Andrew Cole doesn’t mince words about his choice of Why We Wonder as the title of his independent debut record. “Anyone who knows me will say I’m the biggest worrier ever. I analyze everything; especially those tiny intricacies that happen everyday that are so hard to even name because they’re so small.
“But it’s positive worrying,” the Toronto born singer/songwriter adds. A product of following his parents to Liverpool, Wales, Las Vegas, Toronto and Florida and rarely having had an opportunity to set down roots. More importantly, it’s the driving force behind the development of his unique voice and lyrical sense.
A natural born singer, Cole grew up constantly singing other people’s songs, developing a vocal style characterized by a remarkable range of expression. Still, Cole couldn’t see himself as a performer. “I don’t know whether it was because I was pushed all over the world, or if it was because I was a natural born cheeky little bastard, but I just wouldn’t have anyone tell me anything, I was stubborn and a rebel, I wanted to have a voice, but I didn’t want people looking at me.”
In the end Cole did decide to take the stage and begin the process of finding his voice: In 2002 he entered and won Stars In Your Eyes, a nationwide UK musical competition; the next year was named the UK’s North West Artist of the Year; over three years of university at Salford in Manchester – the longest uninterrupted time he’d spent in one place – he played the pubs four nights a week, further developing his already substantial vocal chops.
Still his voice as a songwriter remained in lock up, expressed only through his reinterpretations of the songs he chose to cover. It wasn’t until he returned to Canada after his father’s death in late 2004 that he began working on his own material; writing his first song – Why We Wonder’s closing track, We Must Win – in the backyard of his new home in Oakville, Ontario.
When Canadian rock icon Tom Cochrane and his wife Kathleene, now Cole’s manager, heard rough demos of those first efforts they were convinced by what Cochrane describes as “a voice other singers would die for”, and set out to help the fledgling songwriter realize his potential.
Recorded over the past two years in various studios in Toronto and at the Wire Recording Studio in Austin, Texas, Why We Wonder balances elements of acoustic pop, folk and all out rock, a signature mix of acoustic and electric textures enhanced by lush soundscapes and rich string and Mellotron arrangements – courtesy of the ‘EMI Mellotron’ the very machine used to record The Beatles’ Strawberry Fields.
Produced by Bill Bell (Tom Cochrane, Jason Mraz, Justin Nozuka) the album also features a cast of well-known Canadian players including Slide guitarist Ken Greer, BNL Keyboardist Kevin Hearn and guitarists Colin Cripps (Blue Rodeo) and Kevin Bright (Norah Jones). Also Drummers Lyle Molzan (Jann Arden) & Gary Craig (Ann Murray)
On Why We Wonder Cole has created an eleven-song set of material that is both fresh and familiar, channeling influences as diverse as Mark Knopfler, 90’s alt. rock and contemporary Britpop; his voice soaring high, pure and clear above the tracks laid down by his all-star band.
For a song to be successful, he says, “It has to make me feel a little nervous, like I wouldn’t want anybody to really hear it. I believe that every song has already been written in your head. You just have to put the jigsaw puzzle pieces together and the words will come out that you meant to say anyway.”
Although there are shades of Radiohead and The Beatles haunting the edges of his voice and arrangements, Cole’s songs and sound are entirely unique: From ‘My Lovely’, which begins as a campfire love song and mutates into a torrent of raging guitars that come on like a swift summer storm and pass just as quickly; to his brutally frank expressions of the dangers of time running out before love on lead single, ‘Out Of Time’; through to ‘Dead Roses’, a country tinged ballad inspired by a simple emotional reaction to a women’s perfume and featuring backing vocals by Kathleen Edwards.
For a self-described ‘cheeky little bastard’ Cole is surprisingly outgoing. He laughs easily and is absolutely candid about the confrontations his inability to let things go sometimes provoked during the recording process. “Bill wanted to strangle me,” he says. “Everyone wanted to strangle me. This record was the most painstaking thing I’ve done in my life.”
Painstaking or not, if it was a struggle to get the songs out of his head and down on to disc you don’t hear it. Nor will you find any traces of Cole’s early reluctance to be looked at or to have his innermost thoughts picked over by others. Why We Wonder is honest and fearless – a seamless blend of styles that showcases a level of comfort and skill that many artists, even those with far more experience, might well envy.
Why We Wonder was released June 8, 2010 ( urArtist Music / Fontana North / Universal Music Canada). The video for lead single, Out Of Time, directed by Andrew MacNaughtan, is currently in heavy rotation on MuchMoreMusic.
'WHY WE WONDER' debut CD by Andrew Cole, Available NOW!
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