In 2019, reeling from the pain of a long-term breakup, British alt-Americana troubadour Holly Lerski hit the road and the creative muse struck. Written in two “suites,” her fifth studio album, Sweet Decline, was born of that travel. Lerski embarked on a whirlwind solo road trip with a miniature guitar across seven U.S. states in 20 days, during which she wrote the first seven songs in quick succession. Two months later, she returned, this time wandering the Southern Californian desert and coast, where she penned the next three. Her last song, "Girl In A High Castle," was written in a shepherd’s hut in Dorset just before leaving England.

“I went off to find America and found myself in this incredible landscape I'd only ever dreamed of: mountains, deserts, redwood forests, the wild Pacific Ocean,” says Lerski. “And I met all these amazing people along the way, experienced random acts of kindness time and time again. The more I opened up to life, the more the lucky breaks came.” Posting live updates via social media, befriending strangers, visiting radio stations, and writing songs along the way, it was as if a valve inside had broken open and life came pouring back in; instead of feeling isolated in a foreign country, Lerski started finding connections everywhere. “And all these songs appeared" she says.

Lerski grew up outside London in the ’70s, inspired by the music her father, who was a sound engineer for TV/film, brought home. She got her first instrument at just four years old — a child’s tin drum kit— and at five, her first guitar. By eight, she was playing from a Beatles songbook and cutting Led Zeppelin licks in the schoolyard with her first band by 12. She spent her teens exploring punk and prog-rock, then joined psychedelic indie pop act The Nivens as bassist. Two years later, while studying painting at the Norwich School of Art, Lerski came out as a lesbian — a defining moment that helped shift her focus back to art, self-discovery, and beauty again.

She returned to making music in 1996 and formed a new band, Angelou, drawing influence from both the poet and musician, Jeff Buckley (who passed away the week of the EP’s release). A cover of Buckley’s version of “Hallelujah” became Angelou’s first demo. The band signed to UK indie label Haven Records in 1997 and dropped a debut album, Automiracles (produced by Calum MacColl and described as “achingly lovely” by Mojo Magazine), in 1998. In 2000, Lerski self-produced Angelou’s second, “quietly brilliant folk-pop” album, While You Were Sleeping, then signed to Spanish label El Diablo Records in 2001, dropping two new singles, a best-of album titled Midnight Witcheries, and embarking on two national tours. That same year she signed with UK label Sanctuary Records and released Best of Angelou: Sweet Dreams Tonight, joining John Hiatt and the Goners on their European tour. Angelou’s third full-length album, Life is Beautiful, came out in 2002 under Lerski’s name, earning national airplay on BBC Radio 2 and spots touring in support of major international acts Josh Rouse, The Cranberries, and Jason Mraz. The band broke up in 2007, and Lerski played a final solo gig at The Living Room in NYC before taking a hiatus.

In 2015 she dropped her fourth album, written and recorded at home in her garden shed. Titled The Wooden House, the collection of “delicately interwoven guitars” was named one of the best folk albums of 2015 by both The Sunday Telegraph and Independent on Sunday.

As a songwriter, Lerski is both a lone wolf howling at the moon and a weaver of life’s synchronistic little odd threads, akin to artists like Tori Amos and Patti Smith in her fierce pursuit of her own, wild path. She draws personal inspiration from wanderers and other traveling truth-bearers like Jack Kerouac and Bob Dylan, blending poetic insights with rich sensory detail in pure, down-to-earth verse.

“When someone hears and responds to my music, it’s like a boomerang, or a friendly echo,” she says. “Something you send out that comes back to you, a little changed. That’s why I do this.”

It’s about examining the complicated fodder of life in search of genuine connection. Sweet Decline — from the initial sketches with James “Hutch” Hutchinson, Tony Braunagel, Johnny Lee Schell, and Diego “El Twanguero” Garcia in LA, to the finished works with Matt Roley, SistaStrings, Josh Hunt and Alex McCollough in Nashville — is the musical culmination of that hard-won lesson. Together, the album’s elegant, alt-country anthems form a rare breed of intimate outsider ballad, charting the miraculous ways we learn to heal after being ripped apart. It’s both a catalog of Lerski’s own raw pain and a reflection on the precious, mysterious connections that led her down a path of true change. Sometimes the bravest thing we can do is become vulnerable again.