Originally published for The 405.
Mystery is one of those things that can either be really exciting and alluring or just incredibly annoying. For those in the public eye, it has become incredibly difficult to maintain their privacy with the internet and social media creating an increased desire to know everything about a person. But anonymity, or just a general aloofness to the media, has become a bit of a trend for musicians lately. From the likes of, now disbanded, WU LYF to, mask-wearing producer, SBTRKT, the different ways in which artists attempt to remain anonymous can differ but the message seems clear: they want the focus to be on the music.
For The Child of Lov, aka 25-year-old Cole Williams, keeping his identity a secret at the beginning of his career has been anything but a hindrance. His self-titled debut album was recorded at Damon Albarn’s 13 studio and features collaborations with Albarn himself – whom Williams refers to as “the blackest guy in London” – underground rap sensation, DOOM and, bassist to Erykah Badu and Flying Lotus, Thundercat. So you could say he’s done pretty well.
In fact, Williams’ big score actually came when he was discovered by, his now manager, Trey Reames – “a redneck from Georgia,” Williams says – and the man behind Gnarls Barkley. It was through Reames’ connections that Williams’ collaboration with Albarn became possible: “He used to manage Danger Mouse and Danger Mouse did some production on the Gorillaz album, so he met Damon through that.” Reames also helped to get DOOM and Thundercat on board: “DOOM was through (him) because of the Gorillaz thing. I met him and we hung out in the studio with Damon. I met (Thundercat) after an Erykah Badu show in Amsterdam and my manager had met him the day before. She was playing a few shows so he had heard the music already when I met him.”
Fortunately, Williams’ decision to conceal his identity in the early stages of his career has added to the media buzz around him and he has managed to enlist some pretty big names for his debut album. But how much does he think the anonymity aspect has worked in his favour, I asked: “I think if I wasn’t an anonymous guy, if I was just a new guy on the block working together with Damon on his first album it would have also worked. It wasn’t really about that to me, it was more about just taking it easy.”
He describes himself as being “more artistically rooted in the southern state of Georgia, USA” – the sounds of which come across vividly on the album, combining gritty, soulful vocals, funky beats and tinges of psychedelia: “Growing up I listened to a lot of R&B but it was quite eclectic. I mean, I listened to loads of pop as well and jazz. I think it was because of D’Angelo that I sort of got in to the whole funkadelic side of it: Sly and the Family Stone, stuff like that, you know, real funk music.” Williams often cites D’Angelo as one of his key musical influences but I wondered what it was about him that he loved so much: “When I first heard the Voodoo album that was one of the reasons that I really wanted to make music. It really spoke to me in a very sincere kind of way and I thought it was so warm, that record, and the vocals were angelic. It’s a really beautiful record and it really meant a lot to me.”
Williams is a very solitary artist – writing, recording and producing all the music himself – so when it came to performing live with a band, he ensured the music came across the way he wanted it to: “It was a bit hard, but it was great hearing it live also. Directing a band is like producing in a way, so I just tried to get as much control over it as possible.” Having only played one live session with his band, at Maida Vale studios, Williams has chosen to play a string of festival dates over summer rather than set off on a headline tour: “I really like it like that, you know, not play 200 gigs after one another cause to me it’s not about that. It’s more about getting together in a nice environment, it’s about a good live experience, and then returning back home to make new music.”
Williams’ attention to detail with this project is so finely tuned that even his name has a deeper meaning than you might think. The LOV part stands for Light, Oxygen, Voltage and is a biological reference to the L.O.V domain, which determines whether plants move away from or towards the sun: “I thought it was a beautiful metaphor for life in general, so the role that music can play in your life. Music and the things that you do that are close to you can sort of determine the way that you feel about things and the way your life goes.” In fact, he tells me that it is all part of a bigger plan to release more music: “The Light, Oxygen, Voltage thing is going to be a triple album. The album that’s going to be out now, in the next few days, is a selection of the three albums but then that triple album’s going to be on the special edition.”
Considering he has been making music since he was 15, it is understandable that he has a lot of music to work with but Williams does really seem to live and breathe music: “I just make music, you know, it’s just what I do. I wake up in the morning, I make a cup of coffee and work basically.” From his star-studded collaborations to his meticulous work ethic, Williams really is an artist to be reckoned with and, being just one album in to his career, it will be interesting to see where goes from here.
The Child Of Lov’s self-titled debut album is out now. You can read our review of it by heading here.