In Session: Local with Lucas, Featuring Collette McComb

CLIFTON PARK – For a lot of us musician-type folks, the “bug” catches us quite early. This is certainly the case for Collette McComb, pianist, and owner and director of the CM School of Fine Arts. It was my pleasure to get a chance to speak with this artist, as we navigated how she’s been coping with life since the start of the pandemic.

Continue reading to learn more about Collette through our interview! You can catch her live with her band, Fenix Rising, on Saturday, January 29th, at the CM School of Fine Arts. The show is set to start at 6:30 pm. For more information, click here.

Lucas Garrett: Hey, Collette! Thank you for taking the time to sit down tonight? How are you doing? What’s up?

Collette McComb: Thanks for having me! I’m doing great; I’m excited to be doing this interview. This year is already looking pretty good because I have a ton of new content that’s flowing. It’s like no clocks right now. It feels fun, you know?

LG: Tell us a little bit about what you have going on.

CM: Sure! Well, I started up I would say more so on the classical side of things and then I got introduced to jazz and rock. And, my style is a little bit of fusion but my heart is definitely rock. The pieces that I’m writing right now, they tend to be for rock bands and string ensembles.

LG: Oh, nice.

CM: Which is a lot of fun because conveniently I direct a music school in a 10,000 square foot building with a dual-audience performance where I can get all the stuff together. But, as far as what I’m working on at this present moment, I have a piece that I wrote with the help of my stepdad, Bill Perry, and some friends, called, “Phantom.” We’re about to make a music video of it with the full production team and I’m looking at the different styles of how I can sort of voice what the intention is behind the song. It’s fun; what does it sound like with a full band? What does it sound like if I add this ensemble? What about raw; just with voice and piano? So, it’s cool.

LG: How long have you been doing what you’re doing?

CM: Since I popped out, I think? You know how it is, ‘cause you’re a musician.  When music is in you, it’s part of the fabric that you’re made of. There’s a picture of me – I think I’m a year-and-a-half to two years old – whenever we start, you know, reaching for the world around us. I’m on my tippy toes, I’m in my nightgown and I’m holding my teddy bear. My family had an organ and I’m reaching all the way up for the keys, because there was like this magic box where any song that I heard I could find it within the black and white keys.

LG: The pandemic has been brutal to everyone. Thankfully, we’re still around, but how are you navigating it? I was talking to another artist and I said “You know, the album’s out. I’m working on an album, myself. But, I don’t know what the hell to do with it!” You know?

CM: Haha, yeah.

LG: Because, the usual model is gone, you know? And, even when there are shows, attendance is all over the place, you know?

CM: Yeah, it’s crazy. I was at a Lindsey Stirling concert. She was here by us I think in the fall? People were getting their tickets the day of, because we weren’t sure if it was actually gonna happen. I have some violin students; they’d gotten their tickets the day before. The opening band – imagine the opportunity to open for a global artist like Lindsey – canceled. So, they ended up not performing. She did. She was amazing; frickin’ spinning upside down playing her violin from the air. I mean, it was awesome. But, yeah, it’s a crazy time. I appreciate the question and I love that you’re asking different artists this question right now.

A lot of us have gone through various stages of feeling lost. Myself, personally, I did reach the point where I was touring nationally with a world-class band and it was a whole lot of fun. Then, when you’re not on the stage, you’re like, “Where am I right now? What am I doing?” But, there was a blessing here. I was always doing somebody else’s music, right? I was performing covers; re-enacting other legends. But, during the pandemic, it really forced us all to go inward, I think. For many of us, we realized it was an opportunity to spend time with who we actually are: what’s in our hearts; what’s in our heads. Spend time at the piano or guitar, whatever your instrument is, and I’ve tried a lot of stuff with music that I’d never done before.

One thing that was heavy on my heart, after I got over the initial panic and “Is the world going to end?” moment – I think it was two weeks into it – I said a prayer, and I said, “More than my own fear, what can I do to help?” The answer that came back to my heart was, “Just go live from your piano.” So, every Friday night, that’s what I did. I would say a prayer with an intention for peace – just putting a little peace out there and calm – and I would play whatever came to me. It was always new in the moment. By the third week, there were over six-thousand listeners and I was like, “Oh, my god, who are these people?” I got so much new content over this pandemic. In hard times – in a lot of cases – there’s a blessing to be found if we look for it. I’ve been keeping busy writing stuff.

LG: For me, I realized, “Wow, the past four years I’ve been writing, recording, and playing out.” Over and over again. That’s who I was, you know? When it went away, I’m like, “What? Who the hell am I now?” You know?

CM: Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

LG: I think that we’re still trying to recover, but I don’t think that it’s ever going to be the same, do you?

