Collette Cooper singer/songwriter and actress and Radio Presenter on Soho Radio presenting her jazz and blues vinyl collection. She’s a jazz and blues influenced solo artist. Her well received singles are BIG FAT LIAR, PERFECT GIRL, DON’T THROW YOUR LOVE AWAY. WITH BBC INTRODUCING AND GAINED FANS FROM THE LIKES OF HUEY MORGAN, JONATHAN ROSS, CHRIS HAWKINS, NICK GRIMSHAW HER latest single Don’t Throw Your Love Away is on all major platforms for downloading. As an actress Collette has worked across the board in Theatre and film working with the likes of Jane Campion, Michael Winterbottom and Samantha Morton. Most recently appearing in feature film SET THE THAMES ON FIRE (performing an original song “Come For Dinner”) Flim, and You Can Tutu. Collette has also designed her own suit in collaboration with the amazing tailor Gresham Blake, called the Collette suit. She also loves to paint and has had her art in several exhibitions. She is a keen activist, helping to save the planet. We are so pleased Collette has taken the time out to chat with us.
Most people probably now you as an actress, but you are fast becoming a singer/writer to look out for in 2020 What made you to decide to utilise your musical talent and pursue a career as a musician?
I’ve always been a musician, sang and written music from an early age. I come from quite a musical family. I was bought my first keyboards and guitar at the age of 9 and was forever performing for the family. I was singing/busking on the streets in my teens with a friend for fun and a bit of cash. I’m fortunate enough to love all forms of art and acting is a profession I’m also very passionate about and always will be. I started singing professionally in little jazz bars and pubs just to earn money in-between my acting jobs really then I felt compelled to perform some of my original music and then it just organically grew. Signing to a small label and getting radio play which lead to big gigs.
I’ve been lucky enough to see you live. Your style of performing is mesmerising and theatrical, reminding me of say an Edith Piaf of now with also a vibe of Janis Joplin. Do you think being an actress has helped with your confidence and style on stage?
Most definately. Its a performance like any other performance, which I try to portray with as much emotional truth as possible.
What is your first love acting or singing?
Everybody asks me that question. I can honestly say, they are equal loves for different reasons. When I’m singing and writing, that’s my first love at that moment because I have complete freedom. When I’m acting, thats my first love at that very moment too because I’m immersed in this whole other world embodying another character which is the best form of meditation for me. I get to leave my mind and body for a while, as you know Karen, you’re a phenomenal actress! And when I combine the two, it just feels like magic
Who are your musical influences and inspirations and why?
Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Big Mama Thornton and Sonny Boy Williamson. All for their rawness and truth. My dad had great taste in music so I grew up listening to the best which was all my mentioned influences plus, Jonny Cash, Elvis and Edth Piaf . My dad is my biggest inspiration who taught me 12 bar blues on my very first keyboard. He always told me to run by my own heartbeat and my partner Mike too who has never ending belief in me and teaches me a life lesson every day. He really is my favourite person in the whole world.My bestest friend 🙂
Your voice is incredibly unique… raspy, bassy, a lot like velvet; so perfect for the genre of Blues and Jazz. Has your singing voice always been like this or has it evolved?
I’ve always had a very deep, raspy voice from a very early age. When I was in Primary school and we were in assembly singing a hymn or something, I remember messing about with a friend being naughty at the back of the class and I for some reason decided to belt the song out in true blues style and the teacher stopped playing the piano and asked the class who was that… I got scared and thought I was in trouble so stayed silent until one of my classmates dobbed me in but the teacher refused to believe it was me and was convinced it was one of the boys. That still makes me laugh. I did finally own up and her reaction was very supportive of my voice but of course I never took it seriously at that time. Of course your voice does evolve, what you do learn is how to use it and play around with the range and through years of singing now, I can do things with it which I probably couldn’t do 10 years ago.
What is your song writing process?
I don’t have a specific way as such. I first start with a subject which is truthful to me, I always have the notion of write what you know and not what you don’t know. I don’t see the point of writing something which has no relevance to you. My feelings at that moment have a lot to do whats put down on paper. I sometimes come up with a melody first and the story later, it all depends on the subject but I think its very important to write for yourself as in what feels truthful to you and it doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks. I would never write a song in order to people please.
