Review & Interview: Hein Cooper’s Album – Underneath It All

Written by Enara Tompkins.

Album Review

Hein Cooper returns with his sophomore album, Underneath It All, after success with his first album The Art of Escape, he is changing up his largely acoustic style and is taking the time to reflect on new experiences.

Hein introduces a new era of his music with ‘Hijack’. His new sound can be described as an effortless blend of acoustic and beats from electronic music and R&B. The first songs display positivity, hope, freedom, and good times. However, it appears that a deeper story begins to unfold later on in the record. Particularly, in the songs ‘Drive’, ‘Over Again’, and ‘Peculiar’.

‘Drive’ continues the positivity where there is an echoed sound which alludes to the essence of dreams. However, it has more definite lyrics and sound and reflecting certainty about where he is headed in his life as he sings, ‘just drive, it’s the end of the road for me’.

‘Over Again’ encompasses the unravelling of all hope with a smooth transition lyrically and musically. The lyric ‘it’s in your eyes’ is repeated from ‘Drive’ but it now has a new meaning. This could be purposeful and meaningful to the fact that something has been uncovered about the person he is pursuing and he ‘can’t believe it’s happening again’.

Moving now to possibly my favourite song of the record, ‘Peculiar’, Hein is now left with feelings of being alone in the situation he’s found himself in. ‘Peculiar’ is a particularly clever song in the musical sense as new sounds and instruments enter the song to express different emotions experienced. The piano gives it a softer, poignant vibe where it alludes to the previous song of experiencing having fallen down in ‘Over Again’. By the bridge of the song, electric guitars, strings and louder drums arrive as sadness moves to anger and confusion. Expressing that he has been left asking himself what went wrong and ‘why do I feel so peculiar?’

Hein Cooper leaves us for this record with the titular track, ‘Underneath It All’ as he illustrates how he can get swept up by getting caught up in the whirlwind of moments in life. However, it appears he has found clarity and knows to take life as it comes and to ‘hold on to something I know isn’t fake’. This song has earned its titular position as it perfectly summarises the record.

Hein Cooper’s new album brings a breath of fresh air with the mix of acoustic guitar riffs and beats that should be blended together more often. His ability to offer listeners stand-alone songs and songs that could be grouped together to tell a story is to be commended as there is something for everyone on this record. Finally, Underneath It All offers listeners to not only get a glimpse of the depth of Hein’s lyrics, but he invites the listener to take a look inside themselves and find what they feel underneath it all.

Underneath It All is out from Friday 14th June 2019. More information is available here.

Hein Cooper_UnderneathItAll_albumcover

Interview with Hein Cooper

Enara Tompkins interviewed Hein Cooper about his new album and creative process.
Enara Tompkins:
As I was researching for this interview, I couldn’t help but be instantly captivated by the sound and the lyrics. And I was listening to all the songs on YouTube, and fans were commenting, saying that they’ve been able to really connect with the music. What has that been like as an artist, listening to those reviews?

Hein Cooper:
It’s really nice. I’m about to put out my second album now, but when I put out my first album in 2016 … actually, the first song I put out in 2015. That was a time on YouTube where everybody just wrote comments. Way more people than I expected wrote comments for my song ‘The Art of Escape’. And they were writing really deep kind of poetic metaphorical shit. I really appreciated that, because that’s what I like to do with my music, is to make people feel inspired in that way.

Enara:
How or what do you hope to inspire in people? What’s your goal in your writing?

Hein:
Something that’s really important to me is human connection. And I find that now in the world, people are more disconnected than they have ever been, just because of technology and the way the culture of today is. What I appreciate my favourite artists doing, which is how I’ve become inspired, is to make people feel a little bit more human again. And feel a little bit connected to each other, and empathetic.

Enara:
So, just to talk about your new album. I heard you worked with Will Hicks. And he’s the more famed producer for Ed Sheeran. How did this sort of professional relationship come about?

Hein:
This is going to sound really glamorous, but it’s the truth. My manager contacted a bunch of managers who manage producers, and was like, ‘I’ve got this guy who wants to do a song, and he wants one of you guys to do it.’

And then whoever’s interested would come back, and I’d talk to them on the phone and get a vibe from them. I talked to Will, and I just felt a good vibe from him, and I thought that he understood what my vision was. Then I went up to his castle in the middle of England and recorded one of the songs on the album with him.

Enara:
That’s amazing. It’s like a blend of positive, upbeat, pop and R&B, with the death of the acoustic in the sound. Is that something that you had envisioned for a while, or was it more of a spontaneous creation?

Hein:
No, that was definitely something I envisioned. After I did my first album, which was much more of a band kind of recorded thing, I went touring. I was in a financial kind of like pressure, where I couldn’t bring a band with me. If I wanted to play the show, I had to go and play it by myself, so I needed to figure out how to make the show more interesting. Even just to myself, more than just singing into a microphone and playing the guitar.

