One half of now-defunct duo The Let Go, COLE BLEU is branching out with a new project that’s all her own. Check out the latest cover story for our New Music Friday playlist edit The Cut.
Words: Ali Shutler.
Photos: Jennifer McCord.
When Cole Bleu first started making music, she wanted to change the world. Those ambitions haven’t changed. In fact, her new ‘Crushed!’ EP sees her more confident than ever.
We’re talking ahead of her first live show of the year at Brighton’s Great Escape, and Cole is telling Dork how she wants the show to feel bigger than your typical festival gig. “I want to put on a pop show wherever I’m playing,” she continues. Taking to Shoosh nightclub later that day, Cole delivers a sleek, considered set that’s also heaps of energetic fun.
“I want to set myself apart because I think I have a lot to offer that goes beyond music,” she explains of her ambitions, with film also a big inspiration. “But the music has to be great as well,” Cole adds. Well, what did you expect from someone whose new project is proudly driven by a main character energy?
New single ‘YouAreYouAre’ is a burst of bubblegum catharsis that sees Cole putting a shitty ex on blast and takes influence from the likes of Dominic Fike and Kevin Abstract. It follows on from the early noughties house party vibes of ‘Is It Cool 2 Be Friends’, the fuzzy venom of ‘Homewrecker’ and the giddy rave of ‘Heartbreakers’. ‘Sad Guy, Gemini’ is the fifth and final track from ‘Crushed!’, adding a jubilant dollop of aggression into Cole’s newly polished world.
Cole Bleu first started releasing music via The Let Go, the alt-rock band she formed alongside Scout, and things were going well. Debut mixtape ‘Delete My Feelings’ was released in March last year, and the band were racking up juicy tour supports and festival slots. A month later, though, they released a statement announcing The Let Go would be moving forward as a Cole Bleu solo project, with Scout still involved in the writing.
One year on, it’s clear that the shift wasn’t a simple case of rebranding. “This feels like an entirely new thing now,” says Cole. “There was nothing negative about the end of The Let Go; I just felt like I was supposed to be doing something else,” she continues. Because everything was going so well, Cole says it felt like the universe was asking her, “Is this really what you want?”
“I’m not going to choose success over what I want to do,” she adds, knowing that less bold musicians would have stuck with what they knew. She goes on to say the transition from band to solo artist has been daunting “but in a really fun way”.
“In The Let Go, I felt like I could hide behind someone else if I needed to. With this, I’m the only one I can fall back on,” Cole says. It was terrifying at first, but over the course of creating debut ep ‘Crushed!’ she became really secure in herself and her ideas. “I don’t feel like I’m free-falling anymore.”
It started with ‘Homewrecker’. “That song has such a pop star energy, which was a left turn from what I’d been used to making, but it just felt right,” she explains. “Before, everything had to fit into this alternative box, but I really am free to do whatever I want to do now.”
As well as pulling from alt music of the late-90s and early-00s, ‘Crushed!’ is heavily inspired by films like the iconic 10 Things I Hate About You. In fact, a sample of Julia Stiles saying, “I guess in this society, being male and an asshole makes you worthy of our time”, was used as a transition during her set at The Great Escape. That energy can be felt across the lyrics, which finally see Cole deal with her on-again/off-again relationship with the “toxic dude” she was seeing before her current partner. That relationship started almost immediately after her previous one ended, meaning Cole “never really processed just how damaging it was”.
“Five years later, and I’m essentially healing through this music,” she continues, with the EP tracking highs, lows and eventual growth. “It really does feel like a coming of age in every way,” and despite the emo subject matter, ‘Crushed!’ leaves the listener feeling like everything is going to be ok.
“If that guy can sell out Wembley Stadium, anybody can”Cole Bleu
Cole has been writing songs since she could hold a pen and grew up with country music and classic rock playing constantly in the house. Because of that, she has “always wanted to be a storyteller”. Still, ‘Crushed!’ is the first time Cole has been this personal with her songwriting. “I’ve written lyrics that are really authentic before, but this really did feel like me on a piece of paper.” She was nervous about recording the songs but found the process “incredibly cathartic”.
“I’m not great at opening up and talking about my emotions, but writing songs is the way that I cope with my feelings,” says Cole. “Music opens up this whole new way for me to figure out my shit.” She wants to give others the space to do the same. “It might be pop music, but I still want you to feel something when you listen to it. My biggest goal is to help other people feel better through music.”
Cole Bleu is already writing what comes next as well. Pulling inspiration from early Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, TLC and Christina Aguilera, she’s really embracing that pop star energy, “but making sure there’s a grittiness to it.”
“It’s going to feel different again, and hopefully, people will come along for the ride,” she continues. “It’s all about moving forward and never feeling stagnant.”
Cole Bleu still wants to take over the world, though. She watched Ed Sheeran’s Disney+ documentary The Sum Of It All recently, and her main takeaway was, “If that guy can sell out Wembley Stadium, anybody can. You just need to have the drive and the ambition. I would love to take this project to pop spaces like stadiums.”
‘Crushed!’ is apparently the first step towards that lofty goal. “It’s really funny; a year ago, I thought I was the most confident person going,” she says. Not even close. “Now, I feel more secure in myself than I’ve ever felt before, and the new stuff feels even more like me. I’m really enjoying this experience of learning about myself, pushing myself like never before and then sharing that with everyone.”
“It really was scary at first,” she admits. “But I know what I want, I know what I’m capable of, and it’s not on anyone else but me. I’ve got the drive back, and I’m ready to hustle to make things happen.” ■
Cole Bleu’s EP ‘CRUSHED!’ is out now. Follow Dork’s The Cut Spotify playlist here.