Denver’s rising country music baroness Coles Whalen is on a fast track to filling fan wagons everywhere she goes with her high-energy, ear-meltingly sincere live performances. After spending the last few years on the road, including a recent stint opening for Pat Benatar, Whalen gathered a key ingredient to her art after setting up a temporary base in the world’s honky tonk capital (Nashville). She’s bound to replace those sturdy wagons with a freight train of followers with “Whistle Stop Road.” Catch her at The Soiled Dove for the new record’s official release party on Oct. 1.
Your music has been classified as country. In what ways is this accurate or not?
Coles Whalen: In my opinion “country music,” more than any other genre in the past few years, has expanded to include a wide range of sounds. We have always been classified as Americana and/or acoustic rock. I suppose that kind of music slips right into a country playlist and doesn’t stand out too much. But we definitely don’t have a fiddle in the band. So, according to Alabama we aren’t quite as Texas Country as some.
Coles Whalen is about the most classic name ever for a country singer ... has this occurred to you?
CW: Yeah, or an Irish clogger. It was my grandpa’s name. He’s was 100% Irish lad.
What has been the most difficult part of your career to date? Why?
CW: The most difficult part for me was and is to keep the focus on what matters most, which is the music. It’s easy to get caught up in all the other frills of the business and lose focus on why I started this in the first place, which was to write and perform music that reaches people.
What has been the most rewarding part?
CW: The most rewarding part is to hear a story of two every now and then about how my music has been important to someone in a unique way. People have written about falling in love to one of my songs or listened to my record over and over through a difficult time. One gal is getting a lyric of mine tattooed on her. It’s nice to know that my art can lend a hand to people in a time of need.
How have you grown as an artist and how is that evolution evident on "Whistle Stop Road?"
CW: When I left my rock band in 2002 I was determined to assert myself as a solo singer songwriter and I think the resulting record, “Gee Baby,” shows that very much. However, in the following years I opened the music back up to include more band involvement - my new band based in Denver - and a bigger, more high-energy sound. It showed a little on “Nothing is too Much,” but with “ Whistle Stop Road,” it’s really clear that the band has gotten very involved. I’m excited to release a record with that kind of fun energy and I’m really looking forward to transferring that sound to the stage. It makes for a rockin’ time and we are excited to get it out there in front of the fans.
What do you write songs about ... do you have a "process" for writing songs or do they just hit you during odd moments?
CW: I write about everything, life, my environment and whatever is around me, my friends and my family. And if you date me ... beware. You are likely to end up in a song. I don’t have a set process for creating songs. It varies from song to song and day to day.
Do you ever get accosted by creepy fans after shows? What has been your most memorable touring experience - good or bad?
CW: I haven’t had any issues with creepy fans yet besides the occasional internet questionable. Most memorable touring experience? Well, at this very moment it would be opening for Pat Benatar. That was a really cool thing for the band and to add to our list of memories.
Who are your musical inspirations? Why?
CW: Eva Cassidy is my vocal inspiration. I have always loved the way she sings, such a pure sound with just a little bit of grit here and there. I think she’s amazing. I get writing inspiration from all over the map.