Ben Blood Kaylee Cole plays KEXP's Audioasis at the Sunset Tavern this Saturday, January 8.
THE SITUATION Late on a Wednesday evening, I'm having drinks and tapas at Ocho on Market Street with lovely 24-year-old singer-songwriter-pianist Kaylee Cole.
INTOXICATION We're both drinking red wine, and within 10 minutes or so Cole knocks over her glass onto the table next to us. She faults clumsiness. "Sometimes I feel like I'm a big fat Italian mother," she says.
Cole's used to late nights out in Ballard--she's a waitress at King's Hardware, where, she says, "a lot of douchebags come in." (Natch.) Cole says the other night she was charged by one such patron--"He looks at me like a bull, like I'm red and he's a bull. It was 1:30 in the morning, and I had been working my ass off all day, and I was so tired, and I was like, 'Is this guy really gonna fucking charge me?' " (He did, and took a swing at her, but was restrained by one of Cole's co-workers).HOW SHE GOT HERE Cole is a Mount Vernon native, but spent several years in Spokane before moving to Seattle. "I did a lot of stupid stuff in between," she says, "such as, but not limited to, getting married, buying a house, buying a car, getting divorced, leaving town."
She's never had a permanent home in Seattle. In the year and a half she's lived here, she's resided in her car, a friend's garage in Maple Leaf, a walk-in closet on Capitol Hill, Shenandoah Davis' bed ("She has a gigantic bed that she got from one of her ex-boyfriends. There's enough room for the both of us"), and, currently, a friend's couch in Wedgwood.
SHOP TALK Cole is Seattle's Fiona Apple--poetic and quirkily elegant, with a smoky, warbling voice. But she's only been playing music for three years, beginning with her Spokane roommate's piano.
"I played the piano so much that I got better than he was. One day I was upstairs, and I heard all this commotion downstairs. He had moved this gigantic upright piano into his bedroom and put a padlock on his door. I thought 'Huh. Maybe I'm doing something right.'"
She was. Her forays into songwriting proved to be enough to impress one highly acclaimed producer, Dave Sitek of TV on the Radio (Sitek's also produced albums for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Scarlett Johansson, among others). "TV on the Radio is my favorite band," says Cole. "I wanted my music to sound like theirs." Through the magic of Google, Cole found a seemingly legitimate e-mail address and wrote to Sitek. "It just said 'Dear Dave, I would love nothing more than to make a record with you. Here's my MySpace.' Three days later I got an e-mail back . . . [He said], 'We think your voice is the voice of the future. We want to record a couple of songs with you and see what happens.' "
Cole flew to L.A., lived at Sitek's house for a month, and began recording her forthcoming full-length, which will sound worlds different from her current gentle, piano-driven fare. "I write the lyrics and the melodies," she says, "and then he makes phat beats and space sounds and all sorts of dynamic shit."
BTW: You can credit SW's 2009 REVERB Fest for bringing Cole to Seattle. Cole played the festival, and decided that night to move to the city. "That show, I was like, 'There's actually a community of people who know who I am, who support me and love me,' " she says. "That night was super-electric."
Kaylee Cole will play KEXP's Audioasis, hosted by Hannah Levin, with Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground and Bryan John Appleby at the Sunset Tavern on Saturday, January 8. Tickets are $7 adv./$8 DOS, and the show starts at 8:30 p.m.