Reggae singer Hollie Cook has some pretty big achievements on her résumé – a slot on Later… with Jools Holland, and what she says is her biggest accomplishment – opening for Stone Roses’ comeback tour at Heaton Park (at the request of frontman Ian Brown, no less).
Love of Dub brought her to Bristol’s Trinity Centre last night for her first headline set in the reggae-loving city, where she shared a line up with Solo Banton, YT and Unit 137 and more.
It’s almost frustrating to see Hollie Cook live, as you can never quite get enough of those sweet, soulful vocals. If you get a chance to see her this summer, it’s an absolute must. She has an unfailing way of transporting you somewhere far away and gorgeous.
She has an unfailing way of transporting you somewhere far away and gorgeous
She took to the stage with her go-to band, General Roots and killed it from start to finish. The acoustics of the old church building were perfect for carrying blissed-out tunes like Shadow Kissing, The Beat Goes On, and her closing number, Postman.
We caught up with Hollie in the community gardens at Trinity Centre earlier in the afternoon for a quick chat…
With a pedigree such as Hollie Cook’s, it was almost pre-determined that she would be making ripples in the music industry. She’s the daughter of Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook and Culture Club backing singer Jeni Cook, she spent five years touring with punk/ reggae group The Slits under the mentorship of Ari Up; and Boy George is her godfather.
“Music is something that I was allowed to find by myself for myself,” she says. “I think that it was very, very apparent to my parents early on in my life that I was going to be involved in music in some way, so they weren’t at all surprised. But they didn’t push it on me in any way, or divert me either way. It was probably inevitable – I wasn’t going to be a dentist.”
Hollie joined The Slits when she was just 19, after Slits vocalist and family friend Ari Up made some calls to round up all of her friend’s daughters for some backing vocals on a track.
“She wanted as many kids as she could get her hands on for the afternoon to do some singing. Afterwards, Ari said when they do gigs I should come along – so I did, of course I did!
“The Slits got me into reggae really, as far as singing in a reggae style and listening to more reggae. Ari lived in Jamaica, so a lot of the music she was writing and listening to was from Jamaica, so I was learning and getting into it at the same time.”
It’s like bungee jumping – you shit yourself and then you do it and it’s amazing
Hollie became a fully-fledged member of the newly reformed Slits, touring the world with the influential group and recording the album Trapped Animal.
“Ari was very much into the idea of making an album as a current version of The Slits. She was very motivated by current sounds and music, and she wanted to do a new album. I wrote a tune on the album (Cry Baby) and we wrote a bunch of stuff together.”
The process was the beginning of Hollie’s transformation into a solo artist, as it’s the first full track she had done. In fact, Cry Baby ended up being on Hollie’s first solo album in 2011, in a reworked form that she called Cry.
“It’s a lot more self-conscious and exposed being by yourself. Whether you’re in a band or just hanging out with a group of mates, you are obviously more confident and cocky when there’s a group of you all together.
“Without that time with The Slits, I would never have had the guts to do anything solo. I was always quite happy being in the background and not being centre of attention, but once Ari passed away and The Slits was done, making music for myself was kind of the only thing that was going to get me through the grieving process.
“The last time I saw her, I didn’t know it at the time, but I think she probably knew it would be the last time I was going to see her, she said, ‘You’ve got to go and do what makes you happy and make your music’ – and that really stuck with me.”
Just a year after she released her self-titled debut album, Hollie was invited to open one of the biggest shows of the year – the Stone Roses comeback tour at Heaton Park.
“I only really believe it because my mum was there and she filmed it,” she says. “Otherwise it feels like a dream. It was one of those things where my brain just shut down and coped because it was so overwhelming. That was a sick opportunity; it was one of the biggest gigs of the year.”
Since her second album Twice dropped in 2014, fans have been waiting to hear more from the rising reggae star. Fortunately, we won’t have too much longer to wait…
“I’m making an album – finally! I can’t tell you much about it at the moment, but it’s happening. I’m just ready to do it now. I didn’t want to do it for a little while, I was just happy touring. But also, for me, touring and being on the road a lot does make it difficult to be creative, so I was kind of stuck. But I haven’t been doing that many gigs recently, so it’s been nice to be at home and be grounded and get creative. So I’m doing it, and it should be ready by the end of the year.”
Hollie will be return to Boomtown Fair once again this summer, where she will take on the mighty Lion’s Den stage.
“I have to say, a lot of my favourite memories of playing are at Boomtown. It’s got a very, very nice vibe for audiences and the people around – I don’t know whether that’s ‘cause everyone’s off their tits, or what – but it’s just got a really cool atmosphere. First time I played there was when the Lion’s Den was just a big top tent.
“I’ve played in the Hidden Woods twice and it’s been so nice. I love it there! Rototom last year was a cool one. That was a nice moment for me. It’s one of the big reggae festivals and I was on a big stage and it was really scary. It’s like bungee jumping – you shit yourself and then you do it and it’s amazing.”
You can also catch Hollie Cook this summer at Eden Festival, Pointu Festival and Glastonbury.