Are You Happy Now? That’s the question Cole Patenaude is asking in his new album of the same name. Are You Happy Now? is what the artist calls “a Cole Patenaude Band sampler pack” full of different musical flavours and styles stemming from his various musical influences across a range of genres. We sat down with Cole to learn more about his artistry, his inspiration, the new album, and how he manages family life amidst a burgeoning music career.
Hey Cole, thanks so much for chatting with us. First off, can you tell us how you got your start in music?
Cole Patenaude: “Hi Dawn! Thanks for doing this! I got my start in music pretty early on, my dad plays guitar and writes some killer songs and he had my sisters and me on stage with him when I was three. I played bongos and my sisters sang, it was pretty amazing and yes there were matching outfits. My sisters all did piano and voice lessons throughout their childhood but I begged my mom to let me stop because I’d never be a musician. Whoops.”
You recently released an album called Are You Happy Now?. What inspired the creation of that album?
“The initial inspiration for Are You Happy Now? came from a box of beer! Some friends and I were digging into a sampler pack and I just loved the idea of different flavours being together in one place. I get pretty bored playing the same kind of music over and over, so we brought a bunch of our musical flavours together into what I like to think is a fully refreshing Cole Patenaude Band sampler pack. Some of the songs are from ten years ago, a couple I finished the day before we went into the studio, there’s some heavy blues and some soft folk, a little country and pop. Nothing too far from our comfort zone but a little something for everyone.”
What message or feelings do you hope listeners take away from it after listening?
“My hope is that listeners are able to feel a sense of connection to the songs in whatever way they might need. If a song makes you sad, that’s alright with me. I think you need to feel sad to get through sadness. If a song makes you feel pumped up and can push you through something, fantastic! If any part of what we’ve made gives you hope when you need it, please take that hope and run with it. Or maybe it makes you angry and you clean your whole house! I absolutely make music for my own enjoyment, but I know I make it for others as well. If I knew that one of my songs was a helpful tool in someone’s emotional toolkit, I’d consider that an absolute reward.”
What’s your favourite song on the album and why?
“Can’t pick just one. I really love ‘I Need A Win,’ ‘Good Enough,’ and ‘Compromise.’ ‘I Need A Win’ and ‘Good Enough’ are very personal songs that are entirely based on my encounters and experiences along this path. I’ve always felt like my best songs are when I am vulnerable and honest; they have a different weight to them. Not heavy so much as of a different quality. And ‘Compromise’ is just a guitar player’s dream and such a fun tune to do live!”
Favourite lyrical line? Why?
“In ‘Good Enough’ there’s a line near the end that goes ‘Maybe not for all of my dreaming; but enough to find me some meaning; and I mean it that I am good enough.’ I am a massive dreamer and definitely to my own detriment at times. If I can’t have my dream right away I might not even try to get it, even while fully realizing the foolishness of that approach. Just a stubborn goat. I like to think that that line of the song means I’m learning and growing, but I did write that song a long time ago so… maybe not.”
Your music is obviously very inspired by the blues. Who are some of your musical inspirations?
“I feel like I can never properly answer this question as I unforgivably forget so many of the amazing musicians that have inspired me! I can, however, remember hearing Stevie Ray Vaughan play ‘Tightrope’ for the first time. The song felt alive to me! He had such a killer band and the tone and emotion he found in his guitar playing was absolutely inspiring. I can also remember hearing a live DVD of John Mayer back when he just did the pop heartthrob thing and thinking man, his guitar player is great! Turns out he WAS the guitar player, and I’ve been a fan ever since. Derek Trucks, Allison Krauss, Vince Gill, Eric Clapton, Albert King, Tony Rice. Just a few of the many players and musicians I’ve absolutely loved. My family has definitely been an inspiration for me as well.”
What was the process of getting a band together and how have they shaped your sound?
“I’d gone through a few different musicians and a few different band names when my sister Marin Patenaude asked me to open for her CD release. The bass player at the time had just moved and so I asked around and found a friend of a friend who went to jazz school here in Vancouver and he came and played bass for us. That’s when I met (bassist) Derek (Maroney). Then our drummer at the time decided he didn’t want to pursue music and so Derek introduced me to Carson (Tworow) who he knew from school. That got us a drummer. As for Dean, I’d known he was a monster on the keyboard for a while but I didn’t have the guts to ask him to join the band! Turns out he was at jazz school with Carson and Derek and pretty much just slid into his spot after coming out for a jam he fit so well. Like a classically trained puzzle piece.
I am by far the least musically educated member of the band and they absolutely have schooled me on some fantastic lessons, ideas and concepts. They always have good input. Always. One of the best things I got in a band is a group of guys who will praise you when you do well but also tell you straight to your face dude… that doesn’t work.”
You are also a dad and a full-time mechanic… how does your music fit into that busy lifestyle?
“Gotta thank my wife on this one. She seems to wholeheartedly believe in my dream and my music and is absolutely essential throughout the entire adventure. She takes the lead with my girls without question whenever I have a show or rehearsal, never complains, and always encourages. She also does an excellent job at almost everything that’s not writing or playing music, which is all the stuff I am pure garbage at.
Being a mechanic was never my dream but it’s a useful skill and it pays the bills. It’s bought me some nice equipment and paid for albums, keeps my kids fed, and a roof over our heads, but it’s hard on the hands and ears and not particularly creative and I wouldn’t be upset to move on to something else. Tomorrow.”
Why do you make music?
“I don’t seem to have a choice! It just shows up, at work or dinner or in the garden or at the dentist. My phone and computer have far too many audio files of me humming or singing or playing guitar, sometimes very badly but always happily. There seems to be music in most things and I like trying to find it. When I’m making music I almost always feel wonderful and confident and capable, which isn’t how I always feel outside of it! My grandmother went almost fully deaf at 25, my dad has severe hearing loss and tinnitus. I’ve got some very interesting hearing complications and I’d really just like to make the best music I’m capable of for as long as I’m able to.”
What can fans expect next?
“More music! I’m already planning the next album, I love recording and releasing music and I’d like to do singles and videos as much as I can. Are You Happy Now? is, to me, such a step up from our first release, and I know the next album is going to be even better. I may also do a podcast of me yelling about stuff I don’t like, so stay tuned for that for sure.”