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December 2021 / January 2022
Feature

Colleen Green: "I'm trying to figure out how to take responsibility for my own happiness"

With her first album in bloody ages, Colleen Green tries to figure out what it means to be a grown-up.
Published: 10:47 am, October 13, 2021Words: Linsey Teggert.
Colleen Green: "I'm trying to figure out how to take responsibility for my own happiness"

Colleen Green's new album was recorded in summer 2019, and by January 2020, it was all wrapped up and ready to go. And then... Iggy Pop threw a spanner in the works.

In an ongoing saga that took up most of 2020, Colleen and her management battled back and forth with Iggy and the Stooges' management to clear the use of the album's lead single, 'I Wanna Be A Dog': a playful take on The Stooges' classic 'I Wanna Be Your Dog' which finds Colleen musing upon the simplicity of canine life compared to her own anxieties.

"I didn't think it would be a big deal; we just wanted to take the proper steps and make sure nobody would get sued," recalls Colleen. "I'd been in touch with Iggy's manager, and he told me everything was fine, and they were cool with it, then BMG, who own the publishing rights to the song, got in touch and said their client had denied the request and there was no room for negotiation."

After a year-long "weird ping pong game", where each side was saying something different, the publishers agreed that Colleen could release her song if she paid them $1500 and gave them 75% of the publishing royalties.

"I was like, okay, I guess we're getting somewhere, but that doesn't seem fair because I don't have any money, and I don't know how much money they think I'm going to be making off this? Iggy Pop is worth millions, and I was determined to try and negotiate. Finally, we got them to agree to just taking 25% of the publishing from the song; I can live with that as long as I get to release my music. They were equally as responsible for the delay as the pandemic, I would say."

Listening to Colleen talk so matter-of-factly, in such a laid-back manner, about taking on the team behind one of the Godfathers of Punk, you can't help but be in awe of just how damn cool she is. It's apt then that her new record is simply titled 'Cool'.

'Cool' isn't Colleen blowing her own trumpet though, it's the type of wry, self-deprecating reference that's made Colleen an underground icon, sort of like a real-life Daria.

"It's mostly just because people are like 'Colleen Green is so coooool'," she laughs, putting on a comical stoner-esque voice. "You know what, thinking of an album title is really hard, I had this huge list of album titles, and they all sucked, so I was just like, let's just call it 'Cool'.

'Cool' is Colleen's first release since 2015's 'I Want to Grow Up' (another play on a punk title - The Descendents' 'I Don't Want to Grow Up'), an acclaimed record that wrapped existential problems in layers of lo-fi grunge pop. With Colleen's insecurities and neuroses laid bare for all to see, it's no surprise that she wanted to move on from that with her next release and focus on the actual growing she's done in the years since.

"'I Want to Grow Up' was definitely a transitional phase in my life - I don't think 'Cool' is the endpoint, it's still transitional as well, but I'm a little bit further along on my journey. After getting all that stuff out on the table, I've had the past five years to reflect on that and take my time to learn more about myself and all the negativity I acknowledged. That's where 'Cool' came from: a lot of the themes and feelings on this album are in direct response to the things I talked about on 'I Want to Grow Up."

When comparing tracks from 'I Want to Grow Up' and 'Cool' side-by-side, it's obvious that Colleen is in a much better place. Take the former's 'Things That Are Bad For Me (part II)' for example, which sees her lament that "there's an energy inside my brain, set to self-depreciate, some kind of anxiety makes me do things that I know are bad for me," and compare it with the latter's anthemic 'It's Nice to be Nice' where Colleen displays her emotional maturity by reminding herself it's important to be the best person she can be.

"It was good to get all that off my chest and exorcise it, but I felt so exhausted after 'I Want to Grow Up". I still have insecurities, but I'm trying to figure out how to take responsibility for my own happiness and own actions. 'Cool' isn't the endpoint, I still have a lot of work to do, but if I was just done growing at 37, that would be weird. I hope to always continue on this journey of self-reflection and try to get better all the time with every year; that's what 'Cool' is, I guess.

"I'm not a slacker; I've worked really hard"
Colleen Green

The sonics of 'Cool' also reflect its much more positive outlook; the edgy paranoia of 'I Want to Grow Up' is replaced with a breezy, effortless sound with crisp production and playful beats.

"I really just wanted to make a record that was melodic and pleasing to the ear; I didn't have many lyrics even left in me after 'I Want to Grow Up'. I just wanted to make beats on my drum machine and play guitar along to them; that's how the songwriting process of 'Cool' started."

To keep those minimal beats, Colleen enlisted the help of Gordon Raphael, best known for his work with The Strokes, including their debut 'Is This It'. Having worked with her beloved drum machine on the demos, she wanted to have live drums on the record but still have them sound like a drum machine. "I wanted it to be very robotic and repetitive, and that's when it dawned on me that Gordon should produce the album; that's exactly what The Strokes did, and I'm a huge fan of those records."

Despite the journey of personal growth Colleen has undertaken in the last few years, there's one thing she's still trying to figure out: love. Colleen declares that a big chunk of the new record is about love, specifically the idea of unconditional love and what it means to love another person without ego being involved. It's fair to say that the inward existentialism of 'I Want to Grow Up' is channelled here into questioning our capacity for connection with others. Colleen even asks it outright in 'How Much Should You Love a Husband?'.

"Years ago, my friend had just got married, and she tweeted: 'how much should you love a husband: all the way or even more?' I had no idea what she meant by that, but I thought about it a lot, and it took on its own meaning for me. I'd been thinking a lot about marriage or even just long-term relationships, how much fucking work it takes to actually be with a partner for even ten years... even five years, forget about fifty years!

"People put so much stock into their careers, and it's like, how much does that even matter? I know everyone needs to make money to survive, but I feel like love is its own career and takes more work than any job anybody could ever have. Do I have the stamina to work at something that much in my life?"

Despite all this talk of growth over the decade Colleen has been releasing music, there's been one thing she's been unable to shake along the way, and that's the image of being, well, a massive stoner, to put it bluntly (no pun intended). "I'm the one who has 420 on all my usernames on social media; I kind of leaned into it," she laughs, always willing to poke fun at herself. "I don't smoke weed anymore - I quit in 2017 - nowadays I'll just have edibles occasionally, I don't want smoke in my body. It never really pissed me off too much that the media portrayed me that way, as I was a huge stoner for a long time! In a way, I kind of liked that image, though the thing that did piss me off is when they called me a slacker. That word got thrown around a lot, but I'm not a slacker; I've worked really hard." 

Taken from the October issue of Upset. Colleen Green's album 'Cool' is out now.

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