Talk about timing — Holly Ramos had flown from sunny L.A. into New York the evening of the great nor'easter. Her plane was delayed some ridiculous number of hours on the tarmac; she finally touched down at 3am. She is zonked, and it's still pouring outside.
But like the gutsy New York native she is, Holly's unfazed. "I'm actually kinda digging this weather. Now I can buy a three dollar umbrella in a bodega," she says with a wicked little grin. "You can't do that in L.A." She's ridden the subway to our interview, and is still impressed at how fast her New York street skills have kicked back in. "I'm dodging around people, yelling, 'Get out of my way!' I haven't used that voice in years." Clearly it feels good.
Luckily, Ramos has a day to recuperate before her date at the Mercury Lounge, opening for her high school friend Jesse Malin. Petite and pale as she is (no West Coast tan – you've gotta love that), she's got a certain tensile strength I'll lay my money on.
Speaking of laying money down, I ask her why she's titled her new solo CD Race Horse. She shrugs, grins, and admits that it doesn't fit with the image of a blonde girl singer with a kittenish, breathy soprano. But playing against type intrigues Ramos. In much the same way, the CD's acoustic Americana twang is deceptive, given the urban snarkiness in the lyrics.
These are songs about people who mope around their apartments, ordering takeout and watching Dirty Harry movies, or who make out with their boyfriends between eating French fries in a diner. Even a song like "Coal Miner's Lullaby" isn't really about life in the coalfields – it's one of what she calls her "I wish songs," recording a fleeting longing for a different, more straightforward life. "I'm always saying things like 'I wish I'd been a cheerleader and lived in Queens' – it doesn't mean I really want to." The straightforward life is an alien concept for Holly Ramos. It's been a long time since her 1990s stint in the downtown punk band Fur, but she's still got a few tattoos and a discreet diamond nose stud to prove her creds.