Courtney Cole recently released her EP #NoFilter, a four-track acoustic Spotify release. #NoFilter’s lyric empowerment and stay-true-to-you message make the listener feel as if they’ve found a new best friend, and Cole herself is no different, with a warm and friendly energy that immediately puts you at ease. #NoFilter itself oozes girl power, not in a “Before He Cheats” way, promoting independence, ferocity, and perhaps a hardened shell, but rather in a more organic way, allowing for the duality of being strong and being yourself while simultaneously allowing connectivity and openness to to the world around you.
The EP creates a fascinating story arc, starting with “Can’t Buy Love,” an uptempo track about finding love organically, followed by “Cool Girl,” which emphasizes the importance of being yourself. Cole closes out the EP with “Drunk,” a song showcasing Cole’s sillier side that highlights the beginnings of a new relationship, and “Fall Like Rain,” a slower track that showcases the dynamic range of Cole’s vocals and describes the end of a relationship. Throw it on loop and you’re back to “Can’t Buy Love,” reminding you that even though you’ve been broken, you have to resist the urge to shut yourself off and shop for an ideal situation and re-open yourself up (yes – by being yourself). Through it, Cole achieves the perfect balance of being simultaneously strong and vulnerable, like an early Taylor Swift with a little less bitterness and a little more backbone.
The music and energy are infectious, much like Cole herself, who is down to earth, taking a few minutes to chat with us about everything from the adventures of driving through middle-of-nowhere Montana or belting “All About That Bass” fresh out of the shower with a towel wrapped around her hair.
Courtney, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us! One of the things that’s particularly striking about #NoFilter is its relatability, and its focus on self esteem and staying true to who you are. What was on your mind when you were writing it?
I have a niece, and she is 13 years old, and she’s one of my closest friends. Even though she’s younger than me, I learn so much from her, and I see a lot of myself in her. Growing up, and seeing what she was going through, and where our society is right now, I feel like it’s important to be yourself, because when you open a magazine you see all these photoshopped pictures of these skinny cute girls you’re looking in the mirror being like wow, I don’t look like that! And I think about all the stuff I’ve through, and I‘ve learned in my life like, this is my own journey, and we are all beautiful in our own way. I think that we have to respect ourselves, and if someone doesn’t see that in you they’re not worth it.
I think that’s definitely something people need to be hearing right now.
Absolutely! I feel like we all, especially as girls, we all kind of go through the same thing, you know? And even though our journeys are all kind of different, I feel like it’s the same and we’re all kind of here for each other and can kind of help each other through the hurt.
For sure. Plus it’s hard – you think something might be right, and it turns out not to be, and you question everything in a lot of ways.
A lot of times it’s like the inward questioning! That’s one of the things too with being yourself, you think sometimes I must not be cool enough to fit into this guy’s life, and it’s like you know what, you gotta love you for who you are!
Let’s talk about the composition of the EP. Was it mostly solo writes, co-writes?
I have a couple of writer friends that I really trust, especially when I want to share my heart and record something. I wrote with some of my favorite writers on that EP. So it was like guys, this is what I wanna work on today, let’s hash that out. I’m just thankful because I’m able to just go in and really share with all my heart, ‘cuz it’s hard to be that vulnerable especially in this industry, and [Nashville’s] such a small town, so I’m lucky, I’m a lucky girl.
You’ve recently been on the road with Chris Young. How long have you been touring with him, and what’s that been like?
Well it was kind of off and on for about a year, like the first day I ever went out with him was in October of last year and that was really, really cool. Then I guess really this summer, he was kind enough to let me jump on board and just sing for his fans and they’re awesome! We had the time of our lives, so I’m really thankful for Chris for letting us jump on board. He’s such a great guy, I’m just thankful that he believed in me to put me on with him.
That’s always exciting, especially in country when bigger artists bringing out smaller artists is so important.
I know, and I hope if I ever get to that level, that I can take out someone as well, because literally it’s meant the world to me. It’s so much fun! Too much fun.
Any good stories? Good or bad highlights?
I don’t think there were any bad highlights. I think probably the most fun that we had was… all the crowds were great. I don’t think there was one bad crowd. So in that realm that was awesome. But we were in Montana going from Montana to South Dakota – and we were in the middle of nowhere. I’m from the middle of nowhere Louisiana, but I’ve never seen the middle of nowhere like the middle of nowhere Montana, South Dakota. We’d be going for hours to even find a gas station or food, so we had to plan like after the show we were gonna drive for four hours after and sleep and then get up and drive the rest of the way. So we drove for four hours and when we wanted to stop, it was a small little town in Montana and there was no vacancy. So we kept having to drive to all these little towns in the middle of the night at this point and we couldn’t find a vacant hotel ‘cuz there was no civilazition until six o clock in the morning. And so we slept for a couple hours and had to get up and drive the west of the way and play a show. So it was as horrible as it was, it was actually some of the most fun in the car that we had, just the delirious chats and everything. It was fun.
