The Red Bull Elektropedia Awards Files: catching up with Coely

Pictures by Benoit Meeus, Julie Doupagne & Jesse Willems

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The summer is over. And for us, that means only one thing: getting ready for the Red Bull Elektropedia Awards! With the magical date of November 15 in mind, we thought this was a great opportunity to look back on the previous editions and catch up with some of the most prolific artists that have graced our award stage. One of such talents is Coely. This natural born performer has been rocking clubs, concert halls and festivals nationwide since she won the gold medal in the ‘Breakthrough Artist’ category in 2013. With the release of her Different Waters debut album and an even more brutal summer filled with festivals, this year has been the busiest so far. No better time to sit down, reminisce about the past and look into the future.

So, tell us, how has the summer been for ‘the queen of the festivals’? Which were the shows you enjoyed most?

"It’s been incredible. I think we played almost all of the big festivals this year – and every show was top notch. Imagine playing Rock Werchter with about 20k to 30k people in front of you, an insane Colour Café crowd, Crammerock with people queueing up for hundreds of metres outside, Lokerse Feesten with a dedicated crowd that wouldn’t run for shelter even though it was pouring down like crazy or the intimate Openluchttheater Rivierenhof with an incredibly dedicated home crowd. During the full length of each of these shows people were singing along and having a blast – that’s a feeling I will never get used to, nothing short of amazing. We are just having the time of our lives on stage, really."

Back in 2013 you were awarded the gold medal in the ‘Breakthrough Artist’ category at the Red Bull Elektropedia Awards. That’s four years ago now. Did these years go by as you originally planned?

"I didn’t really have a plan to be honest. I was only 17 years old and I was dropped into this new life I had no experience with. I just didn’t know what was going to be the next step, which turned out to be working in the studio every day. This is how we grew as a band. We made so much music, but threw away most of it. By just keeping up the work and being productive we elevated above the level of just our collective sum. We learned more about ourselves and our abilities, we triggered each other with ideas, etc. Sometimes we would disconnect completely and rent a house in the Ardennes or something. These are some golden moments I will cherish forever."

How did you evolve as an artist since the moment “Ain’t Chasing Pavements” was released in 2013?

"My voice is more versatile now. I just sound different compared to those times, haha. I used to stand on stage and just yell – I don’t do that anymore. Over time I learned to control (and take care of) my voice more professionally. My voice is able to go both really low and really high now, another thing I learned in the past few years. I’m just a lot more confident now in my ability to tackle different kind of music."

What is – from your perspective – the highest goal you have reached in your career so far?

"I can’t pinpoint one thing. Every show we do is another challenge I want to take. Usually there are people in the crowd that don’t know me or never heard my music. It’s my job to convince them. Turning these folks into fans is my ultimate challenge. But if we’re really talking ‘achievements’, then playing in places like Japan, Réunion, Spain and all those Studio Brussel ski trips have to be up there. I feel blessed I can do these kind of shows."

Every single time I see you perform on stage you seem to have more energy than the last time. Are there rituals or tricks you use to keep yourself so motivated every show?

"Honestly, I just LOVE being on stage. While I’m up there I’m having fun with my band and I don’t feel more important than any of them. Often I get so pumped up during the sound check people believe we have already started. Every show, every cheer, every clap just gives me more energy. When I’m feeling down, a show is the best therapy imaginable."

You talk about your band as a teenager in love. How did you actually get in touch with them?

"Niels Van Malderen, who co-manages me with Filip Korte, was actually the one that “discovered” me in a youth centre in Antwerp. After that we started to make music, just for the fun of it. Niels, Filip and Yann Gaudeuille are the guys I’m in the studio with – and then we have a larger stage band that translates our music into a live performance. DVTCH NORRIS is the odd one out in this group because I met him over Twitter and not via Niels. In the end, our band formed organically. I started out doing performances with just a DJ, but now we’re up there as a team, a real family. We can count on each other on and off stage."

DVTCH NORRIS actually came in third in the ‘Breakthrough Artist’ category at the latest Red Bull Elektropedia Awards, right behind Amelie Lens and Roméo Elvis. Are you happy his career is starting to take off?

"I am really happy he finally receives some credit. A lot of people don’t realize DVTCH has always been on his own. Yes, he’s part of the family, but he was always another artist joining me on stage and not just a backing vocalist. We have great chemistry together, he is an incredibly talented lyricist, his shows are amazing and he is extremely friendly and respectful. I know many people see him as part of my band, but he remains DVTCH NORRIS too, you know? I’ll always be right next to him, supporting him. And he’s in the studio working on new music, so he’s coming for y’all!"

Which things are on your list of goals for the coming years?

"I let life come my way. A few weeks ago I was performing at the Memorial Van Damme in the Koning Boudewijn Stadium, fully realizing Beyoncé, U2 and Coldplay all once stood on the same stage. I hope that one day I will be able to sell out a big show like that on my own. A band is cool, but imagine a full orchestra behind you! Just once would be enough! Sometimes I even draw stage designs for that show at home. Of course I’m just daydreaming now. It’s my ultimate goal."

Most of the promo for the album is over, the festivals have all passed by – what’s your plan for the coming months?

"We’re doing a club tour, which will be completely different from the festival shows we’ve done this summer. And then we’re also going to Japan for a couple of shows. All my friends will be there and DVTCH even has a couple of solo shows! I can’t wait, it’s going to be crazy!"

Keep track of Coely's moves by following her on Facebook.

The 2017 Red Bull Elektropedia Awards will be held at Flagey, Brussels, on Wednesday November 15.