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Colette Lush: Shaking the R&B Game

Her bio reads singer, songwriter, graphic artist and professional ginger – the latter of which couldn’t be more fitting. Insert Colette Lush The Ginger, who is here to shake up the R&B game with her smooth, sultry vocals and soulful, free spirit. Three years ago, the Rancho Santa Margarita native stood before Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban during an audition for “American Idol,” receiving praise that would leave any aspiring singer in awe.

As Colette stood on stage covering the Jackson 5’s “Who’s Loving You,” she later found out J. Lo had compared her to Carrie Underwood, one of the biggest stars to come out of the nationally-aired show. Now at 22 years old, Colette is fully committed and ready to unleash her artistry on the world, creating records inspired by real-life experiences and truths.  

As she settles into her new home in Los Angeles, her face lights up at the thought of her favorite boba place back home in Irvine, Cha For Tea. Irvine Weekly caught up with Colette Lush on the heels of the release of her project “Seven-One.”

For those who don’t know, who is Colette Lush The Ginger?

She is a sunburnt singer. I do R&B. I’m a creative person. I’m just working and trying to create something that’s special to me.

Where do you fit in the realm of R&B and hip-hop?

There’s a little bit more of a pop side to me. But there’s also more of a soft vibey side of my music, which is more mellow than hip-hop, where it’s like going, going, going. [laughs]

Talk about being born in Texas but raised in the O.C. How old were you when you came over?

I was born in Dallas and my parents lived in Tyler. I don’t know much of it because we moved when I was 4, but I remember I got a lot of mosquito bites. My parents really loved it there. My dad got a job in California so we moved to this lake community that’s pretty white trash. [chuckles] I always make a joke that everybody there had a shitty neck tattoo and a heroin addiction. Then we moved to Orange County and I went to high school out there. It was nice, I just feel like a lot of people there grow up, go school, get married. That’s their thing.

Photo courtesy of Maddy Crouch

What city are you from exactly?

I was living more in Rancho Santa Margarita, it’s kind of by Mission Viejo. But I spent way too much time in Irvine and Laguna Beach. I would go to both of those.

Did you watch “Laguna Beach”?

I didn’t. It was on and I remember people around me watching it, but my parents didn’t like me watching reality TV shows when I was little.

I used to go to Irvine to visit my brother and escape L.A. How does being from O.C. play into your life and career?

It’s forced me to want to be a little bit more unique. It’s a beautiful place and I’m grateful that I got to grow up there, but I wouldn’t choose to settle down there. Maybe Irvine, just because I love Irvine. [chuckles] But other than that, Laguna Beach and those other areas aren’t my favorite. The energy is similar to a lot of boujee areas in L.A. where it’s very money-based.

What was the household like growing up, music-wise?

I grew up every weekend with my dad blasting classic rock down in the garage. I was always above the garage so it would wake me up every weekend. My parents both sing, neither of them are very good. I was actually really quiet in the house. They’d go to bed really early, so I would be in my room very silently playing guitar.

How important is it to come to L.A. as an up-and-coming artist?

It’s important for networking purposes. For 5 years, I drove back and forth. I’ve been pursuing music for 6 years now, and I’ve been living in L.A. for about a year. When it came to sessions and things like that, it wasn’t too bad for me to commute, but when it comes to little events that are really important to go and network, it’s good to be in the area. You can be like “it’s only 15-20 minutes drive, okay I’ll go.” As opposed to an hour or hour and a half.

What made you land in Monterey Park?

I’m broke. [laughs] There’s a lot of families, so it felt safe. And they have Asian food. I love Asian food.

I was gonna say, the comparisons to Irvine.

Yeah, it’s very similar. There’s one street that’s five minutes away from me, and it has three boba places right next door to each other. I go there way too often.

Do you get regular boba?

I like regular boba, but I always get the peach or mango green tea. The regular sized balls, not the mini ones. Those lose all the flavor. If you go to Cha, you have to get the mango green tea.