You were on a reality show with CMT, correct?
It was CMT’s Next Superstar, and it was like kind of like American Idol sort of except we lived in a house together.
Obviously television is a huge way to get your name out there and get recognized and put a face and personality to a sound. How do you think it impacted your reach and fan base?
I am so thankful for CMT for giving me that opportunity because I know they looked at a lot of people for that and then picked ten people. So for them to choose me, especially in a talented town like Nashville, I felt really honored to be there. I would do it all over again, because they picked some of the most incredible artists, with so much talent. They have some die hard CMT superstar fans that till this day still follow me and I get constant messages encouraging me and saying hey, every time you’re in my town I’ll be there. It’s been so cool, like those people have a special place in my heart for sure.
It’s also a testament to you as an artist and a person that you’re able to stay so strongly connected to your fans.
Thank you! Yeah, like it’s really important to me to connect with your fans, because they’re the whole reason that I do what I do, and I want to really reach people. Through social media, Twitter, Instagram, we can do that on a totally different level now, and it’s so important to me. So after the shows I try to get back to everyone, like that’s so important to me. The fans are the most important part of this whole thing.
It seems like more and more female artists in particular, like Sarah Darling or Emily West, are turning to TV since radio is less than female friendly right now.
There aren’t a lot of females [on radio] and we keep getting closer and closer to the time where it’s just gonna explode with them, and that’s exciting. I’m really proud of those girls who go out there, like Sarah and Emily who are like, I’m really good, and my music’s really good, and it needs to be heard and they put themselves out there and really try to make that happen. So I have 100% respect for them, and it says a lot about their personality and their drive to me is that I’m gonna try and put myself out there. So more power to them!
I think we’re definitely starting to see a growing frustration with the way things on radio have seemed to homogenize.
Definitely. We all feel it about to happen, and I don’t know what it’s gonna take, I don’t know what the change is gonna be. I love country music, I listen to country radio, and I love how fun it is, but we need some girls on there having fun! I think it’s important. I think we need some girls to relate to, more than anything.
I think that’s one of the strengths of your EP – it’s not so independent it shuts off connection, but you do a really subtle, great job of being both strong and independent. There’s no weakness there, but it’s also not abrasive.
Totally. That was my goal, I think it’s important that the listener’s empowered, because I think a lot of times we’re definitely in a society where like I feel like sometimes I wanna step up, they feel like well she’s being mean or she’s hard to deal with, and we don’t get a lot of respect. So there needs to be a voice saying it’s okay, you don’t have to be mean, bash this, you just have to be strong and confident in yourself and do your thing. I don’t think there’s anymore than that, I think it’s that simple – be yourself, and be strong, and get it done, you know?
What’re you working on right now?
We just released the EP obviously. I’m touring a lot, got a good bit of dates to close out the year, which is super exciting. When I’m not on the road I am hunkered down and really just writing and trying to write the best songs that I can possibly write and hopefully you know sooner or later have an album to be able to release and go from there. I’m ready to take over the world! *laughs*
When you’re not doing music, what are some of your hobbies?
I love to spend time with my family – I don’t get to dot that very often, ‘cuz I’m the only one that doesn’t live in Louisiana, so if I have some sort of off I go and spend time with them. Hang out with friends, we have little wine nights, and get to do all that stuff. Hang out with my dog… She’s my hobby more than anything. Also, a guilty pleasure for me is walking around the T.J. Maxx home goods section.
T.J. Maxx it’s an incredible blessing and an incredible curse to my wallet.
Oh my god, yes. I just tweeted about that yesterday, I was like, in the home goods section and there goes my bank account!
What is your perfect sandwich?
This is so hard! The perfect sandwich… can I make it up? Can you do a Chipotle sandwich? I guess they already have like burritos…
That could be different though! Like a panini, with Chipotle inside?
That’s it! That’s the one. A panini with Chipotle inside.
What’s your guilty pleasure song, or one you’ve been listening to recently?
Guilty pleasure song… I guess it’s not really guilty pleasure, but the song that I have on repeat recently is from the Maroon 5 record, called “Unkiss Me.” That’s literally been on repeat in the car, I love that song. I really love “All About That Bass,” and I still do. Like it plays a billion times over and over again but I’m not gonna lie, I still crank it.
You know you’ve got a hit song when even when it’s overplayed, it doesn’t get old.
I’m still dancing with my towel wrapped around my head to that one.