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After producing one of the best reggae/pop albums in recent times, Hollie Cook makes Beatnik a cup of tea.
After releasing her self-titled debut album — one of the most enjoyable and heart-rendering contemporary reggae albums in recent years — Hollie Cook has firmly become one of our favourite new muscians.Hollie Cook: Milk and Honey
The daughter of famed Sex Pistol Drummer Paul Cook, she has been described by many in the media as tropical pop, but her music feels so much more. Uplifting and heartfelt, it oozes a sense of much needed sunshine as if from some distance tropical destination. Tracks like ‘Cry’, ‘Shadow Kissing’ and especially ‘Milk and Honey’ with her subtle whispers and unique sleepy style create a rare calming affect and irresistible longing for summer nights.
Knowing she was a bit of an island girl and with the album in mind we went to visit Hollie in her west London flat to recreate a bit of that tropical vibe. Albeit armed only with blue tac, printed paper and a creative imagination, we went about turning a random city wall into a Caribbean collage.
Being greeted by Hollie is like seeing her music personified. Charming and enviously carefree she makes the Beatnik crew a tea with a welcoming smile fixed from ear to ear. Hollie is in good spirit. After critical praise across the board she is also still glowing from her performance on Later With Jools Holland.
With the occasional giggle she quickly brushes her big frizzy hair, ties it in a handkerchief, and we head outside.
“It relaxes me and makes me feel warm inside.” She replies to my question on reggae music and why she chose to peruse it.
“Reggae music I think is all about feeling. It’s not a mental or emotional thing. It’s a physical thing that takes you wherever you want to go really.”Hollie Cook: Walking In The Sand
Hollie’s choice in musical genre was a pretty organic selection as it turns out. She met the legendary dub producer Prince Fatty 3 years ago, after a friend passed her his album. She quickly asked to work with him and become his regular featured vocalist.
Hollie puts it better though. “I wanted to meet him and find out what he was about and if he was interested in having any girls have a sing song over his rhythms, ha ha”.
After a while the synergy between Hollie’s soft and psychedelic melodies and Fatty’s wide-ranging tropical dub were too good to resist and they decided to record her full length debut.
“It was a natural progression, not an intentional thing.” Hollie explains, “It just happened.”
The debut is a varied listen that doesn’t venture too much from a uniform line. Over Fatty’s curvaceous 60′s-style dub, ska and reggae beats sits Hollie’s gentle and swaying vocals.
“He’s a cool guy and having all the musicians coming in and out of the studio was really special”
Hollie says, turning the conversation to the recording of the album that took place over a very hot summer in 2009, amidst the sea air of Brighton, an hour from London.
“Brighton is like London’s little neighbour. So it’s been nice that the album was made there. It’s got such a chilled vibe and obviously being by the ocean is like the air is different. It makes your brain, work differently. I know we are an island but we’re not a tropical one so Brighton provides I think the needs I have as a island girl.”Hollie Cook feat. Horseman: Cry
The record also breathes warmth into otherwise somber topics like heart ache and solitude highlighting another quality of Hollie’s music, her ability to cheer you up.
But it’s a review even Hollie was surprised to hear.
“It’s nice. I’ve never been described that way before regarding subject matter. So that’s really cool. Throughout my whole singing even at school I got lumbered with that whole melancholy vibe, so to be described as uplifting in any way is amazing.”
“Musically, growing up I went through phases. It would listen to anything from Mariah Carey to The Smiths” she laughs “I liked a lot of rnb, then rock and then punk and then drum n bass. Pretty random I suppose”
“But regardless what the subject matter, reggae has a way of making you feel better.” She smiles again.
As our tea turns cold, we run out of time. So I end by asking about her family’s influence, that famous dad and if there was anything else planned but making music.
“Going to see your dad play was probably one of the cool things” she recalls. “And watching live music has always been a part of my life since.”
“As a kid I use to make up little dances and be into so many different types of music too. I always wanted to perform. I’d get up and sing in-front of people even if I hadn’t been asked. Ha ha”
“He always gave me confidence in doing what I wanted to do.”
“I guess that carried on when I was older.” she continues. “I wasn’t a very self-assured teenager, but I knew what I wanted to do, because there was nothing else really that made me feel normal.
“Its only been growing up and gaining life experience that confidence grows with that. I felt that music and singing was something that definitely felt right – so I kept on doing it. Ha ha