At what point did you realize this music thing was for real?

When I was in a situation when I was forced to start taking care of myself. I moved to L.A. and I had nobody. The people that I was working with weren’t being very helpful. I had this mindset of people can help make it happen for you, so that made it kick into gear like, “Okay, I gotta work my ass off.” Now I feel really confident in my artistry and who I am.

Was there a moment where you said “this what I want to do for the rest of my life”?

Always. I mean, I almost went to college for fashion design. Two weeks before, I just had a big gut feeling like, “I can’t do this.” So I never went to college and I’ve been pursuing music. That’s always just been my vision.

“Say Less” is such a vibe. Talk about your mind state in creating this one.

I was in the mountains and there was a guy there that I had a crush on. [giggles] And he wouldn’t shut up. He was flirting and he was talking way too much. I literally was like “say less,” because I just wanted him to make a move and kiss me, or do something. I’d actually driven away from the cabin and was sitting in a parking lot, and started humming the chorus. Then I went back and recorded it.

Were you hiding out there to write or were just vacationing?

Well he was also an artist. It was me and a big group, we were all creating music. I wanted to step away from them so I could create something on my own.

Does he know it’s about him?

Yes.

Are you guys together!?

No.

What was the inspiration behind your name?

It was something I thought was really funny in high school. Colette Lush is my real name, then I started making the joke of “oh if you don’t know me, I’m the ginger one.” Because I wasn’t super popular, so I’d be like “oh yeah, I’m the ginger one in that group.”

You also released Seven-One this year — is it an EP or mixtape?

I like calling it a mixtape, but people call it everything. Whatever they call it, it doesn’t bother me either way.

Talk about the creative process and how long it took you.

Three of songs were two years old, so they were just things I reproduced and redid. The other four songs were probably done in three month’s time, but each song was done in a day. I think I could have done it all in a week, I just have two day jobs that I juggle in between music so… [laughs] I work at two bars: 90 Love in West Hollywood and Marine Room Tavern in Laguna Beach doing bottle service.

Still?

Currently, yeah.

I was a server for 9 years, so I feel you.

Really? Oh god, it’s so gross.

I look back and I’m like “kind of miss it!”

It’s good money, it’s quick money, but the people can be horrible to deal with.

What are some of your favorite records?

“Please” is definitely one of my favorites, just because I remember the mindset I was in when I wrote it. It was very honest and I played it for the person I was with. I was like, “Hey listen to lyrics, please don’t leave me.” [laughs] I really love “T-Shirt” too, that was written as part of these poems I would write when I couldn’t fall asleep. And “Don’t” is one of my favorites, because that’s the only song on the project not about me. That was about my friend who was having a lot of marriage issues. She talked to me about it and I wrote it about her.

I was watching your “Cry” visual. Talk about what goes behind your visuals.

Well to be candid, I normally do a song and if I’m really excited about it, I’ll get a little stoney baloney and I’ll lay on my floor and listen to it over and over again. Then I see the visual and that’s what I end up making. But I like everything to have the vibe of kind of vintage and kind of ratchet. [chuckles] Easy. Kind of shitty, but on purpose.

What is it you want fans to get from your story?

I just want people to not feel alone. I know it’s kind of corny and cliche but for me, I had a really hard time communicating when I was growing up. I was really shy, and the only time that I really felt comfortable is when I was listening to somebody else’s lyrics.

Talk about your stint with American Idol. What was it like receiving praise from J. Lo?

It was so cool. Really cool. Honestly, during the audition, I thought I was gonna get a “no” for sure. Looking at the tape and hearing what she said – my view has obviously changed but in the actual moment, I thought she was giving me a stank eye. I thought she didn’t like me, but that’s someone I really, really respect. She has one of the best work ethics in my opinion. It was a really cool moment.

What was the best part of the whole experience?

Learning how strong I was under pressure. I didn’t realize that about myself until I was running on two to three hours of sleep and still had to perform, and do a whole bunch of shit the next day.

