“This is largely due to the stress that the world is going through, and I felt we could all do well with some happy, upbeat vibes in our lives.”
Kevin Holness has an extremely interesting life. The Somerville-based reggae artist professionally known as Mighty Mystic is one of the genre’s leading artists, having been active since the late ’90s and collaborated with the likes of Shaggy and Lutan Fyah. And in addition to his hits and uplifting, spiritual, and simply genuine lyrics, Mystic’s brother Andrew just got re-elected as the prime minister of Jamaica in a landslide on Sept 3.
I asked Holness, who is hardly your local creative despite having called Boston homebase for years, about growing up on a farm, a common belief he and his brother share, working on new music, and the challenge of the current moment.
You moved to Boston from St. Elizabeth, Jamaica, with your family when you were nine. What was it like?
It was very different to say the least. I grew up on a farm in Jamaica with lots of animals, a multitude of crops to tend to, and a real close connection with nature and my community. Everyone knows everyone and everyone helps everyone in the community, so naturally moving to Boston posed some difficulty for my nine-year-old self. Boston seemed to be a different world and I can remember feeling a bit stifled. Being surrounded by massive skyscrapers, tons of cars, noise, people being so busy, and no one talking to each other made me feel lonely.
I found comfort in music and that became a source of therapy for me, especially in those first few years of being in Boston. I started listening to and collecting reggae, hip-hop, R&B, and rock cassettes, and that really gave me a boost and commonality with my peers. I didn’t know it at the time, but that was the early stages of what would become Mighty Mystic.
It seems living in Boston during your adolescence helped shape you as a musician. Did your experience with farming growing up? Do you currently have a garden?
It has, and I would love to have a big garden, but living in the city makes it rather tough to do so. We do have a few red peppers, green peppers, and tomatoes that we have growing. When the situation permits, I’ll step up my garden game and will start growing other vegetables.
Congrats to your older brother Andrew on being reelected as the prime minister of Jamaica, by the way.
Have you always been polar opposites? With him being the studious type and you being the artistic type?
You could say that. As far back as I can remember, my brother always wanted to be the prime minister of Jamaica. He took that vision and did the work necessary to achieve the goal, and trust me when I tell you, he put the work in and it shows. As for me, I was always a rootsy, free-flow type of guy, and I always felt connected to the Earth with a deep sense of spirituality. That fundamental aspect comes across in my music. I just want to help and empower people, even if it’s only a few, I’ll take that as a victory. Yes, we are opposites in our paths and methods, but similar in the fact that we are driven to see our people and all people succeed and prosper.
What are your plans for the rest of the year? Have you been working on any new music?
I have been working on a new album. I’d say we are more than halfway finished with it. This album will be somewhat lighter and more fun in comparison to my past albums, which were heavy and message driven. This is largely due to the stress that the world is going through, and I felt we could all do well with some happy, upbeat vibes in our lives.
Has COVID affected the making of it in any way?
Most of my band members live out of state, so coordinating them all has been difficult, but having said that, I love a good challenge. The difficulty and uncertainty of these times has kind of got my inner beast firing at 100%, so I’ve been creating tons of music, meeting with band members when possible, and finding new ways to be creative during the process.
Rob Duguay is an arts & entertainment journalist based in Providence, RI who is originally from Shelton, CT. Outside of DigBoston, he also writes for The Providence Journal, The Connecticut Examiner, The Newport Daily News, Worcester Magazine, New Noise Magazine, Northern Transmissions and numerous other publications. While covering mostly music, he has also written about film, TV, comedy, theatre, visual art, food, drink, sports and cannabis.