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Vessel of Love
Hollie Cook combines her unique vocal talent with charming charisma to craft her own dynamic strand of lovers rock with enduring tropical vibes, weaving a path from her West London roots to an arena of diverse collaborations, critically acclaimed records, and iconic live appearances around the world. Cook’s ability to continually surprise, delight, and progress solidifies her position as one of the most exciting voices in reggae, and this is crystal clear on her third full-length and Merge debut, Vessel of Love.
Cook’s music career commenced early when family friend and punk trailblazer Ari Up asked Cook, age 19 at the time, to join the raucous ’70s feminist UK post-punk outfit The Slits for their reformation in 2006. She thrived on being thrown into the deep end and quickly cut her teeth with four years of back-to-back shows around the globe. Her talents recognized and nurtured, she then released her first solo album Hollie Cook in 2011, with a revered 2012 dub album follow-up, while singles such as ‘Milk & Honey’ and ‘That Very Night’ gained support from influential radio stations across Europe. After performing at The Stone Roses concert at Manchester’s Heaton Park at the personal request of Ian Brown, and her hypnotic performance on the prestigious Later…With Jools Holland, the way was paved for Hollie’s solo career to take off.
For someone who claimed “it’s hard for a band to really stand out and shake up the world,” Cook was certainly making a good go of proving herself wrong. By the end of 2014, Jamie T had requested her support for his Alexandra Palace show and featured her on his track ‘They Told Me It Rained’. Cook had also unleashed Twice via Mr. Bongo Records, and with Mike “Prince Fatty” Pelanconi once again aiding in the album’s conception, Cook confidently delivered with her follow-up to a well-received debut. In the wake of another successful release, Hollie hit the road with both The Skints and Protoje, and lent her vocal talent to Quantic’s ‘Shuffle Them Shoes’ single, which also featured on his 1000 Watts album.
Acclaimed legendary producer Martin ‘Youth’ Glover is Cook’s most recent collaborator, lending his venerable production expertise to Vessel of Love. His success with Killing Joke is only surpassed by his enduring reputation as one of the most prolific producers in the UK. “I’m very honored to work with Hollie, one of the most exciting emerging singers and writers over the last ten years,” says Glover. Hollie Cook sits in good company on his impressive production list, joining the likes of Paul McCartney, Tom Jones, The Verve, Primal Scream, Pink Floyd, and Depeche Mode. Glover describes Cook’s songs as “sharp lyrical observations and clever word play combined with an exquisite and informed pop sensibility,” and they are only elevated by Glover’s production on Vessel of Love, in particular the singles ‘Survive’ and ‘Freefalling’ as well as deeper cuts like ‘Ghostly Fading’ and ‘Together’.
Hollie Cook’s vibrant, spirited take on lovers rock radiates positivity, and with Vessel of Love, expect to see her on top of the tropical throne of pop in 2018!
Official Website: HollieCook.com/
IRIE. Love and all its multifaceted emotions seems to be the underlying theme of the album. Was this your intention with Vessel of Love?
Hollie Cook. Yes, it kind of ended up accidentally being a love concept album which wasn’t necessarily the goal but that’s where it ended up and I’m absolutely happy with that to be honest.
I think for the most part, love does generally end up being my main source of inspiration and my favorite thing to sing about. I thought it would be cool to be relatively unashamed about that.
It’s an uplifting theme but it’s also a sad theme and there’s so many different sides and perspectives and dynamics of love so I feel like I’ve just touched up on as many of those as I have experienced in my life so far.
IRIE. Was music something you wanted to pursue on your own?
Hollie Cook. I think that it was something I wanted to do on my own. I was always very much drawn to all elements of performance. I was super into dance when I was a kid as well as music.
My parent could see that music and singing were definitely my natural interests. I started piano lessons when I was five. I had singing lessons from the age of ten. My dad would always teach me stuff on the guitar. I had a bass guitar and we’d always play together.
