Cooki Turner
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Cooki Turner

Oklahoma City, OK | Established. Jan 01, 2008 | SELF

Oklahoma City, OK | SELF
Established on Jan, 2008
Band R&B Acoustic

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"Cooki Turner Shares Her Heart"

OKLAHOMA CITY – Cooki Turner is a veteran artist and released her debut EP “Heart of Me Vol. 1” earlier this year. Her two singles include the inspiring “Try” and contemplative yet groovy “Take Me Away.” She talks with us about her singles, recording her debut, and her philosophy of showmanship.

Who is Cooki Turner?

Cooki Turner is a daughter, sister, aunt, and first and foremost a child of God She is also a lover of music, harmonies and white chocolate mochas.

Where did the song “Take Me Away” come from?

That’s easy. I love “love.” I love seeing real and true love, but I am a person of self-awareness. I feel like anybody can lie and say “I don’t need a man, I don’t need a woman; I’m too cool for that.” Every person wants that one person that they can confide in, be with, and have an un-denying connection. It’s even more so when you see your friends have that connection. That’s the connection that I want. I want to be ready for it. To be transparent with you, I haven’t been in a serious relationship in a long time. I’ve been dating here and there but it was nothing that I saw a future with. So I was like, clearly I’m not gonna try and force stuff. I’m chillin’, and I’m working on me but I really wish it would hurry up and get here. That’s what the first verse is talking about.

Then it’s kinda like making sure that I’m self-aware. Am I doing what I’m supposed to be doing? Am I looking right? Is my mindset right? Are my goals together? Am I getting my finances together? Am I doing the stuff that’s gonna prepare me to be with the person I want to be with? So the chorus says; don’t worry I’ll wait for what I want, but can you come a little bit faster?!

What was the process of writing that song?

I used Soul Avenew, which is the lovely Lashaye’ “Stacy” Aiyah and Kwan “Will” Miller (also Oklahoma City local artists). I came to them and explained the concept. It was first written from a man’s perspective so I altered it to fit a woman’s perspective. I made sure that it was everything that I wanted to say. Stacy’s poetry was all her own, so when I first heard it I was so excited. I was expecting, it wasn’t something that we discussed, I literally let them have their creative juices fly. That’s kinda how it happened.

What does collaboration look like to you?

Collaboration looks like an eclectic rainbow. Let’s say the rainbow as hues of purple and green. Royal purple by itself is cute, people like it and use it for certain things. Teal by itself is also great, people like that and use it for certain things. If you bring all the hues together, it sparks an awakening that says “oh my God, I didn’t know that this would look great together. I didn’t know that they complimented each other.”

I love to sit in a room and pick the brains of other people who are collectively talented whom I respect, can grow and learn from. It’s always a shock to me to hear artists that say they learn from me as well. I’m trying to learn from you and for you to hear my thoughts and think that they’re cool is a very humbling experience. Collaboration also builds confidence. As artists, we have great thoughts but we think it’s too far out there. It’s affirming when you have someone there that affirms you.

Who are you listening to?

I’m a musical buffet. I’m on Gretchen Parlato really hard right now, I’m listening to The Walls Group, I love KING, some underground artists like Gene Noble, and Jazmine Sullivan has given me back my whole life. I’m really into instrumentation. I’m really into the very rawness of music, and I want to feel earth when I’m listening to music. I want to feel like sand between my toes, but to my ears. I try to venture out every now and listen to stuff like Mayor Hawthorne. I search for real good live instrumentation, good tones and voices. Runs are cute but I’ve never been a fan of track, so you’re gonna miss me with all those runs. That’s the problem with R&B and gospel, they’re trying to ‘run’ a marathon and I don’t want that. I want to hear the feeling. My inspiration is always fresh and it can come from anybody.

How you described your preference in ‘feeling’ music, is that how you want to present your music?

When I sing, whether it be covers or original, I really want you to hear and feel what I’m doing. I want you to feel where I’m coming from. For my live shows I strategically pick songs where you get what I felt when I heard it. For the most part, if it’s something new, I want you to feel what I’ve felt or hear what I’ve heard when I heard it. For example, we cover Radiohead’s “High And Dry,” and we worked really hard on it. The way we did it in rehearsal was so pure so much so that when we perform it, every one in the venue has to shut up when we do it. There are Parlato and Robert Glasper, and other songs that require attention. If I can’t get your attention then I can’t do it. Even with my own music I am extremely sensitive about it.

I want to talk about your showmanship. What was your first show like?

