A conversation with Jacob Cole

 

    Chris Lambert spoke with Jacob Cole about waging war with himself, burning the candle at both ends, recalling the smell of his childhood home and not being the type to self-congratulate.

    I’m definitely more aware of a certain predisposition for waging war with myself. Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment. Even on a subconscious level, I’ll still self-sabotage.


    Chris asked Jacob to tell him the biggest lesson he’s learned about each of these concepts.

    h Music

    It’s the quickest way to personal truth.

    h Teaching

    You never stop learning. Keep things simple. Be honest.

    h Touring

    Having better foresight. Packing light. Living minimally.

    h Family

    Family is what you make it. It’s not always blood.

    h Marriage

    Count your blessings. You never know when things will change.

    h Money

    Don’t need it, but it’s also curbed my impulsiveness.

    1

    Chris Lambert

    Percentage-wise, how much of your time is spent worrying that you’ll never “make it”, and how much is spent feeling content with the amount of success you’ve had?

    Jacob Cole

    Currently it’s about 80/20, 80 being the amount I worry. My worries, though, are not of “making it” in the toxic celebrity culture that has been widely accepted as meaning success for musicians and artists. It’s not a traditional kind of worry, really.  Also, what “making it” means has changed over the years to me. The concept has evolved and will continue to do so. More then anything, I think it comes down to sustainability. My worries, my demons, all of these things that constantly weigh on my mind, I use as a drive to continue to create. Hopefully, with each moment I’ll do things a little smarter then before.

    In contrast to my twenties, though, I’m definitely more aware of a certain predisposition for waging war with myself. Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment. Even on a subconscious level, I’ll still self-sabotage. All that being said, I would be remiss not to mention that the above 20 percent has great value, truly. If I really pause to think about all the experiences I’ve had or things I’ve done to date, I feel lucky. However, as far as I’m concerned, it’s just the tip of the iceberg and I’m not the type to self-congratulate. I’m not good at being content. Success, I believe, is what you make of it.

    2

    When you are listening to new music for the first time, how do you listen, and what are your rituals? Are we past the point where albums are digested in full, with the same amount of respect we give to movies? What’s the last album you sat and absorbed?

    Well, truthfully, these days I think even movies are suffering, or at least the experience of going to the movies. Since the advent of streaming services, that is. This also has created more pressure on big production companies to make ends meet, so they continue to sacrifice integrity in a way that’s even surprising for the industry they are in. Ironically, they are losing more potential business by this method. Even still, there are plenty of good films being made; they just don’t have the financial backing or marketing power of higher-end Hollywood, so they aren’t seen on a larger scale. That’s always been the nature of the beast; who’s to say that it would make much of a difference if the Warner Brothers of the world put out better films? Times are changing.

    I worry when a meme is the most popular thing a kid can think of. Does this mean that albums and songs are a endangered species, though? No, I don’t believe it does. As it’s always been, our culture is obsessed with instant gratification. Faster equals better. The quicker you can digest information, the better. Social media and its ever-ominous presence is our generation’s heroin and has amplified this desire. We all use these “free” services, but it’s harder and harder to turn off, to put the phone down, to step outside of what algorithm we’ve lost ourselves to. It’s an addiction like anything else.

    Now it seems more then ever that we need songs, albums, anything really that’s more tangible and tactile, something that hits on all of our senses to help us balance out and see the world from another perspective. To get outside of ourselves and engage in some way, shape or form. To have empathy and bring back critical thinking. An antidote to the modern world. A social or personal catharsis. That’s different for everyone. For me, it’s always been music and art. There, I truly feel something unlike anything else. I love finding music that I think no one else has heard, which, of course, is never the case, but it’s nice finding something you feel is so special its been missed or glossed over by the world. A little secret you stumbled upon that can remain a hidden treasure and you share with only those that you love.

    I don’t really have any rituals when it comes to listening. Anytime or anywhere. I’ll meet songs where they meet me. I truly love the hunt and sense of discovery, but I never need music played only on vinyl or only on tape; it all comes down to if its a good piece and if you can connect with it in some way. I don’t think “digital versus analog” really matters so much. I just know what suits me a little more. I enjoy taking a record out and reading the lyrics and credits as I’m soaking in the new sounds of whatever current mystery I’m digesting. I can tune out anything when getting lost in good music; it makes me feel more grounded, more connected, less of an outsider.

    These days, I tend to go for long walks when I find a song I like enough. I’ll just listen to it on repeat, letting it hit me over and over again like a tsunami of emotion and sound that I can’t get enough of. As I’m out walking I’ll try to disassemble it, taking it apart a little at a time. Like you would if you were trying to see how an old-time piece was put together. I like testing how feelings, melodies and time are connected in such a way that it grabs you and reels you in. Sometimes there is no explanation, though, and that’s also the beauty of it. The best things need no explaining. The last album I listened to in full recently was Paul Simon’s Still Crazy After All These Years. One of my favorite songwriters. Reminds me of an old love who’s still very special to me. Love don’t come easy and it’s even harder to let go.

