Creative, Collective, Collaborative
History alum creates digital music, contributes voice to national conversations
Wednesday, February 3, 2021
Joel Holmes sits at a studio mic to record music

Don’t quit your day job—at least, not yet.

Ask Joel Holmes ’19, a New Orleans native and Trinity history major, what it means to have a “day job” as an IT consultant at Capgemini, and he will say it’s one way he’s put his liberal arts education in practice, developing creative solutions to complex problems in digital transformation.

But after hours—and between hours, and before hours—Holmes is part of a different kind of digital transformation, one in which music, technology, and culture collide. During these hours, Holmes himself transforms as the leader of his own musical project, “JOHO.” And while he describes himself as “not a professional musician,” don’t let that fool you: He does consider himself a songwriter, a performer, and above all, a creator.

In 2017, Holmes created a collective of musicians, Echo Park, which mixes hip-hop with alternative songwriting and pop melodies. The collective, which formed on Reddit, has become a “full-fledged band” over the past four years and includes more than a half-dozen artists from the U.S. and Canada. And yet to this day, the artists of Echo Park have never met in person.

“We really are in a DIY age of being artists and creators,” Holmes says. “Being able to pick up on people’s vibes and rhythms, trying to fit into a part of a greater collective, is becoming easier in this day and age with technological advancements. It’s because of this that Echo Park has been able to release several projects together despite having never met each other in person.”

A baritone for Trinity Choir and Chamber Singers, Joel Holmes participated in the 2016 Christmas Concert.

One of Holmes’ latest collaborative projects was rooted in this concept of digital media: He was a guest artist for the Trinity choirs’ “My Hair is a Garden” compilation, contributing to a cover of the 2014 rap and soul combo, “Glory,” by Common and John Legend. Because Holmes is no stranger to creating music in a digital sphere, virtually rapping alongside Houston Chamber Choir singer L. Wayne Ashley came almost naturally.

“Years of being part of a choir, part of a football team, and playing team sports, I know how to work well alongside people at this point,” Holmes says, emphasizing the necessity of dedication and teamwork in addition to digital know-how.

“Being able to fit in where I can and contribute what I can to make something better, I’m always here for it," Holmes continues. "Any time I’m invited back to Trinity, whether for a choir event, a football event, or anything else, it’s always nice to remember that at such a close-knit school, I left an impact on someone who wants to bring me back.”

As an offensive lineman for Tiger Football, Joel Holmes started nine games as a freshman and was a two-time First Team All-SAA player.

The project was special for Holmes, a Tiger football player, Bengal Lancer, and Mu Phi Epsilon member who noticed a lack of Black voices among his classmates—“in the choir in particular, and in Chamber Singers especially,” he says. “Seeing everyone’s input into going out and finding Black artists, telling their stories, and representing them, was a special way of seeing how many people actually care. It gave me a sense of validation knowing that I chose a place that has people that do care so much about issues that directly affect me and my family.”

These issues, part of a large national conversation, are at the root of Holmes’ own musical work. “Whether people want to admit it or not, whether they realize it or not, the things that we go through today are eventually going to be looked back at as history.” Holmes says. “Art itself is an expression of history and tales of stories that we’ve lived. When moments like these—when unfortunate events—happen, for people to make something positive come from it is necessary as part of the healing process for us as humans and for the continued experience of living through rough times.”

Album cover for Joel Holmes's single "Rules"

Today, Holmes releases his latest single, “Rules,” via Spotify. You can stream music from JOHO and EchoPark on Spotify as well.

Jeanna Goodrich Balreira '08 is the director for content strategy for Trinity University Strategic Communications and Marketing.

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