I’ve been singing live music with a band for almost twelve years. My first show wasn’t really different than what I do now. Maybe less polished and less confident, but I’ve never had a problem with talking with people. I never had a problem getting people’s attention. When I’m on stage and in the music, it gives me that push to make you listen. Whatever I need to do to make you understand where the song was coming from and where it’s going is what I’m gonna do. My very first show was comfortable. It was at a banquet where I knew half of the audience and I was with a band that rehearsed once a week. We made it do what it do.

One of the biggest things that I get from a Cooki Turner show is ‘good times.’ I love screaming at the background singers, I love the arrangements, I love how you make people and it’s not something that rookies can do. I know you’re a veteran. What would be your advice would you give to artists that want to do what you’re doing now?

I would say find your sound but don’t limit yourself. There are a couple things that you need to remember as an artist. You never know who’s watching you. You never know who comes to your shows, especially open shows. If where you want to be is a top-selling artist that sells out arenas, you need to conduct yourself that way now. Not in a diva standpoint but in professionalism. Know your setlist, what your sound is like, rehearse, and be about your presence. Be about your presence the minute you step into a venue. It doesn’t matter if you’re getting free drinks or not, you’re working. This is a job. When I’m working, I need to be my full self and at my full capacity.

There are three things that you have in this life: your word, your name and your character. You jack any of those up at any given time and it can mess you up for life. Stand by what you believe in. I don’t do this as a hobby, this is my life. If I stopped singing it would not be good for my mind and well being; I’ve tried. I have standards that I’ve set for myself and I don’t lower them for anybody.

You don’t have to rehearse, that’s on you. If you think the band has a good vibe and they can just show up to the show and can make it do what it do, that’s on you. I don’t mind vibes, vibes are great. Thumbs up for vibes. But what we’re gonna know is what we’re doing before we actually hit this show. You don’t need background vocalists, that’s not necessary, that’s on you. Kill the show by yourself. I can kill the show by myself and I don’t want people to think that I can’t. I choose not to because: I’m not sacrificing my voice for an extra twenty five dollars, and I’m not sacrificing the music for an extra fifty dollars. If that means that I have to sacrifice my own money so the musicians can get paid, than I will gladly do it because the music won and I’ve done my job.

Tell me about “Try.”

Four years ago, I was working on an EP. One of them was going to be a live cover of Outkast’s “Prototype,” and the others were going to be originals. I was sitting in my living room with my band and I asked if they could write for me. The keyboardist said “This is your show, how are you gonna ask someone else to write music for your show?” So I said that I liked Curtis Mayfield and there was an intro to a song that I loved, so we started playing around with it and I started singing a melody. From there I started writing; right there on the back of my couch. The lyrics were literally from the experiences I was going through at that moment. I hated writing. I have concepts but I didn’t feel like I had strong lyrics, but I wrote anyway.

The funny thing is that at the live recording I couldn’t even remember the second verse to the song. I had lyrics for them but I couldn’t remember it. For the first two years I would only sing the first verse. It took me going back into the song to get everything. It’s humbling to me that people are encouraged by that song because it encourages me. It describes all that I’ve been through in the last few years.

What does it mean to be a risk taker?

Faith; that’s all risk is. Risk is saying that my faith is above my fear. I am scared of failing, but I have to trust that what I’m called to do is greater. I’m going to step out on what I can’t see but what I know is there. - Anchor Music News


"Heart of Me Vol. 1 Release"

Saturday, October 26th, marked the celebration of the release of Miss Cooki Turner’s new album, Heart of Me. Although the album had already released recently, Miss Cooki still took the opportunity to gather her friends, family and fans at Urban Roots in Oklahoma City’s historic Deep Deuce district in order render a heartfelt thank you to the city for their love and support. The quaint locale was quickly filled beyond capacity as many stood lining the walls and passageways – and they were the lucky ones. Quite a few didn’t make it inside the building at all – a testament to the immense following Miss Cooki has garnered over the years with her unmistakably rich signature sound, effortlessly commanding stage presence and warm, engaging personality. Those of us standing didn’t appear to mind one bit. It was Cooki’s night, and we were there to show our love and let her know what a blessing her gift is to the city and soon to the world.

1377325_4786422598180_472115977_nOnce the night got underway, Miss Cooki began by giving thanks, first to God, then to her numerous supporters. Gratitude was a recurring theme of hers throughout the gathering that surely indicates much more success to come, given such a rare combination of talent and humility. She implored the audience more than once to support local artists, even making available a wristband indicating our support, along with her album. I got mine. The wristband is dope. The album is dope-er. More about that later.

