LONG BEACH — A grandma with short blonde hair, a forearm tattoo and rhinestone guitar strap walked onto The Peninsula Performing Arts small lifted stage Saturday night.
“If you came here for rock, you’ll probably be disappointed,” Terry Holder said to her audience. The set opened with a cover of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven,” stamped with Holder’s own sound, a mix of folk and country.
Holder, 55, never intended to be a musician. She spent most of her 20s and 30s as a full-time mom. She felt jobless when the youngest of her three daughters moved out in 2000. When her mom died in a few months later, she felt like she lost the role of being a daughter.
Her career started when a few words kept rotating in her head.
“I finally sat down one day and put the words on paper, then I realized it was a song,” Holder said. “I figured, ‘If I’m writing music, I should probably learn how to sing.’”
At 39, Holder enrolled in voice lessons.
About 16 years later, Holder is a full-time singer songwriter based out of Olympia with four albums. She travels as a duo with her husband, Jerry, to places like Chicago, Texas and Alaska throughout the year.
“I’ve experienced so many roles,” Holder said. “I had the life of being a daughter, falling in love and creating a family. Now, it’s music.”
Holder’s mom knew her daughter’s relationship with music like most mothers — she paid for violin lessons and watched Holder play piano in choir.
“It’s crazy to think, my life, who I am, it’s completely different from what she knew,” Holder said.
Holder’s father was an alcoholic and her mother had seven kids to raise. She watched the Glen Campbell Show from her grandma’s living room floor and sang along to Jackson Browne with her siblings in the kitchen.
Music overlapped the chaos, but it wasn’t a passion.
“Then, all of a sudden it felt like a train hit me after mom’s death, I had to create music,” she said. “I felt like I had to record it. I wanted to give it to my kids, for them to have for years to come.”
After Holder finished her first CD, “Am I Here, Is This Me,” the lyrics kept coming.
She told her husband, Jerry, he could join the band or she would find someone else.
“When I meet Terry, I was in the music world a bit and I knew how that environment could be, I didn’t want anybody else to be her partner, so I picked up my guitar again and joined,” he said.
The couple played four-hour gigs in smoke-filled bars until they started booking house parties and small-venue concerts.
The money they made went toward Holder’s second album, “Colored Rooms.” They learned how to be independent artists to sell the new batch — they built a website, designed graphics and attended music conferences to network and perform.
“We’ve had to re-learn how to survive in this industry as technology has changed multiple times over the last 16 years,” Larry said. “And we’ll keep doing that.”
Holder said one day she would like to hear her songs in films and covered by other artists. “The dream is to win a Grammy, go to the Oscars, all of it,” Holder said. “Why wouldn’t I?”