IT has been amazing speaking with Courtney Cooper…
as she prepares to launch her album, W A V E S, on 24th August. I ask about the new single, Damn, and whether there is a story behind it; what we can expect going forward; what sort of records she bought when she was younger – Cooper talks about the Berklee College of Music and what she learnt there.
I ask whether there are gigs booked and which newer acts we need to back; some albums that mean a lot to her; what she gets up to away from music – she ends the interview by selecting a rather awesome song.
Hi, Courtney. How are you? How has your week been?
I'm great! Thanks so much for the opportunity to talk about my new music!
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
Hey. I’m Courtney Cooper! I’m a Soul-infused Indie-Pop artist from Brooklyn, N.Y. with a new album called W A V E S releasing on August 24th!
How did your new single, Damn, come about? What inspired this song?
Damn is my personal favorite on the album. The song plays on the similarities between our emotions, relationships and the ocean. Even in the opening line, you get a sense of this: “Emotional undertow – it’s got a hold and I can’t control my feelings”.
It’s kind of playing on the idea of being caught in an undertow, being pulled under and drowning in your own emotions, if that makes sense. I’m also completely in awe of the ocean and it’s beauty…it’s so breathtaking, sometimes you can’t help but stare in awe and think: ‘Damn…that’s incredible’ which, of course, also happens in relationships.
What can you tell me about the single, Vibes? Is there a story behind it?
Vibes is a super-chill summery song. When I was writing it, I just envisioned it was a perfect summer day - and I think you hear that when you listen to it...
The album, W A V E S, is out soon. What sort of themes and ideas compelled the songwriting?
I’ve always been extremely drawn to the ocean. There’s something so magical about the rise and fall of the tide - and the mystery of the unknown beneath the surface. All of the songs from the album are, in a way, inspired by the ocean and its beauty. I wrote the album during a really brutal winter in Brooklyn, N.Y. where I live on the waterfront.
As I was writing the album, staring out my window looking at snow, I daydreamed of tropical paradise; those reveries became the songs that make up the album. The title is also a play-on-words as well - as audio ‘waves’ are the vibrations of sound that are heard as music.
How important was attending Berklee College of Music at the age of seventeen? Did you learn a lot whilst there?
My time at Berklee was incredible. I was so young; I really grew up with my fellow classmates. Being constantly surrounded by some of the most amazingly talented teachers and students was magical. I learned so much, musically, it built such an incredible drive and fire within me. It was definitely not your ‘typical’ college experience but I wouldn’t change it for the world.
If we imagined your childhood record collection; what might we discover in there?
You would find stacks of cassettes! Does anyone remember those?! As a child, I had tons of Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson; Mariah Carey, Boyz II Men; Green Day, No Doubt…
More into my teens (and C.D.s), I got really into Aaliyah, Missy Elliott; Timbaland and Lauryn Hill.
How important are Brooklyn and its people regarding your sound? What is it like recording there?
I’ve lived in New York for over a decade but a few years ago, I took a break and moved to L.A. for three years. L.A. is, essentially, the polar opposite of N.Y.C. in every way: the lifestyle, pace; weather, people…
When I moved back to N.Y., it never occurred to me I would have any sort of culture shock since I’d lived in N.Y.C. for many years prior - but I couldn’t have been more wrong. My first winter back was really difficult adjusting to the negative energy that N.Y.C. sometimes holds. I felt such a longing for what I left behind and, basically, created my own mini-universe when I was writing the album and got lost in my own daydreams.
Are there going to be any tour dates coming up? Where can we see you play?
Yes, absolutely! I will be kicking off with my first show in Brooklyn to support the release and traveling from there. You can follow me on Instagram to keep up with future tour dates.
Will you come to the U.K. and play there?
Nothing lined up quite yet but I would love to come to the U.K. and play!
Do you have any ambitions to fulfil before the end of the year?
Ha – sooo many! I’m one of those people who set the bar of goals really high each year and I am constantly reaching trying to accomplish new things. Major performances and festivals are high up on the list.
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
One of my funniest memories looking back, when I was really young, I lived with my grandma for a few years when my parents were divorcing. My grandma was the most amazing woman but she was also very strict and we didn’t have much money. I was completely obsessed with all things Michael Jackson but I didn’t have any money to buy his records back then.
I used to wake up in the middle of the night, sneak into the living room and sit in front of the T.V. watching MTV (I wasn’t allowed to watch MTV) when they used to play Michael Jackson music video marathons - with my two–tape-deck boom-box and record the sound (remember when you had to press play and record together?!).
For years, I would play those awfully-sonically-recorded tapes back in my room but I loved Michael Jackson so much it didn’t even matter. Another funny one looking back is when I was in fourth-grade; I had my first solo in the school choir. When the concert rolled around I was on crutches from an injury and had to limp out to the front of the stage to where the microphone was. I was SO mortified! All the kids in school called me ‘gimpy’ after that.
Which three albums mean the most to you, would you say?
Michael Jackson- Dangerous; Fiona Apple – Tidal and Lauryn Hill - The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
Always stay true to yourself! I struggled with this for many years as industry executives would tell me what I should look or sound like. Looking back, I wish I would never have listened to them and just created the music I felt inside myself.
IN THIS PHOTO: Bishop Briggs
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
I try and find a nice balance but, to be honest, my favorite way to unwind is working on music. I’m also a big fan of super low-key Netflix nights with wine and popcorn. I do a lot of yoga to center myself, too.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Gallant – Weight in Gold
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