Coco Love Alcorn performing in
Joyful: The Coco Love Alcorn Interview
With a new album and a cross-Canada tour, it's a Joyful world of family and friends for Coco Love Alcorn.
On the heels of the release of her new CD Joyful, Coco Love Alcorn is back on the road, which seems to be part of a never-ending tour. Seeing her live is always a treat. She can alternately bring you to tears with a ballad or have you laughing heartily with her stories that accompany many of her songs. Maybe there are a few more stories on this tour, as she has her cousin and backing singer Lindsay Alcorn touring with her and prompting her.
Coco has a wonderful sense of humour and it shows through in her stories and in some of her songs. Her vocal range is astonishing and she can hold a note so long that you fear for her health. At a recent stop in Merritt, B.C., she and her two backing singers put on a spellbinding performance that had the audience in the sold out Capitol Soundstage enthralled. This venue is one of the gems of the BC interior and has been so successful that it is about to be renovated and enlarged with an expanded program of music acts, comedy nights and theatre. A big fan of this venue, Coco commented, “It sure means a lot for us touring music folk, when people take the time and effort to build a beautiful place to play in that sounds great, has proper lighting and [where] an audience feels comfortable being there.”
I interviewed Coco early in April and it turns out that I played this interview on my show Jazz Notes on Earth Day. It was particularly fitting as Coco Love Alcorn walks the walk (or in her case rides the bike) and has an interesting aspect of her merchandising that involves recycling. She doesn’t preach and muses that sometimes you just don’t have enough information about environmental choices that you are faced with in every day life to make an informed decision. I guess Kermit the Frog was right. It isn’t easy being green.
I wrote a little song called Joyful and all of a sudden it was like �that�s the perfect name for the CD because this is how I feel She now lives in Toronto with her husband Simon and is obviously, a very family oriented person. She was visiting her mother in the Vancouver area when I spoke to her, has collaborated with her father, jazz musician John Alcorn, on songs over the years and is touring with her cousin Lindsay. She also has family in Nova Scotia and maybe all this touring is a way to see them more often. I chatted with her on Easter Monday, while she was taking a short break at her mother’s from her hectic touring schedule.
JD: Since the last time we talked on air, there have been quite a few changes. I hear you got married and moved to Toronto.
CLA: Yeah, this is true. Both are true.
JD: So very exciting for you.
JD: You were always kind of bicoastal anyway. You have travelled back and forth quite a bit.
CLA: Yes. I do shows in Nova Scotia, a lot. I was born there and I have a family out there. I grew up mostly in Vancouver and I have lots of family and friends out here and you know the way things are I hit everything, in between (laughs).
JD: You really do. Now, you are on quite an extended tour right now that started off in the Toronto area and work your way west and then you’ll go back east. In what amount of time?
CLA: Well, in about 21/2 months and the last date of the spring tour is June 14 in Toronto at the Hugh's Room which is an amazing venue and then the very next day we leave Toronto to start our summer touring, because I have a festival out in Alberta, The North Country Fair, the following weekend. It’s sort of 21/2 months of spring touring, rolling into 3 months of summer festival touring.
JD: I thought people decided to be musicians so they wouldn’t have to work. You haven’t quite got that figured out Coco.
CLA: Ya, well (laughs), I think like any field you go into—to move forward in it, or be successful, or get the word out, whatever it is, it does take work and hopefully you choose something you enjoy, so it doesn’t always feel like work.
JD: Ya, that’s so true. Do you have any guests with you on this tour?
CLA: I’ve got my cousin Lindsay Alcorn touring with me, all spring and summer, singing backing vocals and we’ve been having a blast, yeah and for that little run of shows we are having different people join up with us.
JD: Well that sounds good. Part of the reason that you are touring is that you have a new CD out called Joyful. Tell us how Joyful came about, please?
