Holly Herndon releases AI cover of Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene’

‘This is the kind of song I would never dare to sing with my natural voice’

Holly Herndon has released a new cover of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”, but with a twist: the single was recorded with artificial intelligence.

The AI cover was created using Herndon’s deepfake twin, Holly+, who was able to sing the iconic song in Herndon’s voice. “I thought it would be fun to share the latest version of the Holly+ voice, which is so realistic that it seems some people haven't realised it is entirely AI-generated,” Herndon tells Dazed.

“It felt interesting to cover Dolly for a few reasons. I’ve been exploring the idea of Identity Play (IP), or using AI to be able to perform with or as someone else, and Dolly's music means a lot to me as we are both from Appalachia. This is the kind of song I would never dare to sing with my natural voice. She is a fantasy figure for me,” she continues.

The track has been released alongside a new music video, directed by digital artist Sam Rolfes. For the video, Rolfes used motion-capture technology to animate a 3D model of Herndon. “My friend Sam Rolfes is my favourite mixed reality artist, he is a real virtuoso. We discussed these ideas of pastiche and identity play, and we decided he would perform as me performing as Dolly wearing rhinestone nudie suits that were a fantastical representation of Appalachia when I was growing up,” she says.

Herndon is no stranger to experimenting with her art, either. “When I started making AI music in 2016 I described it as the baby phase. It was so young and the music I made sounded like babbling. The tools had not yet made any sense of the world,” she tells Dazed.

Most recently, Herndon unveiled Holly+ last year. “Now I would say we are in the infant phase,” she says. “It feels appropriate that in the infant phase Holly+ would explore a caricature of my background and features.”

“I think this kind of identity play will become very common, and think it is important that it happens in a consenting way,” she adds. “It is important we get it right, but also important to have fun with the possibilities and see what is there.”

Watch the video above.