Piper Cole, Coffee House (Mt Seymour United Church, 1200 Parkgate, North Vancouver), Friday, Oct. 11, 7 p.m. (pipercolemusic.com).
Piper Cole’s heeding her own advice.
A musician by training who eventually made her way to the field of psychotherapy before finding music again, Cole – who uses her real name in her talk therapy practice and goes by Piper when she hits the stage – has always helped deliver a simple message to her clients.
While she’d spend her days helping patients become their most authentic selves, her nights left her wanting more. “I work with clients so much on really getting in touch with who they really are. I thought I’ve got to walk the walk now,” says Cole.
A few months ago, Cole, 40, released her debut album, an EP of dreamy, multilayered folk-pop called Wildish. For Cole, who grew up in Ladner but now lives in North Vancouver, it’s been the realization of a lifelong dream, a musical itch that she has luckily never been able to shake.
Ever since Cole was a little kid, she knew she wanted to be a singer. Before she could even write words, she was writing songs by drawing pictures to correspond with the moods she was trying to evoke and the lyrics she was trying to give form to.
“I would draw picture-songs. All the shapes would represent what I was hearing in my head,” she says.
When she got a little bit older, she’d buy records and pore over the lyrics, which inspired her to start writing her own tunes. Guitar lessons followed suit soon after, which then gave way to voice lessons as well. When it came time for university, Cole took the plunge and got a degree in music, at first focusing on classical voice before transitioning to music composition.
But when she finished her degree in 2002, she didn’t let her musical talents ring out. “It was not very accessible at that time to be going and recording your own music,” she says.
Cole moved to the U.K. to study psychotherapy. She lived abroad for years, practising talk therapy while still harbouring those musical dreams. She managed the odd performance, but never truly gave in to the calling, she says.
“I never really had the confidence to step out and do this and write my own music and record it,” she says. “That was all I ever really wanted to do. I think when the technology caught up and the music business started to change, it started to become much more accessible for me to just do it myself.”
In 2017, Cole decided to stop waiting. She did a program in music production at Berklee College of Music where she learned the ins and outs of sound design and mixing an album. Soon after she got to work on Wildish, a five-song EP.
Produced in an electronic-meets-indie style reminiscent of Kate Bush, Cole says the record’s lyrics and music chart her challenges rising from those feelings of living an inauthentic life and not having the confidence to pursue her dream, to finally breaking free and surrendering to it.
“The process of me getting through my own personal struggle is really reflected in the songs and the songs are in order of exactly the dates they were written,” says Cole.
As she prepares for upcoming live solo performances, she’s adamant about getting back into the studio, her favourite part of the musical experience. When Cole turned 40, it was the wakeup call she needed to finally start doing what she’s always wanted to do, she says. She’s wide awake now.
“I like making sounds and putting sounds together,” she says. “It’s incredible what you can do in your living room.”