Photo: Pani Paul (Cooly G)
Cooly G has always been at once an early adopter and innovator of new dance music styles. Throughout her career, Merrisa Campbell has embraced and mixed genres generously into an unmistakable blend. While the producer and vocalist has released only few standalone releases in recent years, she has been keeping busy – putting out the occasional single track, mixing down other people’s music or collaborating with other artists from across the board. Last year’s Save Me EP for Hyperdub saw her work with two different singers for amapiano-inspired tunes while her latest video release is dedicated to dancehall, a genre she is currently exploring further with her work. Her mix for our Groove podcast, however, is dedicated to the buttery basslines and throbbing grooves of amapiano.
What have you been up to lately?
Wow. Well, a whole lot. I just released my first dancehall music video, one of many I’ve been working on since the pandemic started. I’ve made a lot of songs, some featuring artists who are based in Jamaica. I’ve learnt a lot during this project. I’ve also been making my regular house music, including the Save Me ep, which actually came about because of the pandemic, hence the name.
Save Me showcased your interest in amapiano, among other styles. How have you experienced the rise of this genre and what got you interested in experimenting with incorporating elements into your own music?
Well, you know, I’ve been playing the tribal sound for the last 15 years … I see Amapiano as similar, it has more melody, a bit of jazz and more vocal, but it’s not really that much of a new sound to me. It also has UK funky licks in there too. It’s definitely hit big right now so, you know, we just keep up to date.
For both tracks on the EP, you worked with new talent, Marcus Damon and Ruth Brown, respectively. What attracted you to working with those artists?
Ruth Brown was a contestant on the TV show The Voice, and had Tom Jones as her coach. She is an amazing singer. A friend of mine was asking if I’d consider helping her with management since I had started managing a few artists, including Omagoqa from South Africa who make gqom music. I asked her to come down to the studio to see if we could work together on some music. We had a long chat, listened to some music and then Ruth went into the booth and sang a whole song. I chopped up the vocals that I wanted and created the tune. I think it came out pretty sick. Marcus Damon is a up and coming producer who makes really nice music and we were just chatting. He was picking my brains about my experiences, touring, accomplishments, etc. It felt natural to collaborate together. It was all about the flow, and easy.
Speaking as a producer who is also a singer and lyricist, how do you like to approach collaborations with other vocalists?
You know, I don’t really approach other artists, however lots of people are approaching me now and I’m very much enjoying collaborating, because there’s a whole different element of outcome and it’s fun and I love it. When they are talented it always creates something dramatic. (laughs) Things have got even crazier now that a video of mine went viral on TikTok. My inbox is flooded with requests to collab, or they want me to mix down their EP or LP. I have been doing live TikTok shows in the studio, mixing down artists from around the world and loads more. It’s heavy.
July marks the ten-year anniversary of your debut album Playin’ Me. How do you feel about this record a decade later?
Wow, is it? Errrr… Well when I think of it, I just think it was fun. I got to tour with it and perform live and also I won an award in Germany for best LP, I actually have it here. Now though I know that the quality of my music is mad different. So it’s just a whole learning curve and I’m still building and getting more better.
The album, much of most of your releases since the legendary Narst / Love Dub EP in 2009, was released on Hyperdub, whose 18th birthday was celebrated recently at Corsica. How would you characterise your relationship with Kode9 and the label after all this time?
The show was amazing. It felt so good to be back with my family after the lockdown. Kode9 is like my uncle, my brother, and my friend. I will always respect this man because he believed in me and said he can make sure that people hear my music, and it happened. You know, especially for me, being a single parent … that gave me the biggest “pick up” and allowed me to realise that I could be all good in my situation.
You have started playing DJ sets at clubs more regularly once it became possible last year. How has the experience been so far?
Yeah, I’ve been playing out again recently. I played the Gala Festival, which was just crazy. I’m still buzzing from it, and I received so many great comments about my set. I also got to meet one of my agents in person finally. I had such a great day. I feel differently too. I’ve played quite a few times now and everything about me feels different. My actual sets, my confidence and appearance is just on point. As I say, we’re always growing … and right now, everything for me is just peak.
What was the idea behind your mix for our Groove podcast?
I decided to give the listeners the amapiano thing, because of how it makes me whine up my body. The African beat is in my soul, I feel it deep inside. I mean I can play all styles and mix things up, but for the mix today I decided to stay on the same vibe, for you guys to feel me.
Last but not least: What are your plans for the future?
I’m currently finishing off some new dancehall videos and more collaborations in Jamaica. Its really great for me because I feel very at home. I am still creating beats in my regular house “Cooly G” style, for my people. Mixdown and remix work is coming in and I’ve got some shows in Norway, Copenhagen, and London. My agents are back up and running which is of course good news. The dancehall stuff is where my mind is currently focussed though, at least for the moment. I’d like to say that I’m doing okay and I feel great. Working on this new material has got me excited again. I love music, you all know this, but my studio skills have jumped to another level and I’m super gassed. So enjoy and go check out my new video! And look out for more videos and and music on my TikTok channel.
Stream: Cooly G – Groove Podcast 338