ABOVE: THE CHILD OF LOV. IMAGE COURTESY OF VALENTINA VOSS
With his musical project The Child of Lov, Amsterdam-based Cole Williams creates an avant-garde collage of sound encapsulating the past, present, and future of R&B and soul. His self-titled debut album fuses sonic funk and multi-layered psychedelic groove. Tracks such as "Fly" swell with gospel soul as Williams proclaims, "Down by the river Jordan, I'm gonna bring the sound."
Williams, who began Child of Lov as another anonymous Internet music project, recently won the NME Philip Hall Radar Award. His debut features collaborations with Thundercat, DOOM, and Damon Albarn.
We spoke with Williams via Skype about southern influences, Versace, and the sexiest song he's ever heard.
J.L. SIRISUK: Hi. How are you?
COLE WILLIAMS: I'm good, thanks. How are you?
SIRISUK: Pretty good. You're in Amsterdam right now, aren't you?
WILLIAMS: Yeah. How do you know?
SIRISUK: Do you have any plans to come to America soon?
WILLIAMS: Well, no concrete plans, but I hope to be there very soon, though. I've never been there, actually.
SIRISUK: You haven't? When I initially heard your music, I assumed you had spent time in the States.
WILLIAMS: In spirit, perhaps.
SIRISUK: I know you feel a connection to Georgia. Why do you dig Georgia so much?
WILLIAMS: Georgia is actually one of the big, deep Southern states; but the whole Southern music tradition always really spoke to me, so that's the main reason.
SIRISUK: Are you putting a live band together at the moment?
WILLIAMS: Yeah, I did some rehearsals already. I'm looking forward to playing live. It's been crazy seeing it come together in the form of a band, because I was never in a band. I never played in a band or played with other musicians properly, so it's been an adventure.
SIRISUK: Have you mainly worked independently?
WILLIAMS: I like to do as much myself as possible. Before the collaborators came in—before Damon or DOOM came in—the record was pretty much finished as it was. I produced it myself, recorded it myself, and did all the instruments. It's really a solitary thing.
SIRISUK: How did you connect with DOOM? I know he's on your track "Owl."
WILLIAMS: I was able to get in contact with him quite early on. He goes about in his own way, but I'm very happy to have him on the album. I'm a big fan of his work. I listen to his albums very much. He's ahead of the game, I think.
SIRISUK: What about Damon Albarn—how did that collaboration come about?
WILLIAMS: My manager was actually going to let him hear my music, and then he was in his hotel room [and] I wasn't there. My manager was like, "What should I do?" He decided to just sing some of the songs to Damon himself, which I wouldn't have advised him to do, but it worked out. Damon was sort of intrigued, I guess, and he doesn't have to do anything he doesn't want. In the UK, he's pop royalty. It's great to have been able to work with him.
SIRISUK: I love the gritty soulfulness of this album and was wondering how this project came to be. Was there something that inspired this project specifically, or did it happen gradually?
WILLIAMS: I always saw it more as a chance to show the world what can be possible in the realms of the music that inspired me. My intent has always been to make a record that covers a lot of bases and is soulful but then meanders away as well, and explores different directions. So there was a certain intent where it came from.
SIRISUK: I do feel that you created a universe of sound very specific to you. Within that realm, who are some people who have really inspired you?
WILLIAMS: It just has to do with artists who are all or nothing; and there are quite a few of those kinds of artists. It could be James Brown or it could be Nina Simone, or whoever can touch people and can touch me specifically in sort of a heartfelt way. I mean, in the end, that's what all creative exploration should be about.
SIRISUK: Do you remember one of the first albums your ever bought?
WILLIAMS: I think one of the first albums I listened to was a Stevie Wonder album that my mom had lying around. Most of the stuff she listened to was more Simon and Garfunkel—sort of cheesy. It's good music in the end, but it didn't really do it for me. But Stevie Wondersort of spoke to me.
SIRISUK: There's something kind of sexy about your tracks. If you could pick one track that you consider amongst the sexiest you've ever heard, what would it be?
WILLIAMS: [laughs] I'm a big D'Angelo fan. So "How Does It Feel" is a classic, sexual song.
SIRISUK: Is there a reason why you released your first tracks and music videos anonymously?
WILLIAMS: Well, not a reason really apart from just trying to stay close to myself every step of the way. I think a lot of entertainment is image first, and there are no boundaries anymore. But I think boundaries can be good as well, to put them up. I just try to be as close to myself as possible.
SIRISUK: I do think substance should come before anything else. So, at the moment what are your plans? What's coming next with this album?
WILLIAMS: I'm going to do some sessions in a few weeks. I'm going to play Glastonbury and some other festivals as well in Europe. I just want to make music. I'm halfway through the next album. What I do, basically, is get up every morning and go into my room and just work.
SIRISUK: Are you working on any new material? What is your process like—are you continually working on new things?
WILLIAMS: I'm just trying to work at it as much as possible, and I have some ideas for the second album. I'm just trying to plan my steps carefully and trying to make as much as possible so that there's a lot of songs to choose from.
SIRISUK: Do you feel the songs would be different if you came to America or lived in Georgia for a while? Do you think that would affect your writing, or could you write in any place?
WILLIAMS: I think it could be any place. I haven't really tried it but I don't feel comfortable with having to write on the spot. I need my own place to come up with new ideas. If I get comfortable in another place, then I could write there, but I would be embarrassed for quite a while if I wasn't really able to write there. So it just depends.
SIRISUK: This is kind of random, but why do you like Versace so much?
WILLIAMS: Well, why not? Because it's outrageous.
SIRISUK: [laughs] Are you wearing Versace right now?
WILLIAMS: [laughs] Maybe.
SIRISUK: What do you hope people take from this album?
WILLIAMS: I don't really care, actually. I mean, if they're the right people, they will understand the music and where it's coming from and if they don't, it's fine with me as well. I can't be bothered with it.
SIRISUK: What did you take away from creating this album?
SIRISUK: To me, a lot of it has been sort of accepting that I am a musician. Accepting that I'm capable of doing something like this. I didn't grow up in a musical family; I never had any formal training. I was quite alone in making music, not a lot of people knew about it. I've never had this idea of myself as being a musician. Although I made music, I didn't perceive myself as that. But making this whole album and fixing it and bringing it out into the world sort helped me in realizing that I am a musician.
SIRISUK: And why do you call yourself The Child of Lov?
WILLIAMS: Well, because of the way that the things you make and the things you do in life—the things you make happen— influence you back as well. You know, everyone's a child of what they do as much as they are the creator.
THE CHILD OF LOV'S DEBUT ALBUM IS OUT TOMORROW, MAY 7, VIA DOMINO RECORDS. FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT WILLIAMS' WEBSITE.