CM: I think you’re right. There’s no going back, you know? Through all human history we have these incredible times of great challenge and then I like to think we come out for the better on the other side. But, I don’t think it is ever going to be the same, Lucas. I think you’re right.

LG: I was talking to someone and I said, “Why the hell did I ever choose to be a musician?”

CM: Hahaha.

LG: And, they said – I’ll never forget it, and what are your thoughts on this? They said, “Who the hell said we chose to be a musician?” I was like, “Wow.” I don’t think any person says,

“You know what’d be cool? I want to live very stressfully day-to-day.” I don’t think we chose it. I think it chose us.

CM: Tell me more about what that is for you, and then I’ll share my thoughts, because I’m still chewing on what you just said.

LG: I feel there’s an inherent need inside. People that do what we do – we’re never going to be the mega-millionaires, right? When COVID happened, our income went bye-bye. Even through all that, we’re still working on it, you know what I mean? I can’t imagine doing anything else. For me, I would rather not earn that much and get in my email how a song may have changed someone’s life. To me, that is more important. I can’t imagine doing anything else.

CM: I think as creatives, you know, you get that song or moment of inspiration and all that matters at that point is, “I have to birth this song. I have to get this creation out. I have to hear what it’s like on the outside, not just carry it on the inside.” For me, music is my air. It’s my water. It is life, for me. I can’t imagine… I don’t want to imagine a world without music. So, we’re having to invent, and re-imagine a lot of things right now. But, it’ll be interesting to see what things look like in another year from now, too.

LG: I really hope things keep getting better, but I keep saying that and it keeps getting worse. So, maybe I’ll stop saying that!

CM: Hahaha, don’t want to jinx it, right?

LG: Right! You’re working on a few things, as you mentioned. When can we expect to hear that?

CM: Well, my production team and I were hoping to get “Phantom” put together this month, which might be ambitious because it has a lot of parts to it. So, we’re also working on another easier one. It’s instrumental, first of all, and though I don’t have the opportunity of an orchestra at my disposal right now, it’s going to be for piano. Then, I’ll use my synth to do the other parts that go with it. It’s a piece called, “Butterfly.” For me, it’s a symbol that’s been with me a long time. I know a lot of people are like, “Oh, butterfly. Girly; pretty.”

For me, the butterfly represents long suffering. If you think about it, it’s this super delicate creature. The monarch goes through this incredible journey. It has to first survive winter in the mountaintops of Mexico, and if the wind blows the wrong way when it’s hibernating, it falls to the ground; it’s instant death with the frost. If it survives that, in the springtime, it can finally drink from the stream of water. I mean, do the math: butterfly; a stream of water. That’s dangerous as all heck, right?

LG: Right.

CM: So, if it survives that, then it has to migrate thousands of miles from Mexico to Canada. Then, it can drink from the flowers in the summer. I was like, “Damn! That creature’s amazing.” It’s always inspired me that I can rise above my challenges if I choose to not give up; keep looking you can find a way. I see it as a creature of tenacity. Probably no one’s ever said that before.

LG: Uh, I can’t say I’ve heard that one before!

CM: Yeah, right?! But, it’s just also very beautiful imagery and the way that I’m playing the piano for it; my hands kind of move the way a butterfly’s wings move. There’s just a lot of depth to that creature, for me, and a lot of inspiration. So, that’ll definitely get released, hopefully by the end of January, as well. There’s a lot of stuff that I’m working on. Trying to do it as fast as I can, but also at the same time with a full team. That’s a bit of a new experience for me, so, I’m looking forward to finding out, myself.

LG: It sounds great. Tell me more about this team you’re working with?

CM: I’m working with a professional photographer, professional videographer; I have a lighting guy, a sound engineer, and a little help from some other friends. We’re actually going to get me styled, so I’m going to bring in a makeup artist; have a headpiece designed. I don’t want to give it all away…

LG: Just a little detail here and there.

CM: Yeah!

LG: Anything else you’d like to discuss before we wrap this meeting up?

CM: I just want to give a shout-out to all the artists right now that are going through that ambiguous time of “Who am I?” I think for non-creatives that must be – I don’t know it must be different. But, as a person who sees creativity through everything, for me, I just know that as long as we keep staying true to what’s inside of our hearts: keep creating; keep making; keep looking for the positives. Don’t stop creating that music. And, even if it seems like no one’s listening, that’s OK, because someday someone’s going to be listening. It’s times like these, whether we’re putting it on Facebook, or just sharing it in an email to a friend; it’s that music that helps get us through these times and it also helps us pull together. I just want to encourage them to keep on keeping on!

LG: That’s very inspiring. Thank you for your time!

CM: Thank you so much! I really appreciated this opportunity; it’s been fun!

LG: You’re very welcome!

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