CLA: Well like most CDs you make the new CD when you have the new songs that you want to record and the time comes, you know (laughs). So I guess I put out Sugar about two and a half years ago, so I started feeling the need to make a new CD and I was busy touring all the time so I approached this CD by hiring my friend Chris Gestrin, who I’ve known for years. He’s an amazing piano player and he has a collection of 40 some odd old analog keyboards. He’s got an amazing studio set up in his basement and I just have such a high trust level with him musically and I knew that if he and I got together, whenever we could and press record, we’d have a really fun time and make some good music. We just approached the music that way and I also spent some time in Winnipeg with my friend Sean Pierce adding additional vocal parts and trumpet parts and guitar parts and mixing things. It was a really fun process making the CD. I didn’t really know that it was going to be called Joyful until nearly the end of the process I wrote a little song called Joyful and all of a sudden it was like “that’s the perfect name for the CD because this is how I feel” (laughs).it can take a day or a year to write any kind of song really
JD: That is a good way to feel and it is a joyful CD. Speaking of “Joyful,” your father John Alcorn co-wrote that song with you and also the song “Sleepless.” Both are really pretty ballads. What is it like working with your father?
CLA: It’s wonderful. It’s similar to the trust level I have with Chris Gestrin, who I’ve known for fourteen or fifteen years and who I’ve been making music with forever. My trust level with my Dad is other-worldly (laughs). I feel like I can say anything, you know. I can throw any idea out and he’ll give me an honest response. You know, there’s unconditional love, so I don’t have to edit myself or feel nervous to try ideas. It was a nice fun working process and we feel like we can say anything.
JD: That’s awesome. No dysfunctional family with you.
JD: Ok, here’s the philosophy question and it’s not going to be like a fourth year one; not that deep. There are at least 3 tracks on Joyful that have environmental comments, themes or philosophies: “I Got a Bicycle”, “Revolution” and “There’s Hope for the World”. Maybe you could tell our listeners about your philosophy in these songs focusing on the “green” aspect.
CLA: There’s a lot of awareness about things going on in the world, these days--negative things; positive things. Where I sit personally is not wanting to ignore negative things going on in the world; wanting to be aware of them, but try to think about things in a positive light like what and can do, but not beat myself up because I don’t make the perfect choice one day. Like holding that plastic water bottle and where do you put it in the recycling bin, do you re-use it…? That’s just one example. I feel that every day there’s about a hundred choices that I’m faced with and I don’t always know the best answer. If I’m in the public washroom and I wash my hands is it better to use the electric air dryer or the paper towel? I’m not even sure, so I try to always make the best decision at that moment and be open to learning more and feel hope that with a high level of awareness we can all move towards a better future, you know.
Coco Love Alcorn with “a work of art” made from a recycled shirt.
JD: Ya, that makes sense. Like you said, there are choices to be made and you have made a nice choice with your merchandise. Why don’t you tell us about that?
CLA: We buy second hand shirts all across Canada and we take them home where we have a crazy factory set up: washing the shirts, sorting them in piles. We have about twenty different designs that we do; silk screening the designs on to the shirts; ironing them all so the ink gets set—it takes a while, but it’s really, really fun and every piece of merchandise ends up as a one of a kind piece of walking art, I guess. There are at least 500 shirts out there across Canada being worn. That’s pretty cool (laughs) and more and more people are showing up at my gigs wearing them. Like in Nelson a girl came in wearing one of the ones we had done in flowers last year. That’s one of the older prints and we hadn’t done any of them in a year. It was awesome to see that shirt’ again. It was like seeing an old friend walk in (laughs). So that’s pretty neat.
JD: That’s very neat and we should emphasize that you are getting the shirts at thrift stores and recycling them. Well mentioning cycling, you are an avid cyclist.
CLA: Ya, but I haven’t been able to cycle as much the last couple of years because the touring schedule has been so intense. Whenever I’m home it’s my main mode of transportation and it’s something that’s near and dear to my heart. When I can I bring a bicycle on tour with me, so I can take rides across Canada. I have two bikes in Toronto and one in Vancouver, so I definitely will be taking bike rides this week when I’m out here.