What was the worst part?

Being really stressed and not knowing what was going on. A lot times, we were in the bottom of a hotel and nobody knew what was going on. You couldn’t talk to anyone. You couldn’t sleep. You couldn’t drink caffeine because it drys out your vocal chords, so we would all be sitting there silent. We couldn’t practice our songs, then all of the sudden they’d be like, “Get on stage. Run! Now!” Kind of just jolty. I think they did it though to test us. Overall, it was cool that they did it, but it was definitely stressful to go through.

What is your take on the music industry?

From my experiences, I think it can be very dark. There’s a lot of people that don’t always have your back, but also there’s a lot of good people that want to help you succeed. They want to see good music be made at the end of the day. I guess. [shrugs]

What are some goals for yourself as an artist at this point of your career?

I would love to get on some really big playlists, that’s really important to me. I would love to get touring. I want to be opening for somebody or just doing a show here and there. I just want to perform. All of January, I’ll be in the studio just creating, so I’m really excited to see what comes out of that and what that sounds like. I feel like we go through certain stages, and my moving to L.A. was a transitional period. I was going through a lot. It was a really rough time for me, but I always knew I was gonna get through it and it was an important time. Now, I’m in a point of outgrowth. I’m growing out of working my jobs so I’m gonna be able to solely work on music soon.

How important is social media for your career?

Really important. I actually hate posting on Instagram and I hate the numbers game, but I do think it’s really important to connect with people, and for people get to know me and see my personality. I get to talk to them and see what they’re going through. I like hearing what songs people really connect to and the stories behind why.

Photo courtesy of Maddy Crouch

What’s a normal day in the life? Walk us through.

When I’m being really productive, it’s wake up, do some yoga, go to the studio, come home, plan out how I wanna do the visual. If it’s a day when I’m filming the visual, I’ll get up, grab all my props, make my props, get all ready, shoot the visual, and spend the whole rest of the day and night editing. It really depends what I’m doing that day, but I normally take a lot of hours and fully invest myself in whatever I’m doing.

What do you like to do for fun?

Work on music. [laughs] I don’t have too much time just ‘cause I’m always working my day jobs and my free time goes always to music. But if I get a free day, I like to go to the mountains. I like going to Lake Arrowhead.

How far is that?

About two hours. It feels like home to me and it’s very calming. I like doing anything active. I love going rock climbing, ice skating or rollerblading. I like going dancing, but I’m not a big drinker. I’ll normally go with a Red Bull, dance for an hour, and then go home.

3 things you need in the studio?

A water bottle. My phone, because that’s where I write all my lyrics. Maybe a Powerbar in case I get hungry in the middle of it. I always have candy too. I’m trying to eat less sugar lately, but I normally have Good & Plenty or Mike and Ikes. Those are my top two.

What would you be doing if you weren’t doing music?

I don’t see myself doing anything else to be honest. I can’t see myself being happy doing anything else. Someday, I would love to do some fashion stuff. I would love to do a line. I would love to do makeup, because I like that stuff. I would like to be a collector of something, maybe a certain type of art or antique. Other than that, maybe traveling the world and being one of those random people that jumps on trains.

Who’s the most played artist on your phone?

Bryson Tiller, he’s someone I always go back to. Him or Booker T, which is kind of random because he’s not poppin’ right now.

Dream collab?

Bryson Tiller, or anybody who has a really soulful voice. I like R&B, so I respect really good voices and lyrics.

What’s the best encounter you had with a fan?

I did a little hole-in-the-wall show for “Seven-One”. It was a very acoustic show, like 50 people. There was somebody in the crowd that was singing all my lyrics. That was one of the coolest moments I’ve had so far.

What advice do you have for an aspiring Colette Lush?

It’s important that you have a really strong vision of who you are and what you want your sound to be like. There’s a lot of really pretty voices, and you really need to be creative and think outside of the box if you wanna do something with it.