    My home in Connecticut was more musky, damp and dark. But I also remember the smell of wood and a barn that I would spend time in with my dad’s guitars.

    3

    If you were going to spend a year isolated in a cabin and could only bring along a VHS tape with five individual movie scenes on it, which five scenes would you choose?

    Unforgiven

    Clint Eastwood’s character, William Munny, finishes off a bottle of whiskey after being clean for 10+ years, due to his best friend and partner (Morgan Freeman) being wrongly accused and killed by a corrupt sheriff. His younger partner, The Schofield Kid, is having a heavy realization after making his first killing(s); it’s nothing like he thought it would be. The weight of that moment is too much for him to handle. William Munny says “It’s a hell of a thing taking another man’s life. You take away all he is and all he’s gonna be. The Kid retorts “Yeah, well, I guess they had it coming.” Munny’s response is a classic Western line but still a favorite regardless. In Clint’s signature mumbled gruff-growl delivery, he says “We all have it coming, kid.” He then proceeds to give hell to everyone who murdered his friend. Really, it’s an interesting movie and in a lot of ways has some very eloquent statements on the use of violence and its repercussions.

    Moonwalker

    This is a unique movie from 1988 — sort of an extremely long music video/art film and also a collection of short stories. The scene and story from Moonwalker that I love is centered around the song “Smooth Criminal” and Michael’s involvement with the main antagonist, Mr. Big. We see the whole story play out from the perspective of three young orphans who follow Michael, who, at different points in the narrative, shapeshifts into a Lancia Stratos sportscar and a giant robot and a spaceship. It’s a trip, and I haven’t seen it since I was a kid, but it’s stayed with me for a long time. Just the feeling it left me with.

    Star Trek IV — The Voyage Home

    This is directed by Leonard Nimoy and is a departure from the usual sci-fi adventures and escapades the Enterprise crew finds themselves in. I think thats why I’ve always come back to it.  At heart, it really has a environmental message which was unique for its time and genre. The part I enjoy the most is when Kirk is trying to explain colorful language (swearing) to Spock and he just keeps getting it wrong in the best way. This is after they’ve traveled back through time to save the whales, because in the future some alien entity is fucking with Earth because it can’t hear the sound of whales, who I guess they used to contact in prehistoric times. So Kirk and co. are trying to blend in with 1980s San Francisco. Stranger things have happened. Heartwarming. But I dig it.

    Enter the Dragon

    Bruce Lee’s last completed motion picture. Do I have to pick a scene?

    Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

    Jimmy Stewart kills in this Frank Capra classic. The climax is where Junior Senator Smith realizes how corrupt the political system truly is, and in an effort to prove his innocence, he launches into a 24 hour filibuster, at the end passing out from exhaustion but having finally convinced his senior, Senator Paine, to confess to the secret scheme. This is after Senator Paine is so overcome with guilt that he attempts suicide. Always loved how this whole scene played out. They knew what was up in 1939.

    4

    Can you recall the distinct smell of your childhood home? How would you describe it?

    My home in Connecticut was more musky, damp and dark. But I also remember the smell of wood and a barn that I would spend time in with my dad’s guitars. My father was a talented carpenter, and I remember him always making something or fixing things in a very New England fashion. Moving to California while still a kid and spending more time here then not, there are some very strong smells associated with the Central Coast. Our house was close to the hills and we had a lot of trees. One giant pepper tree in the front yard, apricot and pear trees in the back. There was an intense amount of jasmine growing aggressively on the fence in the backyard. That smell is one of the strongest that comes to mind along with a variety of foliage and flowers scattered throughout.

    Inside the kitchen smelled of toast, granola and day-old dishes. My mom was really into health food and quite ahead of the current trends for healthy and conscious living. Something I took for granted til I was a young adult. The other really strong smell was of the hallway leading to mine and my brothers bedroom; it smelled of old books and a thrift store and there was this old heater right outside of the hallway that was built into the floor, it had a really strong electrical quality to it. I spent many a time standing on this old electrical beast while burning my shoes.

    My grandpa lived with us as well and there was his car, an old Mazda compact sports car that had a distinct clean oil mixed with leather smell to it. Also, his aftershave tended to hang around in the mornings. To this day I still love the smell of gasoline, WD-40 and other mechanical greasers.

    5

    You’ve gone through a number of name changes over the years, from King Cole to Jacob Edward Cole to Jacob Cole, then to Jacob Cole & The Truth, and Jacob Cole & The Echoes. Do you view these all as separate projects, or is it just a reluctance to settle on one?

    I did have some trouble settling. Anyone who knows me is aware I have a few different conflicting sides and it’s often hard for me to reconcile those different personalities. Over the years, I’ve become a lot better at distilling what I’m trying to do in a way that feels more consistent, at least to myself. It took me a long time to see it, but ultimately, that’s all that matters. I certainly drove my friends crazy polling them about which name they had a preference for. At that time, I was obsessing over some other things going on in my personal life and I found it cathartic to focus my obsessive nature on something else, even something as simple as a name. There was a level of control there I could understand.