JD: I like the attitude in “I’ve Got a Bicycle.” It’s just about you looking at others stuck in their autos in traffic, while you go merrily on your way on your bicycle having a good time. It’s good.
CLA: Yes, and the whole rhythm track for that song was created out of bicycle sounds. At Chris Gestrin’s studio I had my BRC, my Vancouver bike, there, and ya we were hitting the gear shifters and the brake mechanisms, spinning the wheel and I hit the seat for the kick drum and both Chris and Sean dialled up the bass (laughs) frequency of me hitting the seat.
JD: That is so cool.
CLA: It was really fun (laughs).
JD: There’s actually a CD on our playlist right now that contains just ukulele and suitcase (Jean Martin and Evan Haynes Freedman).
CLA: Oh, that’s really cool.
JD: So, he’s using the suitcase as his percussions. I knew there was something going on with the bicycle in that song, so know it’s clear. You have a good sense of humour and you aren’t afraid to express yourself in your writing. I really love the tune “Intellectual Boys.” But I have a bone to pick with you on that one.
JD: I’m walking around downtown alternately humming and singing and realized that I’ve just sung out loud “I like boys.” Ooh (laughs), not that there’s anything wrong with that.
CLA: (Laughs) You’re not the first one that’s run into that problem, but you know … (laughs).
JD: So if it’s stuck in someone’s head and they don’t mind, it’s a good thing and it’s just a really fun song.
CLA: A couple of nights ago, someone in Kaslo, B.C. who’s a teacher at an alternative school there was telling me that there were four 13 year old boys and they had pulled up my I like “Intellectual Boys” song on You Tube and were singing along with it and dancing around. I wish someone had videoed that and put that up on You Tube.
JD: Now, that would be fun. You’re giving hope to a lot of intellectual boys, out there, I think.
CLA: Yesterday morning after the Kaslo show, we met up with some lovely Kaslo people and we were invited for a buckwheat Easter pancake breakfast and I was sitting next to a fifteen year old lad who was wearing one of my “Nerdy and Flirty” shirts. “You wrote that song for me. I play D&D. I do calculus (laughs).” It felt pretty good.
JD: Is it more difficult to write a song tongue-in-cheek, such as Intellectual Boys, than it is to write a ballad?
CLA: I don’t know. That song actually came to me on a car ride from Hamilton to Windsor, Ont. Songs don’t always flow out in one day and it can take a day or forever to write a love song and it can take a day or a year to write any kind of song really.
JD: That’s definitely true. Writing is a process and it can take a long, long time sometimes.
CLA: Ya, I’ve got lots of little, old half finished songs and I don’t know if they’ll ever be finished. They’re my little friends that sit in my subconscious and I chip away at them when they ask me too (laughs).
JD: That’s interesting. So, where can we get your new CD Joyful.
CLA: April 21st it hits stores and you can also order it through maplemusic.com. They’ve got an artist index and if you click on C and scroll down to Coco Love Alcorn and then click on merchandise and CDs and it comes for under $19 Canadian including shipping and taxes and . If you do this there are a 100 pre-order copies that come with an autograph and a silkscreen poster, as of April 21st and I have them at my gig, of course.
JD: Of course.
CLA: Oh, I am going to be doing a show in Kamloops on August 25; an outdoor concert from 7-8:30.
JD: That would be Music in the Park.
CLA: I would assume so.
JD: Those are great shows.
CLA: I’ll still have Lindsay with me singing backup vocals and I think I’ll have a drummer with me at that point.
JD: Great. I’ll look forward to it. Those shows are done in Riverside Park and everybody brings blankets and folding chairs and picnics and enjoys the gig. The bandstand faces the river and it is really cool.
CLA: Outdoor and indoor shows are two different beasts, but both are wonderful beasts.
JD: We’ll all look forward to seeing you then. Good luck with the tour and your new CD Joyful and I’ll see you in Merritt on your tour stop, there.
CLA: Yeah. I’ll see you in Merritt. Thanks, Jim.