Q&A | Col3trane

by Shirley Ju

Photographed by Amber Park

Photographed by Amber Park

Col3trane is on his way to greatness. With a sound reminiscent of a perfect cross between rock and R&B, the 19-year-old Egyptian-American has found his way to LA. He jokes, “Don’t know how that’s worked out, but it has,” followed by a chuckle.

The “Superpowers” singer currently lives transatlantically between London and LA — focused more than ever on perfecting his craft. Having shut down stages all across the world (UK, Europe, Australia, and now LA), real name Cole Basta carves his own lane, while staying 100% true to himself. Most recently, he unleashed his highly-anticipated EP Heroine, with a standout feature from Goldlink.

Why should people fuck with you?

I bring something different. I try and do things I feel haven't been done before. Always trying to experiment with new things with myself. I don’t feel there’s anyone doing the same thing I'm doing right now. If you want a little bit of spice, something a little bit different, check me out. [laughs]

How would you describe your sound?

I find that to be a very tough question to answer because what I enjoy making changes day by day. I find it difficult to put it in a box and describe it, the music speaks for itself in that respect. If you listen to it, hopefully you’ll understand what I'm saying. 

Talking about being Egyptian American, how does that play into your life and career?

Growing up with a pretty multi-cultural background in a lot of different places definitely influenced the music I listened to growing up, the music I made growing up, all of that. Just my musical perspective. Growing up in London listening to English music, obviously that grime music, shit like that — I was never going to make grime music because that's not really me. [chuckles]

Did you feel pressured at all?

Nah, not at all. Because my family’s American, I always gravitate more towards R&B and American music. TV channels are different in the UK but I remember we had Channel AKA. which was the rappy rap shit like grime, all that. Then there was Flava. When there’s ads on TV, you go to music channels on the break. I’d always go to Flava, where you have ”U Remind Me.” You have Usher, you have Aaliyah, all that. Then the other one, you have the Giggs, Tinchy Stryder, etc. I always gravitate more towards R&B music. 

How important is it to come to LA as an up and coming artist? 

There’s just a lot of people out here. All of my favorite artists and producers spend time out here. As much as there’s a bunch of bullshit, a bunch of industry stuff, a whole lot of annoyances, there are also some amazing and creative people. Some of my favorite songs ever were made in this city. It's a big melting pot of a bunch of different styles, textures, and genres. For me, it was really important to expand on what I like to make.

You mentioned your favorite artists and producers, who are they?

Damn, I’m really fucking with Lucky Daye at the moment. He's amazing. I’m fucking with Goldlink's new album, it’s fire. My favorite rap album of the year so far. I’m fucking with Tierra Whack like crazy. I really like Khalid’s album, really enjoyed that. There’s so many, I stay a fan. I like being a fan of people. That’s one thing I always say, it's very easy to lose the feeling of being a fan when you’re making music for a bit in the industry or whatever. It's important to remain a fan because I grew up as a fan. So many people I’m a fan of, those are some off the top of my head.

How did you link with Goldlink. 

Shit, I hooked up with Goldlink in London. I was actually at the club, and I don’t really go to the clubs like that. [chuckles] A friend of mine is a DJ in the UK, Tiffany Calver. She came up to me like "yo Goldlink is here, he was just talking about you on the radio yesterday. Do you wanna meet him?" I was like "sure!" Because I’ve obviously been a fan of him since the beginning, since “Spectrum” and all that. Since the SoundCloud days, all that Soulection stuff. We got to talking, I went to the studio the next day. We connected and we clicked. He played me his album, I played him what I’d been working on. I’m like "I don’t have the song right now but when I do, I'm gonna hit you." A couple months later, I sent him some files. He’s like "oh yeah, that's the one.” 

Who was the girl you were serenading?

Nah, don’t wanna talk too much. [chuckles] That's a whole other thing. 

What’s the inspiration behind your name?

First of all, I've always been inspired by jazz music. At a very young age, always been a fan of jazz music and jazz standards [John Coltrane]. The 3 to me has always been a number that’s given me positive things. I remember when I was younger, my family friend gave me this long lecture about how numbers in your life bring you positive things. For him, it was the number 23. For me, 3’s always been filled with positivity and bringing up good things. My name’s Cole. I felt to put myself under the most prolific and genre-bending artists of all time are really big shoes to fill, and I like the challenge. 

You dropped Heroine earlier this year. What was the creative process & how long did it take you?

Took fucking ages. People don’t really understand or see that process. I made the first song off Heroine, “The Fruits,” in November 2017, but I really started making Heroine a year after that. I made a lot of songs, a lot a lot. I only really realized what I wanted the project to be, how I want it to sound until 3 months before it came out. Me and my guy Jay locked in the studio for a while, pretty much those 3 or 4 months. I went to LA, figured some stuff out here, then went back to lock back in. For me, it's always the same thing. I just stay inside, don’t like chatting with people. Try to disconnect as much as I can. Just home in and finish, which is always the most difficult part.

