In the four short years since his first gig he has become one of Philadelphia's most promising and interesting young artists. Delivering a high-energy brand of Pop Music that blends Funk, Rock, Soul, Blues, Hip-Hop and Jazz, Andre Coles is Boy Wonder.
"I still remember my first gig,
it was at the Whole Foods on South Street.
I had just put my first record out
and I didn't have a clue what I was doing.
All I knew was that some guy named Boy Wonder
was gonna rock a supermarket!"
Born in West Philadelphia to Reverend Vincent Coles and Pamela Coles, a Medical Technician, Andre began his musical life at age three by singing in the church choir. He was turned onto Rock and Roll at the age of six after hearing The Police's Roxanne.
Making music in various bands since the age of 17 Andre was a veteran of the Philadelphia Music Scene by age 20. Sparked by an impromptu performance with Maroon 5 at the TLA on their first headlining tour, Boy recorded his first solo album, Simplex in 2003. His second album, Electric Love would follow in 2006. Along the way Boy Wonder and his backing band The Klique have gained a reputation in Philadelphia for delivering high-energy, incredibly entertaining performances. Boy Wonder has often been compared to a young Prince.
"I was never comfortable with that comparison,
Prince is a genius and I'm too tall."
In 2006, Boy Wonder signed with Valentino Entertainment in mid 2006 who began shopping his music to major record labels almost immediately. In early 2007, less than a year after the release of Electric Love, Boy Wonder and the Klique went back to work to record Contact a title and song that holds a great deal of significance to him as an artist.
"I really think that art is self expression
right up until the point you show that art to someone else,
then it's about connecting with them.
If you can make Contact with someone else through your art
you've done your job."
Standout tracks such as "Body", "3000 Miles Away”, and “(I think we should) Breakup” hint at Boy Wonder’s growth, newfound maturity, and strong belief in songwriting.
"I looked at all my favorite artists;
Sting, The Police, Prince, John Mayer…
and the key to their success was writing great songs
that made you feel something,
and that all the technical skill won't help you if your songs aren't good.
…it's the neighborhood I wish to live in someday"
The positive reception to the album Contact, made Boy Wonder one of the most in demand acts of 2007. From Daytona to New York City, including residencies at The Mansion and Lickety Split in downtown Philadelphia he brings his music to the people the old-fashioned way.
Starting in January of 2008, Boy Wonder took over as the host of Philly Rising, World Cafe Live's popular Monday Night Open Mic event. At the end of the year he released Superego, which would prove to be his most successful release yet.
After doing a national tour with Boston-Based Indie Rock Band, Bang Camaro, Boy Wonder has played all over the country including the South by Southwest Music Festival and the Jimmy Kimmel Show.
"It's important to try new things,
Bang Camaro is an amazing and unique band
and I'm glad to be a part of it."
Upon his return to Philadelphia, Boy Wonder spent 2009 using what he learned as a member of Bang Camaro to take the country by storm, touring everywhere from Detroit to Dallas and Los Angeles, spreading his music everywhere.
In June 2010 he took the band into the studio to record a new album, Animated, and opened for acts like Jenna Andrews (Island/DefJam) Vantiy Theft, Electric Six, The Knux (Interscope), and Idle Warship (Featuring Talib Kweli and Res).
"Watching the bands and artists that were
at the next level inspired me to keep on going,
I felt closer to where I wanna be than ever before."
In the summer of 2012 Boy Wonder released his sixth album, HEAVY, drawing from his original blues and gospel influences and is currently at work on his next tour.
"I want to grow as a musician, as a songwriter, as a person.
I want to get better. I want more people to see me and my band play.
I believe in what I'm doing and I’m having a blast!"
Boy Wonder - Guitar and Vocals
Jake Dean - Bass
Rob Benton - Drums
I sometimes use one to two background vocalists as well.
Simplex - 2003
Electric Love - 2006
Contact - 2007
Superego - 2008
Animated - 2010
HEAVY - 2012
‘Boy Wonder’ rocks crowd at local open mic
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On a Monday night, musicians sit cross-legged in the vibrant lobby of World Café Live in West Philad...On a Monday night, musicians sit cross-legged in the vibrant lobby of World Café Live in West Philadelphia. Backpacks and guitar cases lay on the sprawling granite floor nearby. Some read the Metro, Philadelphia Weekly, CityPaper or paperback books. Others scribble lyrics or doodle in notebooks, just to pass the time.
The time is 6:29 p.m., and the performers begin to stand, ready to choose their time slots. A man in his 20s, his hair styled in cornrows, strolls into the lobby carrying a clipboard.
“Sign-ups will be starting now,” he says. “No cutting in line or anything. I’m trusting you.”
This man is Andre Coles, but on open mic nights and on any other performance night, he goes by his more renowned stage name – Boy Wonder. He hosts, and also performs at, the weekly Philly Rising Open Mic, held at Upstairs Live, one of two concert stages at World Café Live, which is also an upscale restaurant.
Boy Wonder sits at a table, hastily eating a bowl of spaghetti and looking over the schedule of performers. A young musician with long hair and glasses approaches him.
“Hey, our bass player isn’t here yet. We’re trying to get a hold of him now,” he tells the host.
“No problem man,” Boy Wonder says. “I’ll just bump the list up until you’re ready.”
With a quick fist pound, a minor problem has been averted.
As a working musician, Boy Wonder has a real understanding for the performers he meets every Monday.
“You could say I’ve been in ‘showbiz’ since I was about three,” he says. “I started out with acting, doing some commercials, and some plays.”
From 1996 to 2000, Boy Wonder attended the Philadelphia Creative and Performing Arts High School. There he focused on acting, started his first band, and became seriously engaged in music. He attended Temple as a film and media arts major, and graduated in 2004. He now works at Drexel University during the day as an audio-visual technician.
