Sometimes an EP is a lot more than just an EP. For Vancouver songwriter/vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Piper Cole, the release of her debut five-song EP, Wildish is so much more than just an inaugural foray into the Canadian music scene. It is a kind of musical memoir chronicling Cole’s internal battle against self-criticism, perfectionism and doubt – the three little devils on her shoulder which have prevented her from putting her artistic foot forward for more than 20 years.
Wildish is a powerful collection of music transcending mere introspection and lyrically journaling. Cole brings to bear her masterful capacities as a composer, engineer and producer to work musical magic from a sonic point of view. When married with her darkly sweet vocal performances, often pervaded by scintillating emotion, other times more lilting and inquisitive, and lyrics that strike to the core of an artist successfully struggling to conquer her self-imposed fears of inadequacy and imperfection – listeners are blessed with a truly moving and enriching aural experience.
“When I look back now, I see this real transformation from awareness, to confrontation, to pushing through and realizing something powerful was happening and then coming to the end of the process with the song Murmuration and just resting. So, it really is a journey, definitely, from beginning to end,” said Cole, from the office of her psychotherapy practice in Vancouver.
“I know I could not have done these songs 10 years ago. I tried to write but the ideas were not really that authentic. This new music is very much about healing and self-transformation and I had to go through the last 10 years as training and doing my own personal work to get something that is meaningful. Before, I would just write stuff that sounded cool, but it wouldn’t really be connective. I am thankful that I did wait. It’s hard to be regretful of what I could have done before, but it would have been very different and maybe something I wouldn’t want to listen to now,” she said with a chuckle.
The supposition that Cole’s career choice as a psychotherapist and hypnotherapist helped her push through her own emotional and psychological barriers to eventually build up the confidence to finally write, record and release music that is compellingly honest and exceptionally revelatory could be true. She used techniques and tried to implement the advice that she would prescribe for her varied client roster, but there is an element of simply reaching a breakthrough point – a ‘now or never’ moment. For Cole, she believes that it happened when she turned 40 when she chose to engage with her fears – to look them in face and stare them down, as she wrote music that could be said to be a travelogue of this emotional journey that leads to the release on the Wildish EP
“What hit within me when I turned 40, I think had been building up for many years. I decided very young that I was supposed to be a singer, and I was supposed to write songs. My real name is Carly and I remember looking at a Carly Simon record when I was about five and thinking that makes sense to me, that’s what I am supposed to do. I have always been fascinated by music and singing and writing songs ever since. But I have been petrified of putting my own music out there. I have really struggled with my own perfectionism, as a musician. I studied classical music and that was all about being perfect. I moved over to jazz in my 20s and that’s also about being technically very complicated and skilled. I have just been trying to achieve certain things and been really chewed up by the process. The dream of putting out my own music has been there as long as I can remember, but I have just been so scared,” she explained.
“When I turned 40 there was something in me that snapped and I thought, ‘I can’t do this anymore. I can’t be so scared anymore.’ And working with people is difficult right now in that I don’t think the way I want to write songs people totally understand. I like really interesting harmonic changes and just experimental stuff. So, I figured I needed to be my own producer, so I took courses, including at Berklee to learn Logic Pro and things like that to help me create these songs.
“It’s been a real process. It’s fear and then it’s a way of trying to protect yourself, this feeling of perfectionism, but then you never get there, which is such a clever way of protecting yourself, because you never step out, but then you never achieve it. And there’s the fear of what people are going to think or fear of not being accepted in the music community. The fear does keep you safe in a twisted way, but it really kills the creative process. It can hold you back, and I know it held me back for so long.”
The narrative that runs through the five songs is chronological, so the track order and the listening order is crucial for listeners to be able to absorb the full effect of Cole’s insightful, impactful, ultimately inspiring process.
“I was hit with this huge feeling of resistance during the writing of the first song, Bones. That song is all about resistance. And then as the songs progressed, they all just took on a meaning of being about different aspects of this process, of trying to confront this perfectionism and trying to break free of it. It was exhausting at times and exhilarating too. It took me about a year to do the five songs,” said Cole, who came upon the term Wildish and found it perfectly suited her own journey and was an emblem or a totemic word that refers to the concept allowing the creative spirit to break through all the noise and negativity we barricade it behind.
“I got angry. With the song Wildish I was so angry with all the struggle, and then there’s this sense of what am I doing or why does it matter? It’s about finding a really strong, rooted voice in the body, which I work with people all the time in my practice to find. It’s interesting going through my own process that had to re-remember it all; that there is a part of yourself that is far more powerful and far more knowledgeable and wiser than the monkey mind, the fear mind. Once I broke through that barrier, Wildish really came together as a song, and it’s the fourth song. The message became really clear that there is a stronger, wiser presence within us that is underneath and by tapping into it, you can be set free.
“I came upon the term Wildish from the book Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarrisa Pinkola Estes. The messages were really powerful for me as a woman trying to step into a pretty male-dominated world, especially in terms of producing music and finding your voice and rooting yourself in a source of strength which tied in with the work that I do with people and with hypnotherapy. Wildish is really the idea that we are born with this wildish nature and then we get conditioned through our families, through culture, through experiences to adapt to what we need to do in order to survive. And we lose our connection to that. This process really compelled me to find a connection back to it because I wasn’t going to finish if I didn’t. Many times, I didn’t think I was going to do it, that it was too hard. Reading the book helped to inspire me that there is this deeper, wiser place that is free from all these constraints, that when I tap into it makes me feel more vibrant and more creative and just better.”
Wildish, the song, takes the theme of unleashing this fearlessness and boundless creativity within us continuing on with the nature metaphor, and the importance of connecting with nature on a deep and profound level.
“There’s a lot of symbolism in the lyrics about birds, so I feel Wildish is a real space, a state of mind that I can come back to again and again. And I do it with trance through hypnotherapy, which is a very natural method, we have to just learn how to do it and then it becomes easier and a natural state for people. It’s not an altered state, it’s not like taking a drug or anything like that, but you tap into an expansiveness within yourself, where you have perspective and you have a connection to creativity,” Cole said.
“I like the idea of being wild. We were perfectly fine when we were born but then we have to adapt. To me, if you’re human, you’re going to have some sort of blocks, some sort of conditioning, because we can’t survive in an imperfect world and the culture that we’re in unless we do. So, we worry a lot, or we dim our own self in some way. Perfectionism is another way to try to fit in all the time. Many people are stuck because of their own false messages, just like I was, and that keeps them tucked away nicely in their insulated little world. But they’re not awakened yet but if they do have an awakening their own mind won’t get in the way anymore.”
With a burgeoning therapeutic practice, it is unlikely that Cole will be able to tour extensively, but she said she is planning on doing a few shows in and around Vancouver to showcase the songs from Wildish. And she also said she is continuing to push herself through previously self-imposed boundaries by choosing to collaborate with other songwriters and producers on new material.
“Taking these songs that were mostly produced and recorded electronically and playing them live has been really interesting and very stressful at times, because I definitely believed that they wouldn’t work. But they are working, and I’ve got a few players that are helping to put together a live set, so I am just trying to gather confidence with that too. After I do some local shows, I will think about doing a couple of dates in another city. One step at a time right now,” she said.
For more information, visit https://pipercolemusic.com.
- Jim Barber is a veteran award-winning journalist and author based in Napanee, ON, who has been writing about music and musicians for a quarter of a century. Besides his journalistic endeavours, he now works as a communications and marketing specialist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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