Colleen Green Is Having Fun Behind Those Dark Glasses

by John Paul

26 May 2015

Colleen Green used to hide behind her sunglasses; now they're just a part of who she is. She tells PopMatters about their origin and the one song she refuses to play live.
Photo: Eric Penna 
cover art

Colleen Green

I Want to Grow Up

(Hardly Art)
US: 23 Feb 2015

Following the release of her critically acclaimed album, I Want to Grow Up, all eyes have gravitated toward the underground sensation Colleen Green. Speaking to her before a recent tour stop, Green laid out the basic premise behind her stage persona, a now calculated look that includes dark sunglasses and, for this tour, just her guitar and drum machine. Despite the potential for greater vulnerability, Green exudes nothing but relaxed confidence in both her music and where it has taken her thus far. “I’m having fun,” she said, “I’m getting to travel and play music for people and it’s pretty much the best thing I could be doing with my life.”

Given much of her lyrical content, it’s a relief to hear such a positive outlook on life. On record, she sings through a number of darker thoughts and intimately personal details that would make most people squirm. But for Green, it’s all part of the creative process. When discussing those darker moments that tend to crop up from time to time, she was quick to reach for the silver linings: “By the end of the day you’re just like, ‘What was I doing? What was I stressing about? All that stuff I was upset about makes no difference in my life at all. I shouldn’t be sad, I should be happy because you can do anything you want in the world and it’s awesome.’”

In person, Green is a wisp of a woman. She possesses no immediately identifiable features or affectations, save the sunglasses she wears on stage and the Sublime tattoo that graces her left arm. So unassuming is Green that one could easily be forgiven for mistaking her for someone else, for giving a quizzical look when she informs them she is the artist performing.

But this seems to be just how she wants to present herself: a blank canvas onto which others can project whatever they’d like. “I’ll see pictures online of me and a lot of people will comment saying, ‘Oh, I thought this was my friend so-and-so.’ And I like that a lot. I don’t really look like anyone, I just look like a girl wearing sunglasses, you know, and it really could be anyone [on stage].”

For her, this idea is the basis of the cultivated persona that has become Green, one which she admits is not too far removed from the actual Green. “Sometimes that gets hard [to separate the persona from the person] because I do have a life, and Green is my life, but I feel like I have a life that’s not Colleen Green also. Like when I’m just hanging out and watching TV with my best friend and just eating ice cream, we’re just friends chilling and no one’s paying me any attention like when they come to my shows.”

To her, however, Green the performer is much more. “[She’s] a person and an idea and a philosophy and a musical project and whatever you want it to be, basically.” And part of that philosophy seems to be an inherent relate-ability and desire to have an impact on her listeners that goes beyond melodic hooks and diary-cribbed lyrics.

When it came to her now ubiquitous sunglasses, they were first employed more to help stave off any anxiety on stage. “At first it was a defense mechanism, for sure. Now it’s more of an aesthetic thing.” And with that, she now enjoys the relative anonymity they afford. “I like the idea of young girls coming to shows and seeing someone up there who could represent anyone.”

Having herself played in bands since the age of 16, the now 30-year-old Green feels this an important part of the process and as a female musician she’s ready to do her part to help encourage the next generation of artists and musicians. “I love playing shows with other female acts.” During this specific show, two other other female-fronted groups were featured, Upset and Impulsive Hearts, with Sam Vicari the sole male act on the bill. “I love the feeling of support and the idea of having a safe space. If it’s all girls and all-girl bands or just bands that have girls in them on a show, I would think that would make it so much more welcoming for any girls that want to come, it’s not just a man show and testosterone, you know.”

But she’s also quick to point out she has no problem with mixed bills or the potential for the misogynistic tendencies that often crop up within the scene. When faced with a potential for minimization of her music or the sexualizing of her while on stage as a result of being a female musician, Green asserts: “Some people are going to think that way and some people aren’t. You’re just going to have to hope that the people who are meant to get it, get it and fuck everyone else.”

Among those who got it were JEFF the Brotherhood’s Jake Orrall and Diarrhea Planet’s Casey Weissbuch, two friends Green enlisted to help her with I Want to Grow Up. Given the personal nature of much of the lyrics, bringing in other musicians was a big step for Green who had previously recorded alone.

“There’s a reason why it took me three albums to get this point where I’m sharing and making music with other people,” she said. “And there’s a reason why I did it with Jake and Casey in that they’re two people I really trust. I couldn’t do something like that with just anyone; I needed to wait until I met and formed a good bond with certain people and it just happened to be them and it just all worked out. They’re good friends of mine so I knew they would not judge me.”

When it came time to record the cringe-worthy, deeply affecting “Deeper Than Love”, however, she admitted to her old recording style, not out of fear of judgment (she had sent the song to both for their approval of its inclusion on the album), rather simply due to the sparseness of the arrangement. By breaking the song down to its barest essentials, the lyrics have greater impact. Singled out more than perhaps any other track on the album, “Deeper Than Love” could likely serve as Green’s calling card.

But it’s not a song she’s willing to perform live, much to the chagrin of those attending her performances. Between songs, there were repeated calls for the song, all of which were met with an impeccably timed, somewhat comically timid “No” from Green. When asked about this decision not to play the song live, Green responded: “I played [“Deeper Than Love”] one time live, at my album release show. But because it is so sparse it works on record but live ...” Backtracking somewhat and getting to the heart of the matter, Green added, “I mean it’s fine, but it’s just kind of long and not that fun to play live.”

Disarmingly candid and amiable, Green possesses an approachability very much in keeping with the theme of her latest release, I Want to Grow Up. In it, she wrestles with a sense of arrested development and a yearning desire to transcend her childish ways and bad habits to become the adult society expects her to be. It’s a wildly relatable concept that transcends gender barriers and reaches that rare space of universality. And that’s exactly how she wants it to be.

“Even when I’m doing Colleen Green stuff I still feel like a totally normal person. I feel like I’m just this girl from Massachusetts that’s just living life and doing what I like to do, living life every day as it comes.”

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