You co-produced your work with Dan Lipman and mastered by Tim Young at Metropolis Studios. Tell us about the way you recorded your music?
We recorded it live straight onto tape at a lovely little studio in Angel which sadly has now shut down and also at Maida Vale too. Both incredible studios. Recording it live straight to tape is the best and only way for me, again its more truthful, capturing the emotion at that time rather than layering it and exhausting it. Dan Lipman is incredibly talented and amazing to work with and it was an honour to have Tim master it.
Do you feel there’s an imbalance in the music industry in terms of supporting new female artists?
Yeah maybe, most probably in the pop world, yes but I’m not in that world. I know so many wonderful female Jazz musicians and we are all very supportive of each other. So I’m either completely blind or I can honestly say I’ve never come across that as yet. Although I would like it if they didn’t always focus on a women looks or sexuality and just focus on their talent!
What would you say is your crowning moment so far as an artist and why?
It was great to receive such amazing support from the BBC and getting BBC introducing and being played on 6music on such great shows with credible DJ’s such as Huey Morgan and Chris Hawkins and also being on the Art show with Jonathan Ross. All incredible moments for me and playing such iconic venues like The Roundhouse, 100 club and The Jazz Cafe, all brilliant times. I’ve been playing a lot of harmonica lately on my gigs and recently at a relatively big gig, I played a big solo and my fellow musicians praised me, that was definitely a moment for me as I would like to be as epic as Sonny Boy Williamson playing the harmonica. LOL. But I guess like every other artist, we strive for more and I still have a long way to go to where I’d like to be but I’m forever grateful for the support I’ve had and for what I’ve achieved so far.
Collette, you have your own radio show on Soho Radio, tell us about it?
Yeah, its loads of fun. I basically get to play all my records from my vinyl collection and get my mates on the show too. They give you a lot of freedom at the station and I thrive on that. I don’t work well with rules. LOL. I’ve had my good mate Grimmy on a couple of times co-hosting the show with me or should I say teaching me the ropes really LOL. He actually loves it as he has the freedom to play his favourite music too and he has impeccable taste in music which is way beyond what he plays on his BBC show which is inevitably more tailored music to suit the audience and his BBC afternoon show is brilliant too.
We at Those London Chicks are all about positive thinking in order to make things happen. With that being said, what would be your most ideal situation as a singer?
Well, I’m still hoping to perform on Jools Holland, thats probably is one of my biggest dreams oh and maybe a gold platinum album one day too LOL 🙂 But if none of that happens, I’ll still be happy singing when I open the fridge door 🙂
You have such a sense of style Collette both on and off stage; very vintage, yet so now. Where are your favourite places to shop?
I don’t have a a specific place, I kinda just see something I like wherever it may be from and I generally shop in a lot of secondhand and vintage shops too. Although I designed a suit in collaboration with the brilliant Gresham Blake a couple of years ago called the “Collette” suit. A black one and a white one which has a very vintage style. Katharine Hepburn was my inspiration for it and they completely sold out so this year I’m laughing the same suit but in gold. I must get you one, you would look incredible in it 🙂 So on stage I basically just wear my suits, which gives me a sense of comfort plus they look goooood LOL
You really fit a lot in, what do you like to do for downtime?
Netball. I’m a complete netball addict. I would die without it. Its the only time I’m really free from my busy brain. Its a great release. I’ve played it all my life from a very early age. I even play the charity matches with the England squad which is such an honour but of course I’m not quite as good as those amazing ladies.LOL. I’m a keen activist to help save the planet so whatever I can help there, either performing at such charities and or putting some of my art into charitable exhibitions, just anything I can do to help spread the word and help save our beautiful planet Also,I love to paint and be with my little doggie Billy, who’s a beautiful, parson terrier.
Finally, what’s next for you Collette?
Well, Karen I’m currently in rehearsals to play Janis Joplin in a one women music driven play. Which is a dream job as I get to do both my first loves, act and sing and hopefully I’ll make some magic.
Thank you so much Collette!
THANK YOU SO MUCH, ALWAYS LOVELY TO CHAT TO YOU KAREN XX