    In a way, it played out as a two-year experiment and it consequently resulted in a lot of growth. The original reason I went down this road, though, was because of my first band, Saint Anne’s Place, collectively growing tired of that name and wanting to try something new. We eventually settled on King Cole. We had changed direction, but I also felt this idea continually evolving as well. It started to become more of a moniker which I didn’t enjoy and felt was too self-serving. It just seemed more right then not to start working under my own name. It made the most sense and resonated the best for the direction I have honestly been slowly going in for a few years now.

    I dropped the “Edward” ’cause it didn’t flow or sit well. And under my very patient girlfriend’s encouragement at the time, I decided that the more simple and grounded the name the better. You could take that and mold it into anything. It just took a little time to become comfortable and confident using my own name coming from my previous experiences playing in and around various groups. I’ve used “The Truth” and “The Echoes” as a way to make a more public announcement that certain gigs would be with a full band; however, they are the same thing, same music and idea. I do enjoy “The Echoes” as a name and likely will continue to employ it when the time fits.

    For now. I don’t really think it matters so much. I know my own limitations and where I want to grow and that’s enough. Springsteen’s answer to this very question is likely how I’ll continue to move forward. I have to follow inspiration wherever it goes, keep on creating and in the end, who gives a fuck about what its called? It’s still just me in the end.

    Your problems even vanish as the light just barely touches the ground, pardoned temporarily while witnessing elemental forces in motion.

    6

    From following you on Instagram, I’ve noticed that you have a tendency to stay up very late, usually walking around town. Is it insomnia, or is there a set of factors that contribute to your sleeplessness? What’s the quickest way to get yourself to fall asleep?

    I enjoy the peace and quiet of this time. I can hear myself think. Thoughts and ideas are more transparent. I don’t have to listen to the noise of the world, of people. Not that those things are bad, but I tend to do more in-depth thinking when the sun goes down. There is a certain romance to this hour as well. I truly love the beauty of the night and early morning. One of my favorite moments is watching the sun rise. You really get an idea for the scope of everything then. Puts things in perspective. Your problems even vanish as the light just barely touches the ground, pardoned temporarily while witnessing elemental forces in motion.

    Due to the nature of my work, I’m around a lot of hustle and bustle constantly. While I value this, I need time alone to process and decompress. Often, I find unless I make it a point to, I’ll just keep burning the candle at both ends. I think it’s in my nature to be restless but sometimes it is genuine insomnia. I also tend to be more creative when I’m alone and its late. I’ve tried different things over the years for inspiration, but this seems to be the most consistent recipe, simple and straightforward. Driving myself to the edge of being way too tired and then pushing myself a little further leads to some interesting results.

    In addition to the above, partly why I’ll walk around town at this time is to burn off energy. I’ve also found that movement is very cathartic and helps me to focus. My mind tends to wander otherwise and this is one thing that really helps me on a lot of levels. Though if there is a time when I really need to fall asleep but cannot, I’ll make chamomile tea and read. This ain’t a guarantee, but worst case is I lose some hours and get up when I need to and try to crash a little during the day when I have a few minutes.

    7

    What’s the first song you can remember hearing as an infant or toddler? Later, when is the first time you remember hearing a song and being awed?

    “Little Martha” by Duane Allman and an original song that sounded a little like “The Fisherman” by Leo Kottke, both being played by my father who is also a talented fingerstyle guitarist. My earliest memories of music are of him and his band practicing in the living room. I remember falling asleep in the crib hearing them play. Another vivid memory is being three years old and wanting to do nothing but play the drums, beating out rhythms on a ramshackle kit made of pots and pans and tinker toys.

    Later, when I was like 5 or 6, I remember hearing The Beatles, Michael Jackson and Chuck Berry for the first time and being enamored. The Beatles are probably still my favorite band, when all is said and done. The first song I remember hearing and being awed by was “Yesterday.” It left a lasting impression, and later on for my first few years of playing guitar, I was constantly trying to write my own version of that song.

    8

    You are tasked with conveying the idea of a guitar to a visiting alien race, who have never seen a musical instrument, and who do not have even a basic concept of music. How do you explain the guitar to them in a way they can understand? How do you make them appreciate it?

    I play them the theme to The X-Files and hope that they have a sense of humor.

    Thank you.

    Data


    Conversation: 176
    Curated by: Chris Lambert
    Conducted by: Email
    Edited by: Morgan Enos
    Published: April 25, 2018
    Total questions: 6 + 8
    Word count: 3105
    Reading time: Twelve minutes
    Hyperlinks: 1

    Metadata


    Bustle: Accessed
    Glutton: Punishment
    Ritual: ∞
    Toast: Yes
    Greaser: ∞
    Disposition: Yes

    Relation


    About the subject


    Jacob Cole is a singer, songwriter and music teacher at Certain Sparks Music. He resides in Lompoc, California.

    About the curator


    Chris Lambert is a singer-songwriter and recording engineer from Orcutt, CA. Since 2016, he has hosted a weekly podcast called Are We Okay? where he has conversations about creativity, positivity, and the meaning of life with a new artist every Tuesday.

     


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