Colleen Green: On Challenging Herself to Record Out of Her Comfort Zone

Colleen Green. She’s a woman who proudly marches to the beat of her own drum – literally. With her latest album, Sock It To Me, Green’s exuberant personality comes to life, dripping in this funky punk distortion and of course, a drum machine. Green’s latest masterpiece packs quite the trendy, yet edgy, punch to the throat, with an underlying sexy girl power vibe. (Think more Meg White than Alanis Morissette.)

What’s refreshing about Green is her ability to strip down and be vulnerable, yet somehow she manages to be impressive both through her music and in her life. Green’s the type of musician who’s uniqueness is charming, prompting you to be an immediate fan. And even though she hasn’t uncovered the big mystery to success (has anyone?), we think it’s safe to say that this lanky girl with groovy bangs from New England has enough gumption, charisma and party-all-night-long drumbeats to get her feet marching in the right direction. Or at least a really, really fun one. 

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When exactly did you know that you wanted to be a musician?

I have known all my life! From the moment I could talk, I was singing and pretending that I was a “rock star” whose guitar was constantly on fire. I don’t know where it came from. I’m sure lots of little kids pretend to be rock stars but I never grew out of it. As soon as I could write, I was writing “songs” and I even crocheted a little purse to keep all my songs in. I rapped for my classmates during 2nd grade show and tell.

My mother loves to sing and was always singing to me when I was little. My dad had been a drummer in a band and had all the greatest records. Growing up in rural New England, there wasn’t much to do so we were always going for long drives, during which my parents would play all their favorite tapes. It just was in me. I think I inherited the dreams of my parents. It was in them, but because of societal and monetary constraints, maybe they didn’t feel like they had the freedom to live out big dreams. But I do.

Was there a specific moment that made it all sort of “click” for you as a musician, telling you that this is the path to be on?

I can’t think of a single moment where it all became clear. I just can’t stop. I have to do it.

When you’re introducing your music to new listeners, what do you tell them?

I usually just tell them it’s pop punk with a drum machine, like The Ramones, because everyone knows The Ramones. “Oh, like The Ramones?” “Yeah, sure” – that type of thing. If they’re truly interested, I figure they’ll just listen to it. That works just as well, if not better, than asking me what it sounds like. Because one song can sound completely different to two people.

What about with this album, how would you describe it?

Like my previous efforts, this new album is my brain on wax. It’s moody, melodic, poppy, and rife with hooks.

Do you have personal references in your music, or do your lyrics represent abstract or outside feelings?

All of my music is very personal. In the book Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary, the title character tells his young fan to “write what you know.” That’s a good rule, and one I tend to follow. Songs of mine have referenced old apartments, Boston landmarks, friends, love interests, and even lyrics by favorite bands of mine, if you can believe it.

I’ve come to understand that the best art is personal and above all, honest.

So that’s what I strive to be, and it takes a lot of work, and it’s very hard and very scary, and I’m still not totally there, but I am trying. If my personal day-to-day dealings with others aren’t completely honest yet, I know at least my art is. Maybe that is the first step.

What song did you have the most fun with creating on the album?

“Every Boy Wants a Normal Girl” was really fun to create. It was one of the few songs that I finished writing during the recording process, so it was cool to see a song whose prospect I was excited about come together, and I absolutely love the way it came out. Danny Rowland programmed the drums for me, and it was one of the first songs that had some variation in the drumbeat, so that was exciting. Then after, embellishing it with the hand claps and ride cymbal really added so much. And then having my friends Lacey and April act out the dialogue, that was really fun and funny.

Which song was the most challenging for you?

“Taxi Driver” was a bit of a challenge, if I have to give an answer. It’s a sad song and all the feelings I share in it are real. It was hard to get the vocals just right; this was my first time working with another person so I was pretty self-conscious and at times, just couldn’t do it. I am hard on myself and I got pretty discouraged working on a few of the songs. The entire recording process was a challenge, actually. I was 1,100 miles away from my own home, living in someone else’s for a month. I was way out of my comfort zone and I had to do a lot of things that I’ve never done before, like sing into an actual microphone and share ideas with another person.

But ultimately all challenges are good, and it gave me an opportunity to grow and learn, which is never a bad thing.

Where do you want to perform your music?

I would like to perform my music just about anywhere anyone would want me to! I’m very portable.

Where do you want to hear it played?

Likewise, I would love to hear it played just about anywhere. At a party, on the radio, complementing motion pictures, coming from a car stereo, wafting through an open apartment window, meandering down the hallways of my old college dorm…

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received from other musicians or people in this industry about your art and succeeding in such a crazy business?

I can’t say for sure that anyone has given me advice on how to “succeed in the business.” At the risk of giving a way cheesy, lame answer, I consider myself successful already because I am following my dream and I’m keeping it real and what I’m doing seems to be bringing happiness to a lot of nice people. I will say that none of this would have been possible if not for Nobunny and Mike Hunchback. They are maybe my two biggest inspirations. I know I’m supposed to say that I was inspired by some old-timers, but whatever. These two amazing musicians came into my life at a crucial time – a time when I was very depressed and lonely and didn’t understand why my life was what it was and didn’t know what to do. Their friendships and support inspired me to not be afraid or ashamed of who I am and what I want, and that there is absolutely nothing wrong with or weird about that. Now I know that being honest in life is the only way to get what you truly want, and if you can do that, you can succeed at anything you choose to do.

photos by Eric Penna

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