Coles took over the hosting job at the World Café Live’s open mic just this past January, after performing regularly at the event for almost three years. When former host Bruce Torres took some time off, the café called Coles to fill in. After getting positive feedback on his style from the audience, Coles was offered a full time job, and jumped on the opportunity.
Boy Wonder finishes his pre-performance meal and heads to the stage for a sound check. Once he gets the OK from the sound board, he begins strumming on an acoustic guitar and – without a word – breaks the ice with his first song. He plays through a few of his original songs, which feature his unique, creative chord progressions. His emphatic vocals fill every corner of the room, and he occasionally switches to a falsetto, adding another dimension to his sound.
“I would say my music is a blend of funk, rock, post-punk, new wave, R&B, soul,” he said, pausing after each genre to think of another. “I’ve always been into music where the lines are a little blurred.”
His songs describe relationship attempts, infatuation and the ups and downs of life and love.
“Sweatin’ bullets like a semi-automatic / I can’t get you out of my head,” he sings in one song.
After performing a few songs to start off the show, Coles assumes his position as host, providing on-spot introductions for all the performers, and encouraging the support of the usually abundant and diverse crowd.
“What I think we have that nobody else has is that people come here thinking they can really get somewhere,” Boy Wonder said of the open mic. “It’s really a kind of proving ground. It’s a good stepping stone.”
At the end of the night, Boy Wonder and the rest of the World Café Live staff choose the best performer, and that person or group moves on to the monthly “CREAM: The Best of Philly Rising” competition. Monthly winners end up in the “Cream of the Cream” showcase at the end of the year.
“It’s a competitive night, but he really tries to keep it fun and make it more about the music than the competition,” said Katie Taylor, a sophomore at Temple who also works as a hostess for the Upstairs Live restaurant.
Boy Wonder has recorded three albums’ worth of his original material and performs a few nights a week, usually around Philadelphia. While he is looking for a serious record contract, he enjoys his role at the open mic.
“Every Monday night, I get to see 20 local acts,” he said. “It’s great to see people grow as performers. This is my chance to contribute to the local scene, and if I can make the Philly music scene just a little bit better, I’m cool with that.”
We Sit Down Via Email With Boy Wonder
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Coming out of a particularly dj/femcee/hip-hop-centric Philadelphia, it's refreshing to have Boy Won...Coming out of a particularly dj/femcee/hip-hop-centric Philadelphia, it's refreshing to have Boy Wonder recently fallen on our ears. With a rockin' new wave sound, Boy Wonder's tracks are at times, reminiscent of the sexiest of Lenny Kravitz and the funkiest of Carlos Santana.
Have a read on as to how Boy Wonder got started and why he owes Adam Levine of Maroon 5 a big thank you.
1. Who is Boy Wonder and how did you come to the point where you decided "this is what I want to do"?
Man that's an interesting question for 9AM. I'm more orless a mild mannered guymost of the time and noticed very early on that whenever I performed (singing, acting etc.) I became a different person well more accurately an amplified version of myself. Sort of like the superheros I read about growing up. So Boy Wonder is basically Andre Coles with the volume turned up to 11.
I've always wanted to be some sort of entertainer and have always loved music but as far as my rock star dreams, you can blame Maroon 5 for that. I was at a concert in Philly on their first headline tour and Adam Levine pulled me up on stage and handed me his mic and I sang with the band for a few minutes. There were about 1,000 people or so and they were all feeling me and I was feeling them. Making that kind of connection is very addicting.
2. Did you have musical roots growing up?
I grew up listening a lot of my family's records Motown, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Prince etc. My Dad's band opened for Sly Stone in the 70's so there was a lot of that around as well. But the first music that really turned me on was The Police, I found a copy of their greatest hits on a shelf at home and began to gravitate towards rock music particularly Power Trios. I've always been attracted to music that's sweaty and visceral.
3. Do you have a dayjob?
I'm an Audio Visual/Video Conferencing Technician at Drexel College of Medicine.
4. What is your songwriting process like?
It all usually boils down to me in a room with a guitar. It has to be a complete fully formed idea there first before I bring in my band. If you can't perform it with just you and an acoustic guitar it's probably not worth further exploration
5. What are your ultimate goals with your music career? Is longevity or massive appeal a bigger attractor for you?
Since longevity is a certainty (I'll be making music till I stop breathing) I wouldn't mind rockin the top of the charts. Popularity even on a massive scale doesn't increase or diminish one's talents or skills it just means people like your music, like everything it has it's drawbacks but there's a lot of good you can do as well. I would ultimately be content with being big enough to make a living making music.
6. Are you influenced by pop culture/mainstream radio? Does popular media make you decide to go one way or another with song choice, etc...?
Not in any direct way I'm sure some things I see on TV/Internet and hear on the radio find it's way into my music. But I think we all are influenced by pop culture, it's inescapable, you soak it up and then you decide to go towards it or away from it.
7. If you had the opportunity to play any venue, who's opening for you and where are you playing at?
Wembley Stadium sharing a bill with The Police.
Many thanks to Boy Wonder for taking the time to chat with us. Have a listen to his track Body. It's soulful and sensual and guaranteed to get you in that mood. Jump over to his MySpace for more streaming tracks and then catch him live on August 19 at Rittenhouse in Philadelphia, sharing a bill with Sheena Beaston favorites, Menya.
Covers We Play
Walking on The Moon
Sunshine of Your Love
Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic
I Wanna Be Your Lover
Hoochie Coochie Man
Covered in Rain
Between the covers and my catalogue of orginal songs I'm able to adjust the set list to fit a Rock or R&B Show. Can play anywhere from 30 minutes to Two Two Hour Sets
There are no upcoming dates at this time.