b. California, USA. Holly Palmer grew up in Santa Monica, California, and Seattle, Washington, where she regularly sang Sarah Vaughan and Nancy Wilson standards in high school. By the time she attended the Berklee College Of Music in Boston on a scholarship, she had rediscovered her love of pop music and spent many evenings playing at impromptu rock gigs. After Berklee she continued to play irregularly in rock bands in New York, though she still returned to jazz standards when the occasion arose. She signed a development deal with Island Records in 1993 but this failed to produce a full contract. However, she eventually came to the attention of Sue Drew at Reprise Records, resulting in the release of her self-titled debut album in 1996. As she later told Billboard magazine, she never set out to prove herself the easiest of people to work with: ‘Because of my experiences before with industry types, there were certain things that I wanted. I wanted to co-produce the album, and I didn’t want anyone telling me what to sound like.’ The record was indeed co-produced, with Kenny White (Shawn Colvin, Marc Cohn). Holly Palmer featured Meshell Ndegéocello (bass) on its strongest track, ‘Lickerish Man’, as well as guitarists Bill Frisell and John Leventhal.
Palmer’s major label experience was not a happy one, and she eventually walked away from Reprise with the masters of two unreleased albums. During this period she also worked with David Bowie on his ‘...hours’ album and world tour. In the early 00s, Palmer set up her own Bombshell label to facilitate the release of her work and began experimenting with a more contemporary sound, drawing on her love of soul and hip-hop. Her second album, 2004’s I Confess, was recorded with help from luminaries such as Dr. Dre, Don Was and Billy Preston. Although Palmer’s original material was highly impressive, the stand-out track was a emotional reading of the Supremes’ ‘You Keep Me Hangin’ On’. Tender Hooks, released shortly after I Confess, featured material originally recorded in the late 90s with Howie B. that had been rejected by Reprise. The album marked an interesting bridge between the alt folk stylings of her debut and the beat heavy I Confess.