British singer-songwriter Greg Holden is mainly known for “Home,” the Phillip Phillips song he co-penned with Drew Pearson, which became the most successful American Idol single of all time (with 5 million copies sold). But now he’s making a name for himself with his Warner Bros. records debut, Chase the Sun. And one of the album’s tracks, a tear-jerking ballad about a homosexual man ostracized by his disapproving family called “Boys in the Street,” is standing out as a different sort of anthem.
“It’s a simple story about a gay kid and his dad,” Holden says of the song, which was originally recorded for the charity compilation Everyone Is Gay. “It’s a story about their relationship. Some of it is [inspired by] the relationship between me and my stepfather. We didn’t have a great time growing up. But a lot of it is about friends of mine who have had those kinds of experiences. I wanted to try and write about it, because a lot of them can’t.”
Already the song is connecting with audiences. “One guy in Florida actually told me he didn’t kill himself because he heard that song, which was the most emotional thing I think anyone has said to me. That was when I was like, 'Oh my God. Please don’t do that.’ It was super-powerful. I’ve never had that [reaction] before,” says Holden. “That’s what it’s always been about for me, people having a reaction. I don’t care about money. That’s never been my goal, to be this rich, famous musician. I just want to have people react to music in a really positive way.”
Fame and fortune may not have been Holden’s goals when he started playing music at the relatively late age of 18, but the aforementioned “Home” of course changed all that. “It was a lottery ticket, really. You never expect that sort of thing to happen,” he says. As for the reaction Phillip Phillips first had to the song — when he infamously told a roomful of reporters backstage at the Season 11 American Idol finale that he didn’t want “Home” to be his first single — Holden says with a shrug: “I could relate. I’m songwriter and an artist. I like to write my own songs. So is he. Even though that was a big song for him, I can understand why he felt that way. He probably wanted his songs to be heard, which is a total normal reaction, I think. Maybe saying it in a huge press event right after you win is not a great call, but whatever!”
One Holden/Pearson Idol-affiliated composition still remains in the can: Last season, the U.K. songwriting duo’s “I Love This Feeling” would have been the coronation song for contestant Alex Preston, if Alex had won. Preston even recorded it, but since he placed third, the single was never released. “That was another song I wrote with Drew. I started playing it live, just like I did with 'Home’ originally. Then they were like, 'They’re going to use it on American Idol again.’ I was like, 'What, again? Why does this keep happening?’” Holden says with a laugh. “It’s a shame nothing that happened with that.”
But looking ahead, a lot is happening with Holden right now with his own solo career, and he’s finally found his home on the world stage.