Funland is out now!
Image: Nicole Mago.
UK born, New York based troubadour, Coyle Girelli has unveiled his superb solo sophomore album, Funland. We caught up with the musician to chat about the record, the influence of New York City, writing for artists like BTS and so much more!
Congratulations on another incredible body of work with Funland. The album is this kind of exploration of love, lust, debauchery and hope. What inspired the conceptual nature of the album whilst you were writing and do you think there’s a central theme or idea that threads it all together?
Yeah, I mean I had had the word 'funland' kicking around for a while, the concept and this kind of playground. Then COVID happened, you know, and I left New York and went to the woods of Vermont where I basically had nothing other than my recording equipment and wine. It was like my kind of reaction to the situation was instinctively to just write. I just wrote, and I didn't really think too much about it. I just kind of wrote songs all day because that's what made me feel good and feel sort of anchored I guess. Before I knew, there was a sort of a large sort of collection of songs and, you know, as is often the case with me when I write, I write very instinctively and don't really think too much. And then I kind of revisit it when I'm in a place to kind of revisit and then it either make sense of or certain groups of songs make sense together and certain other groups of songs don't. The songs for Funland just kind of made sense as like a little piece of something, a little moment. And the lyrics are often the last thing that I dive into, like a melody and the song kind of lead the way for me. Maybe there'll be a title or there'll be something floating around, but the kind of diving into the lyrics is usually the last thing. So that collection of songs came together and then, you know, the themes of it were really that I was missing New York.
What were you missing most about New York and how did that longing to return shape the album?
I was missing the nightlife. I was missing my friends. I was missing music and museums and the theatre and all the things that I love about living in a city like New York, you know, this sort of mixture of all these crazy people, doing their own thing all here for their own reason. In my head, in that moment, I sort of created this place where, the music and the people and the stories within it kind of lived, and Funland seemed to be a word that sort of made sense a little bit to me when I was writing it. Escaping into these sort of nights of lust or poetry or heartbreak or longing or whatever is going on. It all kind of existed for me in this world that I was in, in my head most of the day, even though I was in the woods in the middle of Vermont and I wasn't in New York. But I was missing New York. I mean, the most obvious literal song is From 7th Street With Love, which is just essentially a love letter to New York. There's like bits of the city and the characters of the city and this place I was living in sort of scattered throughout the songs on the album. It came relatively quickly as a collection of songs, as is often the case. It was when I looked at it from above that it made more sense than when I was kind of in it.
What were your initial thoughts when listening to the album once you'd completed the project?
I love it, you know, it's different from Love Kills, which is my first solo record. It has a bit more tempo, which I guess in some ways is more similar to my band The Chevin. I love the sounds and even though the moment that it was written was very stressful, I had a lot of fun writing it and then recording it when I came back to the city. It was the first time I'd seen a lot of my friends, who came in to sort of record it with me, like my guitarist and drummer and piano player and stuff. For everybody who worked on the record, it was the first time anybody had seen anybody for months. They would come to the studio where I was laying down the record properly, and it was like, 'okay, everybody has a mask. Everybody gets tested'. You know, we'd do the entire session with a mask on. It was a bizarre process, even the mixing was done over zoom. The mixing engineer is in Philadelphia or out there somewhere in Pennsylvania, and we were mixing over zoom, which is crazy. For me, I love to be in the process in the studio.It was weird, but I love the collection of songs and I'll write plenty of other albums and pieces of work over the years, but it will be a special one for those reasons I think.
Yeah of course, it'll remain an unforgettable experience. It really is such a beautiful body of work with such captivating and immersive compositions. You’ve been releasing music since your first EP with Your Vegas dropped in 2006, sixteen years and more of writing and releasing music. I was going to ask you is there anything you brought to working on Funland that was a new way of creating when compared to your previous releases, but I guess working during a pandemic answers that!
Yeah, definitely doing it during COVID. In some ways it was very familiar, from my time in Your Vegas and The Chevin. I would often just hold myself up and write. Writing albums for me usually involved me locking myself in a room for like a period of time. So in some ways it was kind of familiar in that sense, but obviously the finishing of it and the COVID of it was very different. I think over time, I've got to a place where I trust my instincts a lot more as a writer. When I was younger, I would second guess myself constantly and the process was maybe a little longer because of that. I would spend two days worrying about something and now I'm just like, it works or it doesn't work and if no one this lyric, what can I do? You know, I'm not gonna spend three days worrying about a word. I know of just move through the process a bit more instinctively and with a bit more confidence, I guess.
I love that. You’ve just shared a wonderful visuals for From 7th Street With Love, Fun and Here Comes My Baby. They’re these really charming and nostalgic clips. How hands on are you when it comes to building the visual identity of your music with each album and how important are the visuals to you when it comes to capturing the themes present?
