It takes a special family to play music together professionally. It takes an even more unique one to sell their home and live together in a bus full time.
But that’s exactly what The Hollands!, “the self-styled 21st century nomads” from New South Wales, Australia, did in 2011.
“It is not for the faint of heart,” mother Jana Holland wrote in an email from the road last week when asked about living in such tight quarters.
The family of four — Michigan-born Jana, her Australian husband Craig and their two kids, Graciana and Banjo — have grown used to being in each other's spaces as they travel and perform around the world.
“This year is our most aggressive year of travel,’” Jana wrote. “... We are moving as fast as a traditional tour through about 17 countries, including 20,000 miles and about 90 shows in the U.S.”
The tour, which includes a stop in Appomattox this Sunday for Evergreen Lavender Farm’s Under the Oaks concert series, is in promotion of the family’s fourth full-length album “The Last Dance.”
“It’s easy to hear just why they have such a healthy reputation for engaging and involving audiences wherever they play, for their music is both inclusive and intimate, with lyrics that speak to all by offering inspiration and hope,” David Kidman wrote in his review for online magazine Folk Radio U.K.
Like on previous offerings, “Dance,” which was released last year, showcases the band’s blending of folk traditions from Celtic, Australian and Americana genres.
“There’s just something about family voices that blend so well,” says Bonnie Swanson, co-owner of Evergreen Lavender Farm.
Before The Hollands! parked their van in Swanson’s driveway, Jana talked about life as a nomad and the new album.
How does the 21st-century nomadic life work?
“When we are traveling through North America, we are in the bus and parking with host families who we love to neighbor alongside. Some of our hosts are people we have met before and some are kinfolk who we've never met and maybe responded to a shout-out on social media or are friends of friends. When we are not touring around the U.S. or Canada, you can find us with one backpack and one instrument each, trekking from country to country.”
Is it like a bartering system for permission to park in people's driveways?
“No, not really. It's more like your long lost cousins coming to visit. We are always happy to lend a helping hand, but it is not the basis for the exchange. [The] relationship is.”
What kinds of things have you learned about people from this way of living?
“That humans are beautiful, creative and inspiring creatures. We have learned that prejudices that feel like brick walls are really thin sheets of paper. We have learned to pay attention to when a prejudice seems to be blocking us from connecting with others and tear it down.”
Why live off the grid in the bus full time? Has living this was taught you anything or helped you discover something?
“Well, we don't actually live off the grid as we literally need a host family to keep our fridge running. We aren't interested in swimming upstream because we want to check out of society, but rather we swim upstream so that we have more opportunity to bump into people.
“We love people and want to engage with others in ways that are meaningful and life changing, both for us and those we encounter. The bus is just one way of facilitating those opportunities to connect.”
You recently released your fourth album, "The Last Dance." What is the story you're telling on this album?
"It is a collection of songs about things that matter to us. Themes like love and coming home, lullabies and songs that advocate for a better day, when we as humans really see the interconnectedness between us all.
"The Last Dance" sounds like an ending. Is that what this album is, an ending?
“Possibly. We are family, we'll always sing together, so maybe just an ending to a particular season but who really knows.”