“I’m sick of paying rent,” Holmes says after a long day of work. “I’m only ever at my house to sleep, and I’ve always been a minimalist.”
There are other reasons, of course, reasons far more poetic.
At several points during his yearlong work on the van, he’s taken the car out for a spin and watched through the windshield as that impossible Texas sun eclipses the highway ahead.
“Moments like that,” he says, pausing to search for the words, “they make me feel like I’m moving in the right direction.”
Holmes has been feeling like that a lot recently, and it’s not just because of the van. His new single, “The War of Attention,” drops July 4, followed shortly by the release of his album Garden, his first record since 2017’s Through the Hollows. The artist treats each record like his own personal time capsules; they represent who he was at that point in time.
“To me, Through the Hollows was about embracing life and doing things you regret so you can learn from them,” he says. “Garden has been three years of me coping with those decisions and learning to live above them.”
In a way, “The War of Attention” is even more of a time capsule than any other song on the album. The track is an ode to 2020, and as such, it teems with melancholic, anxious energy. As he searches for answers, pondering exactly how we all got so disconnected, Holmes’ voice rises and falls over bars of heartbreaking lyrics. While writing the song, Holmes got help from a man who knows a thing or two about heartbreak: Austin-based singer-songwriter David Ramirez.
“I think he’s one of the best writers of our time,” says Holmes, who met Ramirez while opening for him in Abilene in 2017. “He has a way of articulating anger and emotion and hope to an audience that I really needed with this song.”
For example, Holmes’ original lyrics for “The War of Attention” included the line, “This is the age of information”; Ramirez made a tiny but effective tweak, changing the line to, “Is this the age of information?”
“That small tweak makes the song so much more powerful because the listener hears it and asks themselves that question,” Holmes says. “You get them to wonder, ‘How much are we really informed?’”
The artist talks a lot about his audience. He can’t remember exactly how we got into this life, but he knows he’s in it to stay; there’s no going back, even if he wanted to. And even though he says he writes songs for himself (“It’s like a weird form of therapy we turn into a career.”) he hopes you get something out of it, too. In that regard, Holmes is following in the steps of his friend Darren Eubank.
Eubank, who died from COVID-19 earlier this summer, was a musician loved by many throughout Dallas. Holmes met Eubank during his first week in the city, and according to Holmes, the late artist helped him do “a year’s worth of networking in about a week.”
“To me, Through the Hollows was about embracing life and doing things you regret so you can learn from them ... Garden has been three years of me coping with those decisions and learning to live above them.” – Andrew Holmes on his albums
Eubank seemed to know everyone, and everyone seemed to adore Eubank. That’s a different lifestyle than the one to which Holmes is accustomed — like his wardrobe, his list of friends has always been pretty limited, and that’s the way he likes it.
“I’ve got about four or five great friends, and that’s it,” he says. “That’s all I’ve ever needed, because those are the ones I heavily, heavily rely on.”
Eubank was one of those people. He made Holmes want to do better, to be better, and the last time the friends saw one another, Holmes showed his friend the van.
“I remember he was walking away, and I told him, ‘I love you,’” Holmes recalls. “I was sitting in the van afterwards, and I felt so dumb. Like, ‘Why did I say that?’ Then, after he passed away, I realized that was the last thing I ever said to him.”
That one fleeting moment got Holmes thinking. There shouldn’t be shame in loving on people, he says. So that’s what he’ll do. He’s got time, and he’s got the van.
Later this summer, after the last of his rent is paid and his day job is a thing of the past, he’ll load up those shirts, shoes, pants and guitars and hit the road. Maybe that same sun will be setting over a highway, and he’ll watch it through the window on his way to his next show. Once there, he’ll play some songs that have been therapeutic for him. Maybe they’ll be the same for you, too.
“If I can heal myself and just one other person,” he says, “then that’s better than just healing myself.”