The British singer-songwriter (and Brooklyn transplant) penned the song “Home,” which was chosen by Jimmy Iovine for Phillip Phillips to sing at the end of American Idol‘s season 11, turning Phillips into a superstar. “It was like winning the lottery,” Holden says of the opportunity, which thrust his own talents into the spotlight.
Holden’s sound fits into a similar alt-folk, Mumford and Sons-like genre, but Holden hates labels and defining it as such. “Let’s just call it rock ‘n’ roll,” he tells PEOPLE.
Here are five things to know about the man whose own hits are about to be on the radio – and who already counts celebs like Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson among his many early adopter fans.
He didn’t pick up a guitar until he was 18
“I didn’t have a great time in school or growing up,” he says. “I didn’t have a lot of friends, and dealt with bullies. When I was 18, I was introduced to the guitar and it absolutely changed the direction of my life. I found something I really cared about and could do something positive with.” And it only took him a year to pick up. “A friend taught me three chords, and the rest I learned from the Internet. I picked it up so quickly that in a non-cheesy way, I feel like I was supposed to do this.”
He was kind of jealous of Phillip Phillips
“I was a little envious because I wasn’t the one singing it,” he says. “I always wanted to be an artist and not just a songwriter. But it changed my life. It came at the right time – I was struggling and really down about music. Really, it was like winning the lottery.” Plus, he’s not actually really jealous of Phillips. “We’ve written together since then,” Holden says. “I wrote a song on his album, and he’s a wonderful person. Just really a sweet guy.”
He’s a Brooklynite now, with no intention of leaving
Holden was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, but grew up in England. He moved to Brooklyn six years ago and says he plans on staying. “All my Brooklyn musician friends have moved to L.A., because that’s where the business is, where the producers are,” he says. “But I won’t. I love it here. I don’t even mind the cold. I actually like the fashion in winter better. I never want to wear a tank top, I always want to wear a shirt and jacket. So in the summer I sweat my ass off.”
He’s a reformed meat-eater who loves cooking
“I love cooking,” he says. “I just started getting into Indian food and playing around with spices. If I had to impress someone, I’d make them chana masala.” (With homemade roti!) He also prefers hanging at home as opposed to nights out. “I love staying home, drinking wine, cooking … I love being on tour too, but I love being at home. I’m scared my label will send me on the road for the rest of my life.”
He has an unlikely hobby for a rockstar – golf!
“I play golf,” he says. “I used to be good at it. I played a lot as a kid, and recently picked it up again. Now I just hate myself every time I play.”
“Hold on Tight,” the first single from Holden’s upcoming album, Chase the Sun, is available here.