Canadian singer-songwriter Cold Specks is a young songwriting talent exploring the music of the American Deep South. Updated with some pop inclinations, Cold Specks draws mostly from the dark and brash sounds of modern folk and blues legends such as Bill Callahan and Tom Waits, while still capturing the timeless beauty and ache of Sister Rosetta Tharpe or Mahalia Jackson.
Signed to the legendary Mute Records, Cold Specks is currently embarking on her North American tour. We had the pleasure of sitting down with her and asking her a few questions ahead of her show at San Francisco’s Brick & Mortar Music Hall on Friday, November 21.
You mention artists from the Deep South as being large influences in your music. Does your hometown of Etobicoke, Canada also play a role in your musical style?
I think it’s only natural for surroundings to seep into songwriting. There are many references to the city of Toronto on my first record. However, I wrote the three stranger songs on Neuroplasticity (“Absisto,” “A Formal Invitation,” and “Old Knives”) on a farm by the Glastonbury Tor (a hill with the remains of a church on top). Elements of those songs definitely come from cabin fever. By the time I’d gotten to Montreal to record the album, I’m sure I had lost the plot. The backing vocals on the record kinda scare the shit out of me now.
You have such a strong voice. What is your musical background? Did you have any professional vocal training?
My father is a beautiful singer. He plays the oud and has the smokiest, velvety baritone. My love for music all comes from him. I picked up a guitar as a teenager and began writing songs. I took choir all through school and I think that probably helped.
I’ve seen in interviews that you are a self-described pessimist. How does this come through in your music?
I don’t think I am. I’ve been known to talk a lot of shit.
You have been pretty candid about your dislike for humans and social situations. How does this play into your ability to tour and perform for a crowd of humans who love your music?
I said that in an interview once. I probably shouldn’t have because my sense of humour doesn’t always translate well. I do like humans. They’re alright. I switch off when I play. I’m not there. I take 75 minutes off and release the animals.
You’ve said that Cold Specks is somewhat of a character, for whom you write music. Do you plan to stick with this character, or do you see other characters emerging in the future?
Yes. I’ve decided I’m gonna be a booty-shaking, ratchet bitch for my next record (I guess I’m trying to be funny again).
Before the release of your first record, you quit your job at a call center to pursue music full time. Do you have any advice for aspiring musicians who may be teetering on the same life change?
All you can do is make the best music you can possibly make and the rest may/or may not work itself out. Just continue to create and you’ll be a-okay.