Words: Dylan Murphy
Photography: Joshua Gordon
Words: Dylan Murphy
Photography: Joshua Gordon
Ahead of her debut album Mt. Pleasant, Dylan Murphy spoke to Wicklow trailblazer Cosha about finding serenity in nature and how she worked with some of the world’s most forward-facing producers to create a place she could call home.
“I totally slipped, I got to Joshua tree with my friends last night and was up really late and totally forgot!” Cosha tells me apologetically as the sunlight blinds her camera lens.
The Wicklow singer has just woken up after a late-night recording session in Joshua Tree in California where she is putting the finishing touches to some new music.
“Let me show you it’s fucking nuts”, she says excitingly as the roof of her apartment intercepts the rays and her endless desert surroundings come into full view.
Walking across her balcony, with chirping birds soundtracking her every step she explains that she’s headed out west to embrace the naturalistic settings. It’s a familiar way of working for the shape-shifting singer who often found peace in the greenery of Wicklow.
“I have so much more time for Wicklow now. Whenever I go back to Ireland I’ll always go back. That was definitely something that was really inspiring. I love being in nature so much” she says.
However, Cosha didn’t always have the same appreciation for the meandering pace of her hometown. For the most part, as a teen, she struggled to find like-minded people. It resulted in the young singer flipping the script to escape the isolation of her hometown in favour of the busy streets of the capital.
“I mean this is the thing, I wasn’t really in Wicklow, I went to school there until I was 11 and then I was like ‘ok this is a very small town, I want to go to Dublin'” she says, now sitting down against the outside wall.
“We still lived in Wicklow but I would travel every morning. My brother and I would get the bus at like 7 am every morning just to go to Dublin.”
Bookending her adolescent anecdotes with a caveat that she actually was born in America, Cosha explains that her nomadic lifestyle not only influenced her borderless, freeform sound but the concept of her debut album Mt. Pleasant.
“This is the thing, I moved around a lot. I moved pretty much every year”, Cosha tells me using her hand as a visor against the early morning sun.
“My dad liked to rent places – he didn’t like to be stuck somewhere. It’s more like Mount Pleasant was the centre point maybe for the places we moved around.”
Smiling she tells me about the light bulb moment that birthed the album title.
At the time I was thinking about it and the album and when I saw it, it just felt right – it felt like home.Cosha
“I was at my mum’s house on Christmas Day, I was outside the house and my brother and I would usually have a little Christmas joint and then I noticed across the road that it said ‘Mount Pleasant’ above my neighbour’s door.”
“At the time I was thinking about it and the album and when I saw it, it just felt right – it felt like home. I didn’t grow up in Mount Pleasant, because I think it is a crazy expensive square, but it was like around it”, she says laughing.
“The reason it is called Mt Pleasant is cause I was constantly moving around. It’s the closest name to a home [I have]. The idea is that I wanted it to be a place because I wanted it to feel like something you could go to for comfort. A home or whatever a home should be, a centre point for something that is familiar and comforting and you can feel settled in”.
“I did want the album to be that to people If they were somewhere away from home, if they were feeling anxious they could put it on and feel grounded again. I was doing that, I was moving around a lot and sometimes would get a bit … you know…” she says hesitantly before continuing, “Out of balance…”
“And someone would put some music on and just centre me again.”
Though now Cosha finds peace in music, when she moved to London it quickly became a disrupter in her life. Formerly releasing music under the alias Bonzai, she added another pin to her global footprint and relocated to the capital. Before long she was collaborating with Mura Masa, touring with Flume and found herself signed to a major label. While her stock was on the rise, it did come at a price.
“When I was signed to a label I felt like there was a lot of people that needed to approve of it [her music] before I did. I don’t think that was the way”, she admits.
“That’s kind of why there was quite a big gap between releasing ‘Do You Wanna Dance’ in 2018 and releasing the stuff now. That was the last thing I released and even that, it was just like was not what I would have done now I’ll just say that”, she says.
“Even that was quite a stressful project” she tells me, before adding a disclaimer, “I’m not shitting on Colombia also, they were also really patient, they were nice and I wasn’t ready to deal with it at the time.”
“I needed to get to this place and it wasn’t going to happen under someone else’s microscope.”
Likening her experience to that of a hamster on a wheel, she explains that she needed to step off and live life on her own terms if she was to create music that felt authentic. The first step in her creative rebirth was a new alias, the phonetic pronunciation of her birth name Cassia and the name we know today – Cosha. Additionally, she cut ties with her label and her subsequent project R.I.P Bonzai provided a sense of closure and put her previous experience to bed.
I needed to get to this place and it wasn’t going to happen under someone else’s microscope.Cosha
Having shed the baggage with a name change and taken a brief hiatus to reconnect with her creative roots, Cosha returned with more creative control and sense of purpose.
The result is an album with a compelling visual identity and a unique sound that flirts with the mainstream without compromising Cosha’s adventurous approach.
“With this stuff, it was like ‘Do I love this? Can I stand behind this? Is it making me feel something? Is it saying something? Is it honest?… Because for a while I was quite stressed about what other people thought” she admits.
Additionally, sticking to working with people she knew closely helped develop an organic and familiar feel to an album that lives up to its homespun ethos. While market-researched feature selections and calculated production credits might bump the streaming numbers, Cosha prioritised chemistry in the creative process to enable her sound to flourish.
It just so happens that her friends are some of the most forward-facing acts in music right now, with Shygirl featuring on ‘Lapdance From Asia‘ and Frank Ocean collaborators Rostam and Vegyn providing additional production on the record.
“Honestly, most of the collaborators on the album were friends or mostly friends that I was very lucky for that to be the case. With Rostam, we met really randomly at a party and when we were trying to finish a track we hadn’t got some of the parts right we both just knew Joe (Vegyn) and were able to message. Even with Alex (Mura Masa), he’s been a friend of mine for a long time, even Shy (Shygirl) is one of my best friends. I’m lucky. That’s what I wanted. I did want it to be predominantly that vibe” she says before the revs of a quad bike drown out her enthusiasm.
With the noise polluting the tranquillity of the dessert and our conversation coming to a close, it’s a stark reminder that her time in Joshua Tree is coming to an end.
“I think we are going home tomorrow, unfortunately, it’s too expensive, this shit is wild” she laughs.
For Cosha, a home is a place to ground yourself and return to when life becomes too much and the contours of her vision start to blur. In search of this safety net, Cosha developed Mt. Pleasant, a living, breathing piece of work that channels her closest friendships and dearest sentiments into a fluid base that can hold her down, wherever she is.
Mt. Pleasant, the debut album from Cosha, is out on July 2.