeding America and the NYC UndocuWorkers Fund. Each organization is close to the heart of one of her guests joining that week; Hollis allows them to explain how they’re affected and why it’s important to extend a hand, as it were, and help lift up their chosen cause.

“One of the live-streams I did was fundraising for undocumented workers in New York City who were laid off, and then it was also fundraising for the restaurant of the chefs that I had on that day,” Hollis says. “After that I used the next session to raise money for two artist organizations in Seattle that are doing a Seattle artist relief fund, and they’ve actually already raised $200,000 and are trying to raise another $700,000 more because of the demonstrated need.”

In fact, many of the people Hollis invites have already begun their own fundraising, and the series helps garner even greater attention. “One of the chefs [Erik Bruner-Yang] that came on is doing The Power of 10 initiative, trying to raise $10,000 to hire 10 employees who will make 1,000 meals for people in the DC area. They’re trying to make that a pilot program,” Hollis says.

Like many who are working to support their local community, Hollis volunteers her time and it’s a testament to her hard work that many groups have received much-needed support in a time where it feels as though there is none. Her live-stream series “is really about giving – I’m not taking in money. The only thing I’m doing is starting a Patreon page, which I did feel conflicted about. But after looking at my expenses I realized I might need to!”

When asked how people can get involved, she stressed that there is no prescribed way to do so, and that simply being present for the brunch is enough. “I just hope that what I’m creating provides solace and support to this moment,” she says.

Follow Hollis on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for ongoing updates.