'The New Cooling Effect'
Narada Jazz/Blue Note Label Group released the seventh album from guitarist Joyce Cooling just this past month. Vowing to make music that matters and connects emotionally, Revolving Door is her most personal collection to date.
The album title is a reference to the issue of mental illness, which seemingly has no way out of the conundrum for those impacted by the disease. The issue hits Cooling particularly close to home because she grew up with a brother who suffers from schizophrenia, which had a major impact upon her family and continues to do so to this day.
While the subject of the title track is serious, the album is not a depressing collection of songs about mental illness. It’s an eclectic sampling of electric and acoustic jazz, R&B, blues and Latin rhythms. Exploring a vast array of moods, some of the tracks are hopeful and optimistic, some are bluesy cool, and others are pensive and heartfelt. Each song has a different feel.
Cooling stretched her artistic muse on the album utilizing new percussion sounds and ten different guitars for the ten songs specifically to give each one a unique voice. The guitarist sings on several numbers in jazzy, sophisticated tones. The compositions were penned by Cooling along with longtime collaborator Jay Wagner, who produced the disc.
Firstly, many thanx for doing this interview with us today "Right back at you! Thanks so much Russell."
Knowing that this is your seventh album to date, how do you stay inspired and musically fresh each time? "I am constantly listening to music, reading, writing and just living life. I think that one of the tricks to juicing the essence of inspiration for me is to find the miraculous in the everyday life experience. If you wait around for the sun to fall from the sky to glean inspiration and creativity, you might end up very disappointed and uninspired. Those lightening bolt, “wow” experiences happen once in a blue moon, but the everyday thing is happening every second of every minute. Everyday life is far from mundane if you look at it – really look at it. It’s actually pretty miraculous."
This new album is certainly very emotive within its lyrics, but does that mean it connects to you personally way deeper than any other to this point, perhaps? "Absolutely. This is the most personal CD I have ever recorded."
In relation to that, and with an album title associated with the disease of mental illness; and knowing that you have a brother who suffers from such an ailment, I'm wondering now if this CD was in some way a tribute to him and to what he goes through each day? "'Revolving Door' is also for anyone who struggles with mental illness and for the families. With all of the breakthroughs in modern medicine mental illness is seriously lagging way behind research for physical diseases. A little known fact is that diseases like schizophrenia, bipolar disease, depression, etc., are biologically based brain diseases. Because they affect behavior, a lot of people falsely think that they are due to weakness of character, poor upbringing, or faulty parenting. Many believe that a person might suffer a breakdown because they just aren’t “strong” enough. These are falsehoods."
"An important thing to remember is that people with mental illness are valuable. With treatment they can contribute immensely, many times in uniquely profound ways. For example, it is a well-known fact that Van Gogh struggled with debilitating mental illness. If it weren’t for his brother Theo, who supported Vincent both financially and emotionally, we most likely wouldn’t have Van Gogh’s art today. Those two brothers definitely spent a good part of their lives in the “revolving door.” The world would be a darker, duller place without the art of Van Gogh. To coin a phrase from NAMI, “People with mental illness enrich our lives.” Van Gogh is just one example."
Why were ten different guitars used for each of the ten different songs? Seems a little extreme!! "Sometimes it was about pure emotion. The closing track, One Again, was written for my aunt and uncle and about the amazing love affair they had. As I was writing this, by the way, I had to stop and call my cousin (their son) and ask how long they were actually together. After figuring out the dates, we both agreed that the actual length of time they spent together was immaterial because their love and friendship was so deep that we felt it was truly eternal."
It's been said that for this album you and your longtime collaborator Jay Wagner set out to let the stories inspire the creation of the music. Please explain this more "Like the story above, each track has an experience behind it. Some were deep experiences, some light hearted. With each song, the story came first and then we wrote the song around the feeling. In the past, we have written songs that were title-less and then named them according to what fit the music. This time it was the other way around."
For nearly a decade you have consistently delivered #1 hits and top 10 singles to smooth jazz radio. But if you could try your hand at another genre of music, which one would it be? "Anything good, different and challenging…singer-songwriter stuff maybe. It would also be fun to write movie soundtracks."
Will you be doing any collaborating with any other artists in the near future? "I can say for sure that, yes, there will be collaborations, but who that will be with has yet to evolve. I’m already thinking, writing and arranging for the next project. It’s difficult for me to sit still creatively speaking, but things seem to unfold as the process begins and the songs reveal themselves."
If you could cover any '80s (possibly cheesy!) pop song, which one would it be ... and why? "I suppose I could cover a song, but my feeling is almost always, “Why?” I would rather write new material and hopefully have someone else cover it in the future. The trend in music lately has been copy tunes, and I find it uninspiring. I would always rather write something new. It’s much more fun! The writing part is always the easiest and the most enjoyable part for Jay and me. Getting things down on tape is the tedious, frustrating part because you are dealing with technology and the glitches it brings. If I am going to go through the frustration of computers crashing and cords buzzing, I would rather it be over an original piece of music."
Lastly, I like Penguins ... do you?! "I LOVE Penguins! Penguins rock!"
Thanx again for doing this for us today, and we wish you all the best for the future " Many thanks, Russell, for thinking of me and for including me in your magazine!"
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
If you would like to win a copy of Joyce's new CD, and you think you know all there is to know about the lady, just answer this easy question: Last June, Cooling and Wagner sponsored NAMI’s benefit walk in a city the New Jersey native now calls home. The event raised over $250,000, but which city are we talking about?!
Send me your answers and if you're correct you'll be in the running to win one of these great new CDs! Just send us an e:mail here before December 1st with your answer and the subject title 'CONTEST: JOYCE COOLING CDs' to: email@example.com
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