They saw my interests and they just kind of casually followed through with that. They hugely encouraged it. They didn’t force it upon me in anyway. But obviously at the same time, I guess it’s pretty cool if your kid is into the same thing as you and you can like bond and connect over those things.
IRIE. Who are some of your music influcences that helped shaped you as an artist?
Hollie Cook. I’ve always been drawn to female musicians and singers. I was super into Bjork from a really young age. Her first album came out when I was nine. I was so into that. I liked Blondie, Dusty Springfield, Hole. I was a massive Courtney Love fan. I liked Bow Wow Wow, The Shangri-La and the Ronnettes. I was so into the women artists.
And then when I got into my teens, I was super into Mariah Carey and Salt-N-Pepa. My parents played me all kinds of music, not all female stuff. I loved the Beach Boys and Michael Jackson and Sam Cooke. So they all filtered into my own music making.
IRIE. Is it true that ‘Vessel of Love’ almost didn’t happen?
Hollie Cook. I wasn’t sure for a long time if I was going to make another album. I definitely wasn’t ready to make an album. I was on the road. I was touring for maybe two or three years after the second record came out and then when that stopped, I had to make a conscious effort to stop playing shows so that I could give myself some headspace to start writing again. Traveling is definitely really helpful for inspiring ideas but it ’s not for me. Being on the road isn’t the most ideal place to start writing songs.
I kind of pulled my ideas together and when things got quiet with playing live I found that I was very stuck creatively and very frustrated. So that kind of had a bit of a negative spiraling effect for awhile so I just gave into that and thought ok, well, maybe I’ll do something else or maybe, hopefully, if i just give myself a break, I will feel like coming back to it. So that’s kind of what happened.
I had to pull my heart out and my frustrations to my friends and family just so that they could understand where I was at. I felt like as soon as I really shared my honest feelings with my love ones and gave myself a couple of months, that kind of healed my mind a little bit. I also started to freak out because I had nothing to do and I didn’t know what else to do in this life so that’s when I started making music again. Thank God!
IRIE. When it comes to writing your music, is there a process that you follow?
Hollie Cook. I started to figured out a little bit of how I work when I did this album.
I realized that I store thing up inside over a period of time until it almost boils over like a kettle. It’s bubbling away and then suddenly it starts boiling and I literally blurt everything out. And that’s kind of how I am as a person as well. If there’s something on my mind or if something is wrong, I probably will be very pensive about it and kind of really, really think about what I’m feeling and try to understand it. And then I’ll just blurt it all out.
And that’s how I have been writing my songs. Even to the point of where sometimes I don’t necessarily make much noise when I write. Like I can hear it all in my head, I can structure it all in my head, and then, I finally kind of just sing. It’s really weird. I don’t quite understand it but it seems to work.
IRIE. For someone who is hearing your music for the first time, what do you want them to feel from the album Vessel of Love?
Hollie Cook. I would like them to feel uplifted and calm and happy. That’s what I really enjoy hearing when people hear my music for the first time. Someone said the other day, “I never heard your music before and I was in a really bad mood today and then I got to hear your songs and suddenly I feel so relaxed and I’m super happy!”
That really made me feel nice. That was very cool to hear. I would just like people to feel calm and happy.
IRIE. Do you remember the first time you ever performed on stage?
Hollie Cook. Outside of bands at school, where it was like me and my school friends, I guess the first time I performed on stage really would have been when I joined the Slits when I was about nineteen or twenty. I really did not know what the hell I was doing or what to expect. It was one of those things where like the night before, I didn’t sleep and I felt like a mixture of Christmas Day and the end of the World.
It was super intense. But also super rewarding and very cool! I liked it. I like it a lot.
IRIE. Is there anything you would like to say or share with the Irie Magazine audience?
Hollie Cook. I just like to say hello, to start, and I hope everyone’s happy. I hope that they enjoy the album and the music. And I’m really, really looking forward to coming to play in San Francisco at the end of March. I love California a lot and San Francisco has always been really good to me whenever I played there so I really can’t wait to come back!