Last week, I had the pleasure of talking with R&B and gospel singer Coko about her newest album The Winner In Me which is packed with energetic party starters, uplifting worship anthems, and guest turns from Israel Houghton, Kelly Price, Youthful Praise, and Canton Jones. If you missed the first part of the interview, “Coko Explains Why Fame And BlackBerrys Are Both Bad News,” you can catch up on it here.
Our chat continues below. Check out what she has to say about the entire album she lost when her record label closed down before it could ever be released to the public.
ELEV8: I have to ask you about my favorite song on the new album. What was it like recording “Rescue Me”?
Coko: “Rescue Me.” That song? It was great recording that song. It was funny. [When] I heard that song, I was standing outside a studio. Dave Caton played it and I went in there like, “please tell me that’s for me.” He was like, “Yeah! You can have it! Yeah!” I love that song as well. That’s a great song.
ELEV8: Most artists always record more songs than actually make the album. What songs or collaborations were supposed to be on The Winner In Me that just didn’t make it in time?
Coko: Oh, we didn’t do that this time. It wasn’t up to me. The label wanted me to record enough songs for the record. And that’s what we did. It just so happened that songs that we did record [were] really great songs. So we didn’t have any leftovers.
“#worstfeelingever working hard on music that goes unnoticed!”
— a recent tweet from @CokoClemons
ELEV8: Speaking of sophomore albums, in your last ELEV8 interview with Sheeri Mitchell, she said that RCA Black Music closed down just as your sophomore album was about to come out. There’s a sophomore album we didn’t know about?
Coko: Yeah! There’s a whole record! It was titled Music Doll that was comin’ out. Yes! And I have it!
ELEV8: Is there any chance that we’ll ever be able to buy it on iTunes?
Coko: Probably not.
ELEV8: Oh you’re kidding me. You gotta be kiddin’ me.
Coko: And I had a nice duet on there with Dave Hollister. It was hot. It was gonna be a really great record. But they closed and I didn’t want them to place me just anywhere, so I asked for a release.
ELEV8: So I’m listening to The Winner in Me right now, but what are you listening to on repeat these days?
Coko: I’m old school, so I’m listening to 80’s music, but one gospel song that I really like right now that I had to stop playing is Vanessa Bell’s new song “Good News.” Ohhhh I LOVE that song! And Sheri Moffett-Jones’ album is beautiful. Both stay on repeat in my car.
ELEV8: I be wearin’ songs out too. Makin’ the people around me mad playing “Rescue Me” over and over again.
ELEV8: By the way. I know you’re a fan. What was your favorite Clark Sisters album?
Coko: Oooooh. I was young, so I don’t remember the name of the album, but my favorite cut was “Endow Me” and I’ve always wanted to remake that song. I just needed the right people at the right time. And the timing was great for that.
ELEV8: As a gospel artist coming in the door with an army of people who already love your voice, has it still been hard to get audiences to fully embrace you?
Coko: I mean, it’s like some people do and some people don’t, but if I sit there and I worry about everybody that doesn’t wanna embrace me, I’ll go crazy. And I don’t have time for that. Either you like me or you don’t and that’s where it is!
ELEV8: Can’t disagree with that. The flipside though is I saw when you did the Sheryl Lee Ralph benefit Divas Simply Singing. And you smashed the medley of hymns. I’m like, “this girl’s performance is flawless!”
ELEV8: But the audience was acting like they didn’t want to acknowledge it. I think it’s because you were singing gospel. [Secular artists on the bill got a much different response.] So how do you reach out to people that don’t like gospel, don’t like God, or only want to hear you sing R&B and can’t get used to anything else?
Coko: Well I think I did pretty good at Sheryl Lee’s thing, ‘cause when I finished, they were on their feet!
Coko: (laughs) Well I did somethin’ right and I guess if they was tryin’ to fight it, they couldn’t fight it anymore! With that kind of crowd, when they see me, they wanna hear “Weak” and things like that. ‘Cause I really wasn’t supposed to sing that song. I was supposed to sing “If Only You Knew,” but I didn’t know what Miss Patti LaBelle was singin’, so I didn’t wanna go there. [Patti LaBelle was headlining the Divas benefit that night.] I ended up doin’ the hymns song. I think it was better for me to do the hymn song ‘cause it really turned out good.
ELEV8: Hey, how did Patti’s standard end up in your show? You cover it with SWV and you did a great job on the Mo’Nique show recently.
Coko: Well, Patti LaBelle is somebody that I’ve grown up listening to and loving and just always wantin’ to be like her. You know.. hit those soprano notes! SWV has actually been singing that song for some years now. It’s just now starting to get out there. I do it with SWV, but I do it by myself as well.
ELEV8: Speaking of which, I know you guys are recording a new album. You talked about working with 9th Wonder. Is there a label and a release date yet?
ELEV8: And now, when you tour with them, you don’t want to perform songs like “Downtown” and “Can We”. So when people ask you for an old version of Coko, is it weird?
Coko: I mean, you can ask!
Coko: …but it’s up to me. I don’t wanna do it? I’m not gonna do it! But we have a lot of other songs that they can get with and rock out to.
ELEV8: The Winner in Me just came out last year, but are you making plans for a new album yet? I almost can’t wait.
Coko: I really wanna get started on the new record. I have some ideas, my husband has some ideas, it’s just right now it’s so much goin’ on. You got the SWV stuff, but then on this side, I still have a lot of other things that I wanna do on this next gospel record, you know, comin’ up with some ideas and stuff. So, you know. I really wanna get started soon though.
ELEV8: Okay, then you’re forgiven for the whole iPhone thing. I can let that go now.
ELEV8: So with everything you’ve got going on now, how do you keep up with it all while taking care of your kids? It’s a lot for people who don’t have kids. How do you manage?
Coko: It’s a lot, but everybody knows my kids come first. Family comes first.
ELEV8: Do you have family support too?
Coko: Yeah, my mom is here, and she helps me out a lot. ‘Cause you know my husband plays for Israel & New Breed. He’s always on the go. I actually just dropped him off at the airport! So we’re always in and out. We make sure that the kids are straight before we do anything!
ELEV8: Well look. I think we’re out of time and James is probably givin’ me looks over there, but I’ll holler at him later.
ELEV8: It’s been really great talking to you. And I hope I catch you again.
Coko: Alright then, say hello and I’ll shout you out on Twitter!
So head on over to wherever you like to buy music and pick up a great album if you don’t have it already. And people, please stop bootleggin’, ‘cause it’s a recession for everybody and Coko needs to keep her job too.
You can purchase The Winner In Me online at iTunes, Amazon.com, and other digital retailers, as well as anywhere gospel music is sold. For more info, visit her official website www.cokosplace.com or follow @CokoClemons on Twitter.
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