For Fun and From 7th Street With Love, I worked with a friend of mine who is a theatre and film director called Kevin Newbery and we saw a lot of each other during COVID and had my first sort of weekend away. It was like April 2021 and we went away with his boyfriend and another friend and my girlfriend to a friend's apartment upstate. It was the first time we had a house by the ocean and it was the first time any of us had seen anyone basically. It was like this moment of freedom. It just felt like the end of it, it felt like the beginning of the end of it. It was a whole lot of brainstorming that weekend and a lot of wine and in the beginnings of putting ideas together for videos. Fun as a video is kind of a celebration, it just feels like a celebration of whatever you want it to be. The choreography and the dancing and this kind of crazy world, and it's just like expression of relief and freedom, whatever it is. That was something that we kind of built together. From 7th Street With Love, I don't know why or where the idea for the shadow puppets came from, but for some reason that song has a kind of nursery rhyme thing to me. The imagery of shadow puppets just popped into my head one day and we found a brilliant shadow puppeteer and she, helped create all the shadow puppets. The whole thing is filmed in one go. So she was like behind a screen doing this whole performance in its in itself. I just worked with a bunch of really talented people, mainly let them do their thing, sort of had an idea and then let them do their thing.
Which three songs off the album would you play to someone, who had never heard your music, to make them an instant fan?
I love From 7th Street With Love, it is probably my favourite on the record mainly because it's a love song to New York, too. I loved writing the lyrics to it. I loved living in that moment when I wrote it. I think Fun and Do You Want To Dance, which is a single, are great expressions for me, it's great to be right in that sort of stuff again. Love Kills was very much a different sounding record, a very moody, sad, you know, throwback sounding heartbreak record, which was just the head space I was in at the time. It's just great to be bright and performing more upbeat stuff like that again. So those two as well, I guess.
What’s one line from the album you find at times can be stuck in your head? Or a line that you come back to?
"Amalia paints the sea", which is the first lyric of Here Comes My Baby. I just love it as an image, I don't know why. I think there's a bunch of cool images on there, but that one, like in a very honest sense, that is the one that kind of pops in my head the most. I don't really know why, but it sings nicely as well. "Amalia", I think it rolls off the tongue well.
We recently heard your vocals on our very own Keli Holiday's single Song Goes On, but you’ve also written for the likes of BTS, MACKLEMORE AND ROBIN SCHULTZ. Which is a pretty dynamic list of artists and resume there. How do you approach adapting to each genre or is that something that you find effortless?
I think when I first started writing outside of my band, when I first sort of started doing co-writing, I was more consciously, 'oh, this is an EDM track, this one's for a 19 year old pop female pop singer. I was a little more contrived maybe. I think now I just write a song and wherever it goes, like the song for BTS, I would've never guessed it would've been a song for BTS. But it was and they did a great job with it and it was awesome. And it sounds like a song for BTS, but I just wrote it as a song, you know? So I think that's the key. That's maybe why it ends up in different areas, because every song is just really me on a guitar and then it kind of gets figured out from there.
I know currently there’s no tour dates announced, but perhaps there might be by the time this interview goes live. Will you be hitting the road, and what can we expect from your return to the stage?
I would love to, I've never actually been to Australia.
You gotta come!
Yeah, I was talking with Adam from Keli Holiday about going at some point to do some shows. Coming to Australia to play is definitely something I want to do hopefully this year. I mean, we'll see. It's on the to do list. I guess watch this space with Australia and I'll try my best.
David Bowie, The Beatles obviously, Kate Bush and Bruce Springsteen.
Album that has had the most impact on you?
Looking back, my first album that I bought was Ace Of Bass back in the day, Happy Nation. So that for sure, the first album has a lot of influence. As a writer, probably Oasis, Definitely Maybe.
If you could create the soundtrack for any film, which one would it be?
Ooh, that's a good question! Interstellar.
Hannah Montana or Miley Cyrus?
Hannah Montana [laughs].
What was the first song you loved to sing?
Radio Gaga - Queen.
First concert you went to?
Best concert you have been to?
Oh wow. Probably one of the Leeds festivals when I was a kid, everybody was there. You just basically saw every band in the world in a weekend. It's amazing.
Would you rather be a Spice Girl or a Backstreet Boy?
If you were a Spice Girl, what would your spice nickname be?
Posh Spice [laughs]. That used to be my Halloween outfit, I was Posh Spice. I just put wig on and a little black dress.
Most memorable show you’ve ever performed?
Playing Wembley Arena was pretty special. Our American network debut on Letterman was probably the most special, because of that stage as well. That was where The Beatles played and everything.
Guilty music pleasure?
An artist you think has had the most influence on the music industry.
What advice would your current self, give your future self, for a year from now?
The moment you knew you wanted to be a musician?
Before I even knew, I knew I wanted to be a musician. I just didn't know it yet. But when I was a kid, I just sang all the time. All the time.
Funland is out now!