Laurent James

Coely Talks Womanhood, New Music and ‘Insecure’

It’s 11 AM in an Antwerp boutique hotel on a gloomy Monday morning and Queen C, also known as Coely, is getting her hair and makeup done as she gears up for a lengthy press junket. This isn’t her first time at the rodeo, she’s so used to schedules that require a valium to even look at that by now, she sometimes falls asleep as her makeup artist does her face. Hey, gotta get that beauty rest whenever you can, right?

She’s this years Best Urban and Best Solo Female winner at the Belgian Music Industry Awards, she’s headlining major festivals, drawing huge crowds and did we mention her fashion game (courtesy of stylist Kate Housh) has never been more on point? After 10 minutes, Coely makes a final little tug at her sleeveless Christian Wijnants trench dress. She’s ready to talk now. It’s a warm hello, as Coely and Enfnts Terribles are no strangers.

Show To Studio

How are you even sitting here right now? Your summer has been crazy! We’ve seen you everywhere, selling out huge shows, thousands and thousands of people came to your shows all summer long. What’s been your favorite moment this summer?

Oh man, this summer has been so insane. I can’t even begin to describe it. The shows here in Belgium have been incredibly wonderful, the shows in other countries have been wonderful… It’s just all been really, really fantastic. I don’t think I can pinpoint an exact moment, that’s way too difficult! I love when I’m playing for crowds where some people don’t know me or my music, but I can tell halfway during the set they’re getting into it. Afterwards, I’ll get DM’s on Instagram like “Hey, I don’t know you, but your show was cool”. That stuff is fun for me, I love winning over people’s hearts.

Then there are shows where after my first note, because I usually start the show singing acapella from behind the stage, people start screaming. Loud, heavy screaming. Ballistically, really. That’s goosebumps for me. Some shows I can tell the crowd is there to turn-up and then there are shows where the vibe is all relaxed, cozy and breezy. It’s a good mix. I’ve noticed my crowds are very diverse too and that’s just the way I like it, everyone’s welcome! Maybe I kinda have a slight favorite, at Pukkelpop (Belgian festival) I noticed people were gathering outside of the tent. That’s mind-blowing. How did I get these people lining up outside of the damn tent?

Everyone wants to see you, that’s why! People notice the vibe and they want in on that. Even though you are on that packed summer tour, we’ve seen you in the studio on Instagram Stories a few times recently. How’s the new music coming along? Anything you can reveal?

You know I can’t say anything! No, for real I’m just in the studio, messing around. I like jamming in between shows, coming up with new stuff, just doing my thing. There’s no pressure right now, it’s just pure fun. I love playing around with my voice, searching for new beats and vibes. I am discovering a new type of me, slightly more grown up, maybe, although it’s still very much a Coely-sound. There’s some very exciting stuff we’re working on right now, but I like to keep it all under wraps until it’s done.

So no date for the new album?

I didn’t say anything about an album! (laughs) Don’t try to get things out of me. I already said too much.

Insecure & Urban Takeover

On top of everything you’re doing, you’re also promoting the new third season of Issa Rae’s Insecure as the Belgian ambassador of the series. What attracts you to the show?

It’s just so relatable. As a woman, as a young person, we’re all out here discovering our thing, struggling a bit here and there and trying to balance everything out. There’s been so many moments where I’m watching an episode and I’ll sit there, watching the screen and thinking “This is so me.” The show also grows with the audience each season, it’s like the development of womanhood or something. It’s also really funny. Between Issa’s occasional awkwardness, Molly’s ambition and of course the boy trouble, it’s so well-written, cast and played.

Raphael Saadiq did some original music for the first season, Solange is the musical advisor for the show and artists like Leikeli47 get prime-time treatment for their songs thanks to the show. What song of yours would be perfect for a scene in Insecure?

I know exactly what song I’d like to see Issa and Molly dance to in the club, all litty. Very confidently and without any jealousy towards any other women. Kinda hey-girl-I-see-you, feeling themselves, knowing who they are. It’s one of the new songs I’m working on.

Wait, did we get an exclusive here? Are you working on a big female empowerment anthem?

Oh my god, scratch that! No, no, really! Why did I slip up?! Oh man. See, you got me out here revealing things that aren’t even finished. I’m not going to say anything more, you’ll just have to wait! My song “Wake Up Call” could also be great, since the show has so many wake up call moments.

It feels like you’ve really come up along with the kind of urban takeover of the last couple of years. How do you feel about that? Music kind of goes in waves, but rap, trap, hip-hop and R&B are very prominent today and dominate mainstream music. We kinda already knew when Kanye said “We’re the new rockstars!” years ago, but it’s kind of out of control right now. Do you think it’ll go away soon, like the typical EDM sound of a few years ago that has kind of morphed into what’s called “tropical house” now? At Tomorrowland for instance, Dua Lipa and you were this year’s live acts. Newspaper columnists are writing huge pieces about how many festivals don’t book many rock bands anymore. It seems like everyone, and we do mean everyone, is embracing urban right now.

I think trends will always come and go, that’s just the way things work. It’s a natural thing for people of my generation. All of us were kind of raised on urban and a lot of stuff kind of stayed timeless. Those classic Missy Elliott songs have been in rotation since they came out, no one gets tired of them. We grew up on that stuff, watching music videos on television, it was early days on the internet. I can’t even imagine what it’ll be like with today’s young generation in the future. It’s all hip-hop, all the time. I think it’ll evolve, just like everything else. I do think urban in general will remain the biggest genre for a while. People connect to it and it can go in so many different ways. You can have your slow stuff, soulful stuff, monotone stuff, your mid-tempo vibey stuff, your heavy BPM stuff. It’s varied.

Speaking of that urban takeover, your labelmate and tour companion DVTCH NORRIS just hit 1.2 million hits on his latest video “Toothpick” and got played on Beats 1 by Ebro, the influential American radio presenter. Do you see yourself hitting the States anytime soon?

It’s crazy cool, isn’t it?! I was so happy for DVTCH. He’s family to me so I’m always rooting for him. He deserves all his success and then some. As for me, if it happens, it happens. I’ll cross that bridge when I get there. Making music and performing is my thing, wherever that may be.

Insecure is currently available on Telenet Play More in Belgium and airing on HBO in the United States. A custom Insecure Spotify playlist is also available here. For more Coely music and dates, visit coelymusic.com.

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