By Keith Sharp
So your very first single turns out to be one of the biggest tracks of the year, goes triple platinum in Canada, gold in the States, clocks in at No 5 on the Billboard Alternative Chart and logs a staggering 80 million global Spotifly streams.
If you happen to be Coleman Hell and your 2015 debut single, “Two Heads” has chalked up all of the above, you head back to your hometown of Thunder Bay, lug your keyboards into a cabin near your birthplace and write tracks for a debut album, `Summerland’ that was inspired by a book on witchcraft that you stumbled upon as a child.
“I had been living Toronto five or six years,(where he formed an artistic collective called Sideways also featuring La+ch, Shan Vincent De Paul and Micah), released a six-track EP and things took off with “Two Heads”,” Hell reflected. “But I started to realize that I had been neglecting my hometown and a significant part of my life. Relationships and emotions I had experienced there were somehow put on the backburner when I moved to Toronto so I felt it would be a cathartic experience to go back and reconnect with those emotions.
The idea for `Summerland’ was generated by Hell’s parents lack of religious beliefs. “All my friends went to church, I was spiritual but I didn’t know how to channel my emotions. So I read the bible and researched other religions on the internet and then I found this book on witchcraft in a local bookshop. It was amazing, it had spells in it, I thought it was magical. So I took the book home But my mom is very superstitious and she got mad and took it away from me.”
“I don’t know why that memory stuck in my mind but the idea of that book just popped into my head when I start thinking about the new record,” Hell reflected.
A visit to a local occult store before moved into his cabin retreat had Hell stocking up on all sorts of withcraft paraphenalia, sweet grass, tarot cards etc. ” I was just going to mess around with this stuff because it’s a type of religion that’s driven on the natural world . And in reading about witchraft I discovered this place called “Summerland” which is essentially heaven for reincarnation. It’s a place you go in between lives and both the good and the wicked go there, it’s not exclusive like heaven, you can make mistakes and still go there but you just have to learn from your mistakes and if you are content with your life you can stay there.”
“It’s a romantic idea of heaven where even people who screw up can go there , because I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life and I spent a lot of time reflecting on those mistakes when I made this album,” Hell noted.
Tracks like “Witching Hour”, “Possessed, “Flower Child” and “Howling Moon” as well as the title track reflect on Hell’s Wiccan theme, “Northern Soul” pays tribute to his hometown, “Two Heads” is reconfigured into the full record and “Firepower” has the unenviable task of following “Two Heads” as his next single”.
“I wanted to make a Bruce Springsteen EDM record,” cracks Hell. “I wanted to record an electronic album that had a 70’s lyrical feel. I don’t play guitar or banjo but I downloaded these plugs to get a guitar effect to go along with my keyboards.”
For someone who has toured the U.S twice based on the strength of one song, Hell has been able to road test some of the tracks off of the new album whilst performing with 21 Pilots and Ria Mae as his setlist expanded. Firepower was selected by his twitter followers, who Hell relies on for their input and is acting as “a palate cleaner” at radio after the amazing success of “Two Heads”.
“The truth is that the success of “Two Heads” held up the release of this record,” Hell noted. “It just kept chalking up airplay, it just wouldn’t go away, which I guess is a good position to be in.”
Considering Hell has a major release contract with Columbia Records in the U.S and is signed to Chad Kroeger’s 604 Records in Canada, he is taking this month off , following the album’s release to prepare for a short 13-date Canadian club tour in November to work the kinks out of his new live show.
“I want to try out my new show in more intimate venues, add more theatrical elements and present the new material,” Hell explained. “If this record takes off like I hope, we’ll be looking at more U.S dates and even a European tour in 2017.
As Hell has been traveling around the States, he is aware that Canadian music is being accepted Stateside, but that wasn’t always the case.
“My view of Canadian music when I was a kid was quite apathetic. I wanted to be a musician but I didn’t want to be a Canadian musician, I felt there was a stigma connected with being a Canadian musician which is a horrible thing to say. But i can sense now that there is a resurgence going on and Canadian music is being embraced outside of this country.”
For more information on Coleman Hell’s upcoming tour, please link to colemanhell.com.
By Keith Sharp