And so, I became much more inspired and influenced by people who were doing really creative things with their solo shows, especially Chet Faker. Even though he plays with a band, sometimes he plays solo. And Jack Garratt, and all these people who are blending electronic music with something more real, like a guitar or a Rhodes keyboard. I started basically taking my own version of that. Then I realised that I actually really liked the sound. And I also really like a lot of acoustic songs that have been remixed, like electronic producers. So, all of that kind of pushed me in the direction where I became much more interested in doing the album with that kind of a blend.

Enara:
It’s really good to see that. I think we’re finding it more and more in music now. But I think the way you’ve done it, it’s just effortless, and I really like it. Talking about the lyrics, I got the sense that the album is a bit of a story where each song is a piece of that story. Was that your intention with it?

Hein:
As best as I could. I’m not going to lie and say that I’m some kind of genius that pieced every song chronologically from the moment it was conceived. But I definitely tried to make it have as much flow as possible. Some of the songs that I wrote, in particular, ‘Over Again’, ‘Peculiar’, and ‘Drive’, had already existed for quite a long time. And they were at a certain point in my life, like I had broken up a relationship, and I was feeling really negative. And when I entered my new relationship, I couldn’t make it. Like, I wanted to put those songs at the beginning of the album and then move into the actual story of my life and what happened. But it didn’t sound good, sonically, that way. So, it’s kind of like the compromise of making an album. Sometimes you have to respect that it’s about the sound of the music more than anything else.

Enara:
Yeah, for sure. And I definitely got that vibe. For any song, is there a set process to your song writing at all?

Hein:
There is a main way that I do things. But then, at the same time, I like to keep trying to find new ways of doing things, just because then there’s more chance of making something new.

My main way of writing songs is I’ll play my guitar, or I’ll make a beat on Ableton, or I’ll play the piano. Then, I’ll just play something purely for the music’s sake. I’ll sing random stuff into the microphone. After I’ve recorded it all, I’ll listen back to it at a different point. I usually do it when I’m in transit. And then I’m able to see what ideas from that I like the most and what I think sounds really good. Maybe I’ll have experienced something in that day that I actually want to talk about. That will, hopefully, be a puzzle piece that will fit into one of these musical ideas. I’ll change it a million times. So, it’s like a never-ending bunch of pieces that I’m sticking together in all kinds of different ways, until I figure out the way that I think it truly represents how I feel best and sounds best.

Enara:

So, what you’re saying is, sometimes there is a set process, but other times you just get inspiration. It’s like that, you’ve written a song?

Hein:
Yeah. Sometimes it’s literally like almost completely done in an hour. And then, times like my song, ‘Rusty’, that actually took me like a year to write.

Enara:
So, is there anything from the first album that you’ve learned from that you thought applied to the second album?

Hein:
I think the main difference is that in this album, I’ve experienced a lot more in my life as a human. And I feel like a lot of the times on the first record, I knew what I was feeling, but I didn’t understand what I was feeling. I think this record is a much more evolved version of myself, expressing how I feel about things.

Enara:
What other artists influenced your song writing, whether it’s for lyrics or for sound?

Hein:
Bon Iver. I love him. He influences me with his emotion and his sound, and some of his lyrics. I love Coldplay. I love Coldplay’s first two albums the most, but I like all of their stuff. I really like what Chris Martin’s saying in his songs, and I really think he’s an incredible song-writer. I really like what Chet Faker did back at the beginning of his career with electronic music, and I feel very much inspired by his production and his vibe.

Enara:
How does the Montreal music scene compare to Australia? Do you like it better over there?

Hein:
I feel like it’s really good to create music here, mainly because it’s so cheap. So, living is easy and you can kind of dedicate your time to being creative, and not become too under pressure.

I don’t necessarily prefer either/or, like Montreal or parts of Australia for music. Because I think there’s really good stuff coming out of Australia. There’s really good stuff coming out of here.

Enara:
Yeah, that’s a really good insight. What advice would you give to those who are beginning to create music, themselves?

Hein:
I’d say to not worry too much about what other people think about what you’re doing. As long as you feel like you’re constantly progressing and you’re learning. I think it’s a complicated thing. Because I also respect that you learn from people. And you learn from people telling you their perspectives and that kind of thing. I think that it really just needs to be true to you. And I’m really just learning that now, myself.

Enara:
If you had to summarise the album Underneath It All, in three words, what would it be?

Hein:
Bloody awesome, mate.

Enara:
Well, I think it’s bloody awesome, mate. It’s been a pleasure to be one of the first to hear this record. It’s really great to hear more artists being more personal and honest in their records, and having so much depth. And I congratulate you on this album.

Hein:
Thanks. Very nice to meet you.

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