North Shore News
More than a decade after the release of her debut album, Coco Love Alcorn is finally taking the reigns of her solo career.
Sugar, her just-released follow-up to that long-ago introduction, follows years of Alcorn working as, in her words, "a singing gun-for-hire."
"I guess I'm interested in so many different things, and singing and writing in so many styles," says the East Vancouver resident. She has cycled over to a West Side cafe... after a costume fitting at the Vancouver Playhouse for a Halloween gig. "I've had various managers telling me to pick my one thing, and I had a real hard time picking. Basically, I stopped promoting myself as a solo artist."
Alcorn has kept busy singing backup for, among others, 54-40. This led to Paloma, an electronica-type of studio and live collaboration between the singer and members of the Vancouver rock band.
Another collaboration, with bassist Brad Ferguson, led to Joystick, a blend of drum 'n' bass, hip-hop and R 'n' B. Both acts have been heavily promoted on movie and TV soundtracks such as The L Word. And Alcorn sings with a cover band, Famous Players, at various private gigs around town.
But about two years ago, she decided to put "Coco Love Alcorn" back in the spotlight. "I took out a big bank loan to invest in myself. I wanted to make a record where I didn't have to choose just one style and could be a little bit eclectic yet still cohesive in an acoustic setting and draw from my jazz past, and my folky pop past, and my kind of groovy R 'n' B interests."
For Sugar, she assembled some of the city's finest musicians, including jazz pianist Chris Gestrin (with whom she went to the Berklee College of Music in Boston) and roots guitarist Steve Dawson, who also produced. With expert backing, Alcorn smoothly glides from the lite 'n' jazzy For Just One Night to the sensual, Prince-like R 'n' B of Sugar to the Lilith Fair-ready folk of Circle Circle, all held together by a voice that is, depending on the occasion, cinnamon-sweet or gospel-powerful.
The singer wrote four of Sugar's tunes with her dad, who had a blues-rock band in Halifax when he was in his early 20s called Johnny and the Hot Shots. "There's such an undeniable trust level that comes with a primary family member," says Alcorn. "You can do no wrong, you can try anything. It's so safe. We just love hanging out, too, so it can be very relaxing." Father and daughter bonded in Toronto, where John Alcorn lives, while writing songs and going out to dinner. "He's a great editor. I have this idea and that idea, and he can really help draw the cream of the crop out of me. And he has great ideas himself, which I get behind.
She hasn't ignored her solo work entirely over the past couple of years, but when doing her own material she's usually played alone, with just her acoustic guitar. "My favourite thing to do is improvise, and to feel that interaction with audience and band," she says.
"It's like game on now," continues Alcorn, who is also animated by a new love she met the week before our interview. "After 13 years of being in the industry and making my living doing music I've never done tours under my own name or released a record and given it to radio. I guess I was trying to figure out what I was doing. It was nice to decide I didn't actually have to have it all figured out, I should just go back to doing it."