Popping Up: Hollie Cook
Popping Up is our recurring look at new artists making noise on the music landscape. Because, hey — Madonna and Britney were once unknown, too.
Over the past year, various musicians from the UK quickly made a name for themselves here in the states — including Sam Smith, Clean Bandit and Gorgon City. The latest to do so is Hollie Cook. She’s the daughter of Sex Pistols‘ Paul Cook and Jeni (formerly a backup singer for Culture Club), but she doesn’t let her parents’ big names get in the way of her budding career. Instead of drawing on punk influences or new wave as people may expect, she has gone the route of romantic lover’s rock and reggae.
The singer was a part of post-punk band The Slits for four years, until she decided to break out on her own with the self-titled debut album in 2011. Cook made some waves in her home country, but it was sophomore LP Twice (released in May 2014) that caught the eyes of fans in America — including us!
Read on after the jump to find out why this London import should be on your radar!
NAME: Hollie Cook
WHERE SHE WAS BORN: West London, England.
WHAT HER MUSIC SOUNDS LIKE: She describes it as “Tropical Pop.”
WHAT SHE LISTENED TO GROWING UP: “It was anything from The Beach Boys to The Buzzcocks to Dusty Springfield. Then on my own accord as a kid, I was listening to Mariah Carey, Salt N’ Pepa, Michael Jackson and the Spice Girls. I was into a lot of punk and rock as a teenager as well.”
HER PARENTS WERE BLUNT WITH THEIR ADVICE ON THE INDUSTRY: They taught her that it’s “transient and changing and unreliable — and that people can be full of shit!” She continued, “Not that I ended up being cynical about [the industry], but my dad was just super real about it. You come into it starry-eyed, and you can be vulnerable when you have that mind frame.”
ANY PRESSURE TO LIVE UP TO THEIR LEGACY?: “Absolutely not, actually. I was never attempting to repeat anything that they’ve done. I just always thought it was cool that my parents were supportive of the fact that I lent towards being creative. They sent me to a performing arts school when I was young, to help me delve into it further. I was a shy kid so it was a good thing, I think. They encourage confidence. And we have way more in common now; if I decided to be a lawyer or a doctor we would’ve lived in two completely separate worlds. It was cool that we were all doing the same thing.”
Hollie Cook – “Postman”
WHY SHE CHOSE REGGAE INSTEAD OF POP: “It’s what felt right; it’s almost like it chose me. I had, in my teens, dabbled in that more mainstream pop world. It always felt kind of uncomfortable to me, and I wasn’t really that into the way it worked. I was always slightly more towards the alternative side anyway, even compared to a bunch of my friends at school. [Reggae] just felt like a very comfortable way to express myself, and that’s really what it’s about opposed to seeking some type of fame and glory. That’s not why I wanted to do music. There’s no point in doing it if you feel you’re being compromised in some way. If that had been the case, I could’ve just gotten a normal job.”
ON HOW HER REGGAE SOUND CAME ABOUT: “It’s funny actually! Considering my parents are both huge reggae fans, they rarely played me any reggae music. Both of them grew up in London when Jamaican music was at a huge strong point, so it was weird. But that never really came into it until my early teens, when I began discovering things for myself and with my friends. We listened to a lot of old Ska records, starting out with Desmond Dekker and Harry Jay and All Stars – just really standard classics. We used to go to a club in London called Gaz’s Rockin Blues, which is all old ska and blues music. From there I got more into Dennis Brown, Horace Andy and Marcia Griffiths. I was a massive Janet Kay and Carol Thompson fan. I remember the first time that I heard Janet Kay and I freaked out hearing these sweet girl vocals and I could sing along — it just totally worked.”
HER FUTURE PLANS TO VISIT JAMAICA: “It will definitely happen, it just hasn’t yet. I would love to go for musical reasons, I would love to work [there] and soak it all in. I can imagine that energetically, the music there is still so strong. It radiates from a tiny little island to all across the world. I’m gonna flip when I go, it’s gonna happen soon.”
THE “LOOKING FOR REAL LOVE” VIDEO SEEMS INSPIRED BY A BAD BREAK-UP: “I’ve had a lot of bad break ups! [laughs] That song and that video were two very separate ideas. I spoke to the director, Annick Wolfers, and she already had this idea of what she wanted to do. And it seemed to fit well with the concept and theme of the song. It’s not really a revenge song, but music videos are music videos – they can be anything. It was a silly, fun thing.”
Hollie Cook – “Looking For Real Love”
ABOUT “99,” DOES IT SAMPLE NAUGHTY BOY’S “LA LA LA”?: That’s so funny, because the boys in my band at home make fun of the fact that it sounds like it. And we always sing it like that, but it’s absolutely not a sample at all! It’s a Brazilian percussion instrument called the Cuíca. It’s kind of like a drum, but it’s got a string through it…I don’t even know how it’s supposed to work. But it’s very hard to get intonation like that, to sound like a melody. I loved that you picked up on that!”
WHAT SHE’S LISTENING TO CURRENTLY: “I’m not usually down with the kids! But I’m a big fan of Jamie T, and a UK girl band called Savages and Dum Dum Girls and Warpaint. I’m really big into female bands and groups. Solange, St. Vincent — I like all the kooky girls out there!”
ON HER EXPERIENCE BEING A PART OF THE SLITS: “It was invaluable, I would definitely not have made two albums of my own and had the confidence to go out and do it solo had it not been for being in The Slits. Ari Up was my musical mother and my mentor, and she did it in a way that was so subtle. She was a force of nature. It was really empowering.”
ON HER DREAM COLLABORATIONS: “I’ve managed to work with a few great people already. Recently back in England, I performed with Boy George at the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, and that was kind of far out in a way. It was something that I never thought would be something I would’ve gone through. Recording wise, I’ve worked with Jamie T recently. He just released an album and I’m on that. I’d really like to do some more work with him. I’d really like to work with Adrian Sherwood, he’s an awesome producer from the UK. Someone like Solange would be cool, I love her.”
WAS SHE READY TO EMBARK ON HER FIRST STATESIDE TOUR?: “It was kind of a mixture of two feelings of being a young kid having an exam for school, and Christmas Eve all wrapped together. I’m from London and I’ve played there enough times to deal with a tough crowd. We’ll see how it goes, but it should be all love! I’m not out here to prove anything, I’m just here to spread some joy. If you don’t like that, then I don’t know what’s wrong with you!”
Grab the Twice LP on iTunes here.
Get an eyeful of even more pop music coverage, from artist interviews to exclusive performances, on Idolator’s YouTube channel.