We Need To Talk About Collette Warren

It’s about time… With a discog dating back to 2010 via a slew of decorated and respected labels and artists, singer/songwriter Collette Warren finally levels up this month with her debut artist EP: Hidden Lines

Almost two years in the making and developing her distinct jazzy dulcets that have previously been spotted over beats ranging from Skeptical to Break, Collette’s five track escapade reads like a near-royal D&B rollcall: Calibre, Marky, Tyler Daley, Quadrant & Iris, Random Movement, Charli Brix, Ben Soundscape and RoyGreen & Protone all feature.

As the title suggests, Collette finds the hidden lines between the styles, too. Guiding us from turbulent soul squeezers like No Exception right through to the velvet jazz ripples such as What You Do via vigorous amen shakedowns such as Broken Glass, this is the Birmingham born/Bristol based artist’s boldest, broadest document to date.

Also spotted leading her own band Collette The Dots with a veritable supergroup of D&B peers, we caught up with the D&B voice de force to find out more. It’s about time…

Your first artist EP!

Yeah! I’ve always been a featuring artist so we figured it was about time!

How did it all come about? There’s some big names collaborating, a lot of moving parts, I imagine the timeline goes back a bit…

It was literally on New Year’s Day 2017. I went to a Marky night and he brought up the idea and thought I was ready for it. We actually spoke about an album at first but it takes so long so we decided to do an EP and get something out there. It was great; I had free reign and I could choose who I wanted to work with.

Like Calibre!

I know, right? It’s been my dream to work with him. It took over a year before we got a track because he’s so busy. I bumped into him at Hospitality In The Park and he asked me to send him vocals so he could build the track around them.

Mad to write vocals to nothing. A bit like writing a punchline before the joke in a way…

Yeah! I was quite nervous because I’m used to working to a backing track and responding to a vibe that I’m given. Coming up with something out of thin air is completely different. Especially when it’s for the mighty Calibre. It was an interesting challenge though. I came up with three ideas, sent him some vocals and he picked one of them. I did that in October and didn’t get the track till February but it’s worth the wait.

Totally. Give me another high; a moment you knew the EP was really coming together…

Working with Tyler Daley, without a doubt. I told Marky I really wanted to do a duet with Tyler and he said ‘I need to do that track because I want to do a track with Tyler too!’ Luckily he said yes at first but he couldn’t find the vibe on the first idea we sent him. So Marky went back to the drawing board and did something that was different to his usual sound and Tyler loved it. He’s a man in demand so I was so lucky to get that.

Tyler’s voice is like gold

I know! When I first heard The View I messaged him and said ‘oh my god I love your voice, I want to work with you one day,’ We’ve spoken about it when we’ve met, too, so it was just a case of waiting for the right tune and right moment. Like you say his voice is gold.

So is this a sign of things to come? Are you already working on the next artist EP?

I’ve got a bunch of tunes to do for other people so I’ll focus on them and see how well this EP does. Hopefully it’ll be received well. And then maybe an album one day. EPs seem the way forward for now, though.

Let’s go way back. Earliest traces of you I can recall was with Utah Jazz in 2010 but I reckon you go back further. Have you always sung?

Oh yeah, me and my sisters always sang and harmonised for as long as I can remember. When I first heard D&B it was Lady Roller from EZ Rollers and I was like ‘wow, I want to be like her!’ It took me years to get into it though. I was too busy raving and I don’t think I had the confidence. Then MC Tali invited me to be in her jazz band as a backing singer. I’d never sung live before but I joined the band, did loads of gigs and toured and built up my confidence as a singer.

Interesting you mention jazz. One of your stand out tracks for me is Desire with Skeppy. That is pure jazz to me. I’d wondered if you’d had any training?

No jazz training but I do love jazz. I’ve always wanted to bring a bit of that to what I do in D&B and when Ash sent me that tune I had some scatting in my head so I thought I’d give it a go. That track really put me on the map. I’d had a few releases before but that really felt like progress. And it was on Soulr as well, which was a dream label to release on.

I was going to ask about your writing process. Do you feel your best ideas come from a vibe reaction?

Oh hell year. Unless I get a good melody or hook in my head quite quickly I won’t do it because I feel I’m just forcing it. I’ll say to the producer saying ‘sorry I can’t find my vibe here’. I never want to force anything. If I’m not vibesing then forget it.

Literally off one listen?

No, I’ll give a few goes but you get that gut feeling don’t you? And when that vibe isn’t there, it’s a no from me.

So these could be with artists who are mates who you’re a fan of?

Absolutely. And the track can be really sick and I really want to get on it but if it’s not meant to be, it’s not meant to be. Different tracks are meant for different singers. I’ve spent days and days on a track really trying hard to come up with something because I so wanted to be on the track. But I sent over what I’d forced and they didn’t like. That was tw days I’ll never get back but ever since I’ve gone on gut instinct.

It’s the only way. Tell me about Collette The Dots. Bit of a D&B super group tbh!

Ha! I’ve wanted to set up a band for years and as soon as I moved to Bristol I knew it was the place to do it. It’s small enough for everyone to get together but packed with so much talent I knew the right people would be there. I spoke to Hugh Hardie about the band and now he plays the keys, Alice Payne is my backing singer, Hugh suggested Lurch as guitarist, then we have Octopi who’s a sick drummer and Ben Soundscape who plays the synths. We were missing a bass player, so we found Joe the old school way; a free ad on Gumtree. It turns out he’s a big D&B fan, too.

It’s more than drum & bass though, right? Like the name suggests, it’s showing the roots and bringing everything into the melting pot, right?

It’s exactly that. At first we started doing my drum & bass songs live to see how we sound together, then we did some covers and non D&B tracks, then we started writing our own tunes and exploring stuff like reggae and soul and funk.

The only time we can truly hear this is when you guys play live, right?

Yeah we haven’t recorded anything yet, it’s definitely on the agenda because we speak to a promoter about a show and they’ll ask for a link to tunes and we haven’t got anything.

Nah I like the fact there’s not a lot out there and you have to see things live. Everything is available, you have to dig it out and make an effort to go and see you to hear it. That’s rare!

Actually yeah I hadn’t thought of it like that. I thought we just hadn’t got our shit together because we’re all so busy but that is an interesting angle.

But do you think the band will turn into a full time thing for you all? Is that the future?

I’d love for it to be, but everyone is so busy and it’s hard getting us all together. We’d love to have more time to write together, tour and play something like Glastonbury. That would be the dream.

There’s a lot of moving parts with everyone’s schedules…

It’s mad trying to get us all together! But we’ve done quite a few gigs now and they’ve been amazing. We played Nozstock this year actually which was a dream. We’re hoping we can do more next year.

Awesome. So what’s up next?

Once the EP is out, I want to focus on the band, get some new tracks done and see what happens. I’d love to do more solo shows, too. I loved doing my PA at Sun And Bass and the plan is to more of them, it’s a really exciting time.

Collette Warren – Hidden Lines EP is out now on Innerground

Follow Collette Warren: Facebook / Soundcloud