Editor’s Note: This is the first installment in a multi-part series this week previewing the Audiotree Music Festival and profiling artists from the lineup.
The dark indie folk singer-songwriter will perform a noon Sunday set on the main stage at the two-day festival in Arcadia Creek Festival Place. She will join nearly 30 other acts, including Father John Misty, Local Natives, Real Estate, Khruangbin and Chicano Batman.
Founded in 2013, the Chicago-based, Michigan-born Audiotree Music Festival celebrates new and emerging artists and is curated by the popular web music series Audiotree Live.
Common Holly – otherwise known as Brigitte Naggar – will share her hauntingly intimate songs with Audiotree festivalgoers during a highly-anticipated 50-minute set.
She’ll be playing tracks from her 2017 critically-acclaimed debut album, “Playing House,” on Solitaire Recordings. Naggar also re-recorded six of her tracks for an “Audiotree Live” session last December.
“I’m bringing a band with me this time. And yes, we’re going to do new songs – three or four, I think,” said Naggar, who hails from Montréal. “I like them much better than the old songs. I hope fans will, too.”
Audiotree festivalgoers instantly will gravitate to Naggar’s densely lyrical and poignant tunes, sparse musical foundation and ethereal electric guitar textures. Through “Playing House,” Naggar slowly and delicately unravels a complex relationship and contemplates the transition from youth to adulthood.
“The album was made in a pretty low-key way. I wrote the songs on an acoustic guitar over six months and then spent eight months recording and arranging them with my producer, Devon Bate, with a mic and laptop in his room,” she said. “Writing ‘Playing House’ was what got me through a big breakup, so I hope that it can serve to help others get through difficult times, too.”
Naggar credits Bate’s minimalist production on “Playing House” with creating a simple, yet powerful sound that lingers in fans’ minds and elicits intense, emotive responses.
“I think he felt connected to the earnestness of my songs as they were and wanted to build them in a way that was unconventional without clouding the songwriting,” she said. “For my upcoming album, I feel like the vision is for things to sound a bit more real. Many of the stories I tell are angrier and a bit more outward-looking. And I got to play my own drums!”
Naggar honed her raw, emotional sound while growing up in Montréal. At the request of her parents, she started taking piano lessons with her brother as a child and eventually moved to the guitar.
That quickly led to singing and writing in private and discovering a bevy of musical influences, including Britney Spears, Avril Lavigne, Emily Haines, Feist, Radiohead, Chad VanGaalen, Portishead and Leonard Cohen.
Naggar built her sound from those influences and later planted the musical seeds for her artistry as Common Holly. The moniker serves as a fitting symbol for Naggar’s work.
“Common Holly is a plant made of up delicate red berries shrouded in dark, sharp leaves,” said Naggar, who’s written and recorded her second LP. “I think it best represents my musical aesthetic – it’s fragile, sort of pretty, but always with a darkness and grittiness that helps it survive.”
Audiotree festivalgoers will witness Naggar’s grit and vulnerability during her live Audiotree set. She’s recently cut her live teeth opening for Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, Land of Talk and Ought and ready to add more performances under her belt.
“I adore Audiotree. I wish I could do annual sessions with them. They are so kind, professional and interesting – they do amazing work and seek out amazing bands,” Naggar said. “They’re also great because they attract lots of new fans both from their sessions and festival. So yeah, thumbs up.”