What is it you want fans to get from your story?

I just want my fans to be along for the ride. Be with me. Be on this journey with me, because it is a wild journey. This is something that I have figured out, in this day in age, it's so easy for me to connect to people. Talk to people online, talk to people in person. Have people really connect with me and my music on a level. I really want people to hear the things I’m saying in my songs. I’d appreciate if people studied them like books one day. That's my favorite thing, when people really go into the details of what I’ve done and try to pick it apart. I enjoy when people do that. Just want them to be down for the ride. 

What are some goals yourself as an artist at this point of your career?

I wanna play shows all over the world, so people can sing my songs back to me that I write in my bedroom. I want to hear people sing my songs. I want people to have meaningful experiences to my songs. You know those songs that remind you of a monumental point in your life? I want my songs to be the soundtrack to other people's lives, in as much of a positive way as they can. I want people to feel inspired and connected, feel good when they hear my music. As many people as possible. 

Best memory opening for Dua Lipa on tour. 

I was on stage in front of 15,000 people in Birmingham, and it was my birthday. One of the guys in my band were like "you should tell them it’s your birthday when you get on stage.” I’m like "nah that's whack, I don’t wanna do that.” Obviously when you’re opening up for someone, you have to get the crowd excited. Be able to get them pumped. I’m nervous as fuck because there are so many people, then I ran out of things to say by the fourth song. [chuckles] I’m like "fuck what do I do?” So I’m just like “oh, it’s my birthday.” They all started singing “happy birthday” to me while I was on stage, it was crazy.

How far is Birmingham from where you stay?

It's about 90 miles. It's far. It’s a whole other city outside of Birmingham.

Favorite song to perform in a set? 

Right now, it's "We Good.” Definitely the pace of it, the energy of it. It's one I made most recently so I have the most fresh connection to it. It’s very honest in what I'm saying. I put it towards the end of the set, I'm not really sure why. I guess the message behind the song always makes me feel a bit emotional while I’m singing it.

How important is social media for your career?

Fucking hate it. I really do. I'm so bad at it, I hate it. I really really hate it, but you have to do it.

Favorite person to follow on IG?

I just followed this guy yesterday, Zack Fox. He's fucking weird, the one who did the Genius video and was talking about jacking off A$AP Rocky and Ferg at the same time. He's a rapper, he's got that song with Kenny Beats "I Got Depression.” It’s so funny. [laughs] I followed him ‘cause he’s hilarious.

What’s a normal day in the life? Walk us through.

Wake up, drink water, read my book, go to the studio. Hopefully make something that will inspire me to go back the next day. [chuckles] Go home, see my girl, repeat until I have to lock myself in a room for about a week and make something perfect. 

3 things you need in the studio?

A pen and a pad firstly. I like doing that sometimes, it’s nice to have there to fuck around with. A Juul to release — I just got one yesterday for the first time in a couple months. I left it at the crib so I’m really fiending for my shit right now. Just need open-mindedness. I hate when I work with new people who are stuck in their ways about how they feel things should be made. I really don’t like that. Smiles and good energy.

What would you be doing if you weren’t doing music?

Fuck, I’d probably be at uni doing psychology or some shit. I’d be doing something I didn't want to be doing, or trying to figure out a way to do music. I have no idea. I’d be lost somewhere, probably very sad. I was actually thinking about this the other day, I’d be very sad if I wasn't doing this. Sometimes I get in my head about shit. I be like “oh shit,” because it’s not as easy as it looks. It’s very difficult sometimes. I’ll be like "fuck this shit" sometimes, but then I’m like "wait, would I want to do anything else?" Obviously not, this is what I’ve always dreamed of doing. Put a smile on and get on with it.

What’s the best encounter you had with a fan?

I’ve had some fucking crazy ones. This woman was at my show in Toronto, who drove from somewhere crazy like Detroit to come and see me. She was mad cool. I had some wild ones recently. Some people in the UK were in Birmingham, came to London, and came to Berlin. I was like “wtf are you doing?” [chuckles] That was amazing. To be honest the best one though, I was in Brisbane in Australia playing this festival. I had a shit set time. I went out on stage and there were very few people in the crowd. But there was this one girl named Sue,  she knew every single word to every single song. I have a lyric with the name Suzie, so I played that song for her. Shout out to Sue from Australia. 

Who’s the most played artist on your phone?

Well my most played artist on my phone from the Spotify thing was Jaco Pastorius, because there was this whole 6 month period where I could not fall asleep without listening to “Portrait of Tracy.” He's a bass player. Then it was probably like Drake or some shit. [laughs] Then Usher or D’Angelo. 

Dream collab?

D’Angelo. 

Anything else you want to let us know?

“2 AM” video and audio out coming out, produced by Leo and Chad Hugo. It’s lit, check it out.