Miss Cooki began by treating us to an extra song that she told us didn’t make the album. That song, Crazy Love, written by Stacy Muse, was so skillfully rendered that I thought if it did not make the album, I can’t wait to hear the ones that did. The songstress then treated us to an eclectic mixture of original songs and covers that mesmerized everyone in the building. She implored the audience to get involved, but her encouragement was hardly necessary; we were hanging on every word, every note, every belt, every run as she took us to heaven on earth with her powerful vocals. Her background singers, including Thaddaeus Johnson and Annisia Anderson, did a marvelous job complementing Miss Cookie’s voice, never overdoing it but stepping up to shine as they were called upon.

One song from the album that Miss Cooki performed titled “Try” was written out of frustration, she told us, noting the sometimes grueling process of trying to complete an album and encountering obstacles, pitfalls and disappointments along the way. The up-tempo tune soared as we listened to the words, armed with the education she had just given us behind their meaning. Apparently she was swept up in “Try” as well, becoming emotional as she completed the song and began profusely thanking those who had been there for her, notably singling out John Mahoney as a man who does a bit of everything, as well as her beautiful mother, who was in attendance, for her untiring love and support. Miss Cooki transparently noted that she completed half of her album while unemployed, “resting on God and my Mama.”

Next up from the album was “Take Me Away”, which Cooki shared was about “wanting to be in love, but waiting to be ready to be in love.” Stacy Muse performed a beautiful spoken word rendition on the song, and Miss Cooki took us to church as she poured her heart and soul into her vocal offering.

Then, as we say, it got real, as if it wasn’t already real, and it was. Miss Cooki unstrapped her shoes and set them aside to perform a flawless cover of “Kiss from a Rose” by Seal that I’m certain nearly lifted the roof from the top of Urban Roots. She effortlessly cascaded into a crescendo that built to the point that I wanted to take off my shoes too. And throw them at her. Both of them. That’s how ridiculously good it was. Seal, if you’re reading this, you would be proud, and dare I say it, a little bit envious too.

The night was filled with more vocal and instrumental amazingness than should be legal, featuring a talented host of musicians including Adam Ledbetter on keys, Jason Gaddis on guitar, Brandon “Dot” Maddex on drums and Jemar Poteat on bass. Special thanks were given to J. Lee the Producer, Alton Eugene and Adam Ledbetter for their production efforts, Stacy Muse and Kizzie Ledbetter for their writing contributions, and a litany of others to whom Miss Cooki profusely expressed her gratitude. She also expressed her appreciation of the contributions of vocalist Willie Hill, for whom the very gifted Thaddaeus Johnson filled in more than admirably as Hill’s commitments required his absence from the night’s festivities.

Miss Cooki gave one more special thank you to her vocal coach, Philip Thomas. The she prepared for descent by flying into a rousing medley of covers that included Sweet Dreams by the Eurythmics, Crazy by Gnarls Barkley and Rolling in the Deep by Adele, easily transitioning from one to the next, making us forget that such a feat would have been daunting to a lesser talent, to say the least, as she playfully did whatever she wanted to do, both lyrically and vocally.

Finally, she treated us to the performance of one final selection from the album, the bonus track “Prototype.”

Then she said goodnight, and left us all wanting more.

SUPPORT Miss Cooki by buying her album, Heart of Me, on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play and wherever music is sold. Find it locally at Urban Roots.

Brian C. Scott - Culturocity


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

Cooki Turner was born into music honestly. From the traditional church background, stage plays and arenas, she simply loves to share her gift.  Knowing that music was her purpose and passion at a young age, she has been singing for over 20+ years. Her most favorite moments are creating a family environment on stage. Doing live music solo for the last 10+ years, she has made an art of bringing a unique vibe and sound to any venue she enters.

She has shared stages with and done backgrounds for Monica, N’dambi, Martina McBride, Trace Atkins, Bilal, Chrisette Michelle, Elle Varner,  Karen Clark-Sheard, Marvin Sapp, just to name a few. With the help and support of talented producers and writers she finished her debut album "Heart of Me Vol.1 in October 2013. Receiving stellar reviews since the release, Miss Turner has been working hard to expand her name and craft.  The debut single "Try" is still toping charts in the US and the UK. She has released her second single “Take Me Away” with two amazing videos. Traveling in her surrounding areas, Dallas, Houston, and Tulsa, has been amazing. And she is eager to travel further. In the beginning of 2015 she began to collaborate with producers Adam Ledbetter & Josh Norman on a special project, and is currently putting the finishing touches on her second EP- Moment to Moment Vol.2, a collected effort of both live and studio performances, she continues to learn and take on new musical experiences. Because of this, her vocal abilities are growing by leaps and bounds.  With such a unique voice, powerful talent and ear for her craft, she has become a vital part of the music industry within her community. 

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