Cole Williams is a force of nature. Equal parts musician, fashionista, radio DJ, community builder, and philanthropist, Williams is constantly reimagining herself and redefining what it means to be an empowered Jamaican American woman by building a brand that is confident and ever-changing. From her musical beginnings in Brooklyn, to a myriad of creative pursuits in her home base of New Orleans, Williams is as diverse an artist as any in the entertainment industry, with passions that are only exceeded by her unparalleled ambition.
Music has always come first for Williams. The self-proclaimed punk-empress of African Rock got her start in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. She attended Brooklyn Technical High School (known for its Nobel Laureate alumni, as well as Mos Def and Talib Kweli) and majored in psychology before studying classical voice at New Jersey City University. This rich background coupled with Cole’s foundation in classical piano (trained from ages 4-17), a church upbringing, and childhood love affair with her parents’ record collection provided her with the foundation to eventually broaden her artistic horizon, but it would take a big move and a leap of faith to put her creative potential in motion.
Forever a melting pot of cultural diversity and creativity, New Orleans represented a new opportunity for Williams. Since relocating to the city in 2015, Williams’ creativity has soared. Not long after settling down in The Big Easy, Williams rebranded That’sMyCole featuring Cole Williams and formed the Cole Williams Band, a unique and soulful band that is leading the “African Rock Revolution.” CWB have shared the stage with India.Arie, Lauryn Hill, Emily King, Corey Henry, and Treme Funktet among others. With performances at iconic venues across the globe already under their belt (Blue Note, Maple Leaf Bar, 2015 Ooh Poo Pah Doo residency, BAM Cafe, Martyr’s, Ace Hotel, C’mon Everybody, World Cafe Life, Prime Example, House Of Blues) the band have its sights set on New Orleans, where they have a Saturday night residency at Marigny Brasserie.
“Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness, were my main motivations,” says Williams about moving to New Orleans. “I really had no idea what I was getting myself into moving to New Orleans. It was a leap of faith, and I answered the call.”
2017 has seen Cole Williams Band release a powerful rendition of the Sam Cooke classic, “A Change Is Gonna Come,” which Glide Magazine called a “simmering, heartfelt take that hits you hard with wave of emotion.” The band also released a fresh new single “Free,” which Huffington Post called “[a] soulful and rhythmic slow burner of a song that encapsulates the powerhouse vocals of Williams and her empowering lyrical stance.”
As a vocalist, Williams’ style is a true bayou treasure. With classic soul as her vocal canvas, Cole’s ability truly shines when she’s breaking genre conventions and opting for a diverse and wholly original vocal landscape—one that melds all the colors of soul, rock, R&B, reggae, and blues.
Cole's vocal stylings are featured on “Curry Chicken” (Joey Bada$$) , “Peaches N Herb” (premiered by Wax Poetics), "Stand Tall” (premiered by Offbeat Magazine), "Ray Charles" (Chiddy Bang), and on commercials by CoverGirl, JC Penny, and Suave Professionals.
In addition, she has contributed background vocals for Aloe Blac, Little Jackie, Lisa Lisa and The Cult Jam, Diane Birch, and Cole's velvet presence is felt with Somi (2002-2004), Kaissa (2003-2006), Dana Fuchs, Neurotic Drum Band and the Pimps Of Joytime (2012-2015). William's vocal performances have been featured on television shows as prominent as Conan, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Good Morning America, The Wendy Williams Show, The Jools Holland Show, The Craig Ferguson Show, WWL4 Morning Show, Live With Kelly & Michael, 90210, and The Today Show.
Dating back to her days in NYC, Williams has always lended a helping hand in her community. It’s a passion for people that has allowed her to inspire thousands as a facilitator for after school programming and career development within New Orleans and NYC. Cole began teaching piano at age 15, and in 2003 began vocal instructing, coaching, and arranging vocals for artists in the studio. In 2010, Williams began teaching piano and choir classes at The Action Center (Queens, NY) and organized a class trip for her top students to record vocals in her original song “Make A Change” at the Cutting Room Studio in NYC. In 2015, Williams joined Community Works Of Louisiana as a music instructor, and organized a class trip to WWOZ show, Tuesday’s Jazz From The French Market for a performance of the youth’s original compositions. In 2017, through a grant from the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation, That’s My Worldwide LLC (TMWW) and CWLA partnered with Arise Academy, and Williams founded and led the Community Works Children’s Choir. Williams has volunteered for WWOZ, Sticking Up For Children, Habitat For Humanity, created a partnership with Books To Kids that has placed over 3,000 books in the homes of children in New Orleans between November 2016-June 2017 and continues to create partnerships through TMWW and CWLA. Williams now spreads her philanthropic wings as the Director of Education and Outreach with Community Works Of Louisiana.
Equally as compelling as Williams’ musical enterprises and community outreach, is her dedication to fashion. Cole has participated in photo shoots for designers such as Elyvette and Makabu, and for publications and photographers Bill Cunningham, Essence, Italian Vogue, Bill Wadman, New Orleans Magazine, Where Y’at and LiveForLiveNola. Her classic look is both convincing and bold, and is the perfect visual complement for her African Rock Revolution.
“I believe that clothes are one of the many forms of personal expression,” says Cole. “I am inspired by Diana Vreeland, Coco Chanel, Grace Jones—women who let their clothes tell their story. I’m drawn to vibrant colors, feminine cuts, mixing of patterns and fabrics, and pure elegance. The essence of a woman is manifested in their personal style.”
Every Tuesday, Williams’ voice can be heard hosting the Tuesday New Orleans Music Show on the world famous WWOZ 90.7FM in New Orleans, where she takes the listener on a musical tour of the city’s sounds and has the occasional guest stop by.
"Life is a stage," says Cole Williams, and as stages go, one must wonder if there will ever be one big enough to hold the myriad talents and creative appetite of a true artist like Williams. With each new creative endeavor under her belt, Williams further cements herself as a vanguard of faith, love, art, and community.
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