Music is therapy. Music is an escape. Music is knowledge. Music is self-expression. Music is freedom. Everyone can relate to these absolute truths, but it especially applies to Courtney Cooper, a Brooklyn-based singer, and songwriter.
Playing the flute in her school band and singing in school, temple, state, and regional choirs, Courtney surrounded herself with music by any means she was able to. At home, instead of playing tunes of old-school classics, her parents filled the silence with fighting that resulted in Courtney locking herself in the room finding an escape in music when things got difficult. It wasn’t until she was 13 years old when she realized she wanted to sing as a career: “Music and performing have always been a euphoric outlet for me. I can’t describe the feeling I get when I sing–it’s like nothing else & truly magical”, and since then Courtney’s journey of being an ambitious independent musician has officially sprung.
After going to one of the most prestigious music schools, Berklee College of Music, Courtney was able to follow her dreams and release her first album ‘The Light.’ A few years later, she is releasing a second album ‘Waves’ as her little collection of daydreams of tropical paradise created during New York’s brutal winter.
Besides being that kid that found herself singing wherever she could have, Courtney saw music more than just a hobby. At a young age, she was faced with many bumps in her journey towards being a singer: “My parents divorced when I was 8, and I used music as my escape whenever things were difficult. I’d lock myself in my room and blast Michael, Whitney, Mariah, or whoever to drown out the yelling, etc. Outside of what music I got into on my own, there was never any music played in my house growing up”, she admits.
According to Courtney, her musical awareness and knowledge were somewhat limited. At the age of 14, she decided she would like to go to one of the most prestigious music schools that is the Berklee College of Music. When she was 17, her dream came true and she attended the place that changed her life forever: “I remember when I got to Berklee hearing Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind & Fire, and a bunch of other iconic greats for the first time and everyone looked at me in a bit of horror—like, what do you mean you’ve never heard this?! As much as I wished I had the same musical family training as some of my fellow students, it was really cool for me to hear all of this amazing music for the first time all at once. I became obsessed and listened non-stop to an album after album, and I totally submersed and mesmerized in all of it”, Courtney describes her first music interactions with the legends.
When Courtney was looking for potential colleges, Berklee was really the only music school that wasn’t a classically focused conservatory and also had state of the art recording studios. After visiting the campus herself, she knew. Berklee was the place for her where all her dreams will come true. However, Courtney’s mom was not on the same page: “My mom, on the other hand, was not so convinced. I actually had to go behind her back and apply because she wanted me to go to a regular school where I could have a proper “backup” plan. It took a lot of coaxing and help from my school guidance counselors and of course scholarship money to change her mind”, Courtney showcases how much courage and strength it takes to go after what you want.
Having an opportunity to study at such a prestigious college makes one wonder about the real experience of students. Courtney could not be more positive and optimistic about her fellow classmates and talented teachers: “I learned so much musically and built such an incredible drive and fire within me. It was definitely not your “typical” college experience, but I wouldn’t change it for the world,” Courtney recognizes the impact the school had on her self-growth.
She continues by talking about the professors motivate her to this day: “One of the greatest things about Berklee is the faculty. They are all such individually talented musicians it’s really something as a student to aspire to. I remember the first time I heard two of my favorite teachers sing and was totally blown away. I immediately locked myself in a practice room for hours to work on the things they would teach me in lessons and class. It was incredibly motivating and still is to this day”.
In her last year at Berklee, Courtney wrote and recorded her first EP. She remembers not even taking a single writing class as she dual majored in music production/engineering and vocal performance. Until a mentor of hers suggested the idea of writing and the rest is history. She has been writing ever since, but she sustained another bump in the road to reach her ultimate self fully.
Talking from her own experience, Courtney touches upon the downside of the music industry and her decision to stay independent: “My approach over the years has definitely changed significantly in a sense fresh out of Berklee, I was really trying to lock down a major label deal, so the music I was writing was 100% catered to that, what industry execs were telling me I should look and sound like. These days I write 100% for me and no one else. I write from what’s really within me and love being independent”.
When Courtney moved to Los Angeles, she struggled a lot with her own inner demons. The first time she began to shed these layers, she was writing an album ‘The Light.’ Courtney reveals to us why she chose not to release it as a 2-part album: “The Light was actually intended to be a dual 2-part album “The Light” & “The Darkside,” to which I had fully written and recorded 22 songs, and at the last minute decided I wanted to leave “The Darkside” behind and not release it. Personally & emotionally, I really shed that part of me and wanted to move forward to the softer, lighter side”, she, fortunately, abandons her dark side and chooses the light, literally.
Looking back, Courtney reflects on her past work: “As an artist and a writer, I’m continuously working and growing. I’ve grown so much since “The Light,” that when I listen back to it now, I’m not a big fan. My sound has really evolved since, but at the same time, those songs are a huge representation of who I was at that time in my life”.
Courtney likes to take control and be aware of every aspect of her career. On the music video for her song ‘Only Love,’ Courtney took charge and produced and edited the video herself: “I love taking control when it comes to anything related to my music, especially when it comes to visuals. I think being in NYC for so long trained my eyes and brain to envision things in a certain way, and it’s always so rewarding to see when things come to life”.
Speaking of New York, a freezing winter inspired Courtney to write her second album ‘Waves’ that is due to be released on August 24th. The reason for the title is quite clever and also paradoxical, Courtney elaborates: “I’ve always been extremely drawn to the ocean. There’s something so magical about the rise and fall of the tide and the mystery of the unknown below the surface. All of the songs from the album are in a way inspired by the ocean and its beauty. I wrote the album during a really brutal winter in Brooklyn, NY where I live on the waterfront. As I was writing the album, staring out my window looking at snow, I daydreamed of tropical paradise. Those reveries became the songs that make up the album. The title is also a bit of play on words as audio ‘waves’ are the vibrations of sound that are heard as music”, only talking about the theme makes us excited to hear and dive into Courtney’s daydreams.
As a single from ‘Waves,’ Courtney chose ‘Damn’ as the song she connects to the most: “When I was writing it something came over me, it was almost like an out of body experience. It wasn’t originally going to be released as a single because it’s not as melodic or catchy as some of the songs on the album, but it’s one of my favorites”, where another of her favorites is ‘Paradise’ that is embodying who she is right now.
The team that was colluding together on ‘Waves’ is filled with talented human beings. For example, an only 22-year old Norwegian producer Jacob who collaborates with Courtney virtually and a digital graphic artist Ilham Rambe who is responsible for artwork for ‘Waves’ and single art. Courtney spent months tracking him down as she is a fan of his work for a while now.
If you are a fan of soul-infused indie pop, R&b influenced with a hint of pop and electronic undertones, Courtney Cooper is certainly the artist for you. She did not have it easy, but because music has done so much for her well-being, now she is returning the favor by creating soulful songs that will speak to masses. After the release of ‘Waves’ on August 24th, Courtney will star performing, so keep an eye for her Instagram for the tour announcement.
Karolina Kramplova | WRITER