Connecting with Colette
If your idea of spinning records means you grow up rubbing shoulders with the likes of Derrick Carter and Mark Farina knee-deep in Chicago’s legendary underground house community, and your idea of singing means you trained classically, fill the biggest clubs on the planet, and lob your tunes to the top of the charts, then look no further – you just might be Om Records’ “First Lady of House”, DJ Colette.
“Well, right now I’m working on some music,” Colette begins as our conversation kicks off. “I’ve started writing for my new album with Om, and I’m just in the beginning stages of it, so it’s probably going to take me a year. It’s exciting for me. I put out my first two albums with Om, and I was so excited to do my first one, I can’t believe I’m already working on my third one.”
And just what might the new album sound like? “You have ideas, but when you really start making the songs, they take on a life of their own. I think it’s important to follow them where they go. So I know on this record I definitely want to keep a balance of dance songs as well as down-tempo tracks. I want to keep making music in a style that is what I play, but at the same time, I really want to focus on songwriting. Songwriting – telling a story in a song – has always been a big factor for me.”
“I’m more of a songwriter,” Colette explains when asked to describe the role she plays in the collaborative processes surrounding the production of her album. “I focus my energies on melodies and lyrics. I also have a couple of songwriting partners, but I do collaborate with a lot of different producers. On this album, I’m hoping to find just a few producers that I can work closely with. On the first two albums it’s a lot of collaboration, and on this one I’m trying to minimize that, and to work with a smaller group of people.”
For Colette, one of the keys to her success lies in her ability to capture ideas wherever they occur. “When it comes to the actual recording of the album, we use a proper studio,” she explains. “But when it comes to songwriting, for me it’s all over the place. All of my friends that I work with laugh at me, because I have multiple recorders lying around all over the place. I have these really high-tech digital recorders, but then I also have this old cassette recorder that for some reason I really love that I record on all the time, and everything thinks I’m crazy because, well, it’s a cassette tape. It’s not very good. Yet for some reason I’m really drawn to it.”
Now, on my iPhone, there’s this app that’s also a cassette recorder,” she continues, “so it sounds just like it, and I record all on my phone now too! I record on everything I can – and I write on little pieces of paper a lot. It seems disorganized, but you just never know when an idea is going to come to you – if you’re driving, or maybe I’m doing some laundry at home and will write something down when it comes to me. I try to keep all of my notes together, and know where all my various recorders are in the house.”
As a professional musician, Colette has had a front-row seat from which to witness the recent changes that have occurred within the music industry. “It has completely changed,” she observes. “Even just being a DJ has completely changed since 2005 when my first record came out. Everything is so focused now on digital music – and things are about to change a lot, too, with Pioneer’s new CDJ2000, which I think will completely change how DJs bring their music to clubs and play it. With that in mind, for me I really try just to focus on what making music is all about. It’s all for the dance floor, and it’s all to create this really positive reaction and make people move – so the science of it is still very simple. You’re just trying to get people to dance.”
“It definitely is a lot of work,” Colette admits when asked advice she might offer up-and-coming producers and DJs looking to follow her path to professional success. “I think it’s more work than most people realize. But I think it’s worth it. It’s also something that you can do as well as go to school. I mean, I went to college, and I graduated, and the whole time I was working on music and DJing at parties – so it’s something you should never give up on.”
“There are so many different layers of dance music that you can be a part of,” she continues. “If you really love music, you should definitely go for it. It’s so fulfilling, and it’s something that isn’t really comparable to anything else. If you have a passion for something, why play it safe?”
Colette plays with Mark Farina at The Whiskey in Calgary - Sunday, October 11th in celebration of Om’s 15th birthday.