Whether she is improvising on a festival stage with her voice or trumpet, boldly genre-hopping from project to project, or simply tackling life as a professional musician and mother, Coco Love Alcorn follows her spirit. Yet, she makes her live musical experience less about following her spirit than about inspiring audience members to follow their own. It’s a welcoming invitation to the listener, an offer that audiences have been enthusiastically accepting for over 20 years. Now, that gracious and inspiring energy has led her to create the project she’s been working toward all her life – The Spirit Sessions.
Following her spirit was something Coco learned from a young age. Born to a strong and proud musical family, they taught her to trust her instincts and to embrace a life in music. Thanks in part to her Dad, Canadian jazz legend John Alcorn, jazz and R&B filled her childhood and improvisation became second nature very early on. Her family also established a pattern of living across Canada, with numerous trips across the country and home bases in Vancouver, Toronto and Nova Scotia. As a result, the whole nation feels like her home.
After years of musical training in the classroom and on stages, Coco was 20 years old when she officially launched her first jazz album to a sold out crowd of 400 at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre. She might have found continued success as a jazz artist, but her spirit steered her in many musical directions over the years. After a move to Toronto, she gained notoriety as an acoustic singer/songwriter, which resulted in a series of opening dates for Ani DiFranco’s U.S. tour. Leaving centre stage, she then toured arenas for three years as a back-up singer for successful Canadian rock band 54 40, even forming an electronica side project with the band members that opened some of the shows.
Returning to her solo career, her work with Chin Injeti (Bass is Base) injected some R&B, jazz and pop back into her writing. Her 2006 record, Sugar, was an early sign that all of the musical elements from her previous records and experiences were starting to come together. The multigenre project gained her even more recognition, with Echo weekly saying “Coco has the voice, look and most importantly the presence of a true Canadian star”.
Music festivals came calling and she has been in demand ever since, appearing on the stages of over 25 festivals including Home County Fair, the Vancouver Folk Festival, Stan Rogers, Mariposa, the Stardust Picnic and the Halifax Jazz Festival to name a few. After her 2009 release, Joyful, she added two ECMA nominations, two Nova Scotia Music Award nominations and a West Coast Music Award nomination to her resume. Touring has included a string of successful co-headlining dates with fellow ECMA nominee Ian Sherwood and opening spots for a wide range of artists including Jesse Cook, Burton Cummings, Kinnie Starr, Matt Andersen, Steve Poltz and Chantal Kreviazuk.
Coco’s powerful voice has been described as “a sensual alto that elegantly captures old school soul” (The Hamilton Spectator) and Sing Out! Magazine says she has “the feel of classic R&B but with a modern singer-songwriter’s sensibility”. But no matter the genre, there is always one vital element running through Coco’s music – improvisation. Her “leap and the net will appear” performance style brings audiences along for the ride, and makes every live show a once-in-a- Coco Love Alcorn lifetime experience. “I love that anything can happen”, she says, adding “It’s unique to that moment, and it sparks people on a spiritual level”.
She has never been more literally driven by that spirit than on the forthcoming record, The Spirit Sessions. All the years of improvisation, musical experimentation, life experience and live performance have connected where the moment and the spirit collide, and these new songs have come shining through. The ideas may spring from her personal journey, but true to her nature, Coco offers a universal interpretation that invites all listeners to jump in and sing along. It is her most cohesive and focused solo project yet. But as she heads into the studio, she expects (and welcomes) some surprises. After all, Coco confirms, “Sometimes it’s the moments that no one planned for that can be the most powerful”.