Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Chicago musician Cole DeGenova bringing vibrancy to scene


Cole DeGenova and his band The Peoples Republic continue to keep the Chicago music scene vibrant through its fresh mix of jazz, R&B and soul.

DeGenova,, and his band will perform Aug. 30 at Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, in celebration of his new album, "Another Country."

Sidewalk Chalk and The Heard also are part of the bill. The show starts at 9 p.m., and tickets are $10, available at

I had the chance to talk to DeGenova about the new album.

Q - Your new album, "Another Country," will be released on Aug. 28. In sitting down to make the album, what were your goals? Do you think you've achieved them?

I was looking to make a complete, cohesive album that could accurately paint a picture of where I, as well as many other people in my age group, were at in our lives at the time.

I wanted the songs to have a general theme and vibe, that could of course leave you humming along after you were done. Going into the project with that mindset, I think we did a pretty good job.

Q - You started playing at age 15 in jazz and blues clubs on Chicago's South Side. What did that experience teach you?

Everything. How to hustle and make a living playing music (even if you were only getting paid 15 bucks a night), how to really connect with an audience and feel the music, the importance of our American musical tradition, and, honestly, spirituality.

I learned more from spots like the old Velvet Lounge and Von Freeman's New Apartment Lounge than I did from any school.

Q - You also trained with the esteemed Danilo Perez. What was that experience like and what did you learn from him?

We really connected on our love of roots music - African, Caribbean, New Orleans, and classical even. The most important thing he told me was that I had already had my own sound and that I should spend my time honing that instead of trying to sound like other people.

I really took that to heart. He's a really deep, inspiring guy.

Q - Meshell N'degeocello had some very complimentary words for you. What do you get out of working with acts of her caliber?

Their wisdom. It's not just what they say, but HOW they say it.

Meshell had a real deep wisdom and vibe to her. Just being around that left its mark. She also gave me a lot of tips for producing music that I still consider whenever I'm recording something.

Q - How do you think you and your band have evolved since first forming? Where do you see the band going from here?

I first formed the band The Peoples Republic when I was living in Boston and going to school, so I then had to form a new version of The Republic when I moved back to Chicago.

Ultimately, the band has seen many lineups and every member has left their mark on the sound of the band as well as my songwriting. The lineup right now is real solid and I'm looking forward to seeing what we can come up with from here on out.

It's all about spreading the music!

Q - Where do you see yourself fitting into the Chicago music scene?

Well,  I have my background in the South Side jazz scene, but then when I moved back to Chicago a couple years ago, I found myself playing more and more around the North Side rock clubs.

I think I, as well as my music, am somewhere in between those two things. So what I'm trying to say is, I'll play anywhere and usually get a good response.

I'm a chameleon of sorts. We're all a Chicago family and I'm all for connecting with as many different types of people as possible.