Eugene Cole possesses exceptional creative talent, a one-of-a-kind signature sound, and an incredible vocal range (4 octaves), which allows him to capture an audience and make even the most prominent venue feel intimate. In addition to singing, Eugene is also a songwriter, lyricist, and self-taught musician. Known as "Gene-o" in some circles, his gift for song will inspire you to believe in love and romance.
I'd like to know about your background. What made you decide to pursue music? Where are you from? I'm from San Francisco, California. My involvement in the music industry began in high school after watching the show "The White Shadow," which inspired me to start singing in the shower after games with a few friends. I only began singing in church when I was seven because my mother made me do it.
Singing wasn't something that I ever thought of making my life's focus. I wanted to play professional basketball. Nothing else. That was my focus. But like most things, I didn't put in the time necessary, and due to a significant injury, that dream went out the window. To start putting effort into anything else, I had to give up the vision in my head. So that is how I got started in music.
How did you begin your professional career? I was home on vacation from college when I was approached by the then Lethal Records President, Jeff Clanagen, who now serves as President & Chief Distribution Officer of "Hartbeat," Kevin Hart's global, multi-platform media company. Over the years, he became a family friend and signed me to the label. I attribute my interest in the music industry to his encouragement. I will always be grateful to him for that. My first single, "Daddy's Home," did well during Desert Storm, as I had performed on many large stages before signing my deal. The rest is history. That first deal with Jeff and Lethal Records set me up for a successful career in the record industry.
Is there a genre of music you would like to try besides the one you usually sing? I enjoy singing any genre that has love as its focus. Most recently, Country music has stood out more for me. The storytelling and the emotion that goes into the songs are incredible. A longtime friend of mine, Norma Pederson, used to play country all the time when I was younger, and I thought she was crazy, but now we laugh about the fact that I listen to country music as much as I do.
As I've grown older, I've also gravitated toward Classic Rock. Often, it is the passion in the lyrics and delivery of a song that attracts me the most. Classic-Twist, a new project I'm working on, will shock the world. This album will appeal to classic rock fans (Toto, Journey, Chicago, The Eagles) and old-school R&B lovers (Luther Vandross, Phil Perry, Teddy Pendergrass, Peabo Bryson).
My two pals, Roman Palacios and Daniel Hendrick, internationally recognized tenors, and I have also dabbled in opera over the years. They got me involved in opera several years back, and although I would never have thought it possible, with their guidance and experience, I've been able to hold my own.
What would you say it is like if you were to describe the process of "making it" in this industry? It all depends on your definition of "making it." If you enter the business thinking that "making it" means large stages, lots of money, lots of tours, TV appearances, etc., you will be disappointed often. I went into music thinking "making it" meant traveling the world, making a ton of money, and meeting many women. And yes, I had a chance to do that for a while, but I still had not "made it." I am still working on the definition of "making it" because I have been traveling the world on the big stage with big names in all actuality, which means that I have been a part of their success, not my legacy.
For my music to reach the world stage and bring people together based on LOVE and what my music does to their hearts would be "making it" for me. Whenever I hear someone say one of my songs touches them, that means much more than travel, money, or the lights. The fact that the gift that I have been blessed with can touch the heartstrings around the world matters more than anything I could ever tell you.
Hence, the definition of "making it" is wide open. Many people love the message in my music, so I will continue working towards "making it" a household name. That will be "making it" to me.
Can you tell me about the people you have worked with throughout your career? I have had the privilege of working with so many artists - Claytoven Richardson, N2Deep, Mac Dre, Baby Beesh, Tank, Eric Darius, Jonathan Fritzen, Kenneth Crouch, A.B.C. - Another Bad Creation, Dino, Karyn White "Super Woman," The Jets, Euge Groove, Howard Hewitt, Cal Harris Jr., and Brian O'Neal of The Bus Boys. I had the opportunity to come out of the audience to sing on stage with Patti Labelle on one occasion in Reno, which was a highlight for sure. She has been one of my favorites over the years, and the experience was terrific. Lastly, I was part of Lenny Williams' band, former lead singer of Tower of Power, for many years until he "fired" me. We laugh about that all the time. And my mentor, Phil Perry, is one of my all-time favorite singers, and I am lucky enough to consider him a great friend I talk to regularly. There are others, but that is a snapshot.
In your opinion, what is the best and worst part of being an independent artist? It is no different than the best and worst of being with a major label; it's what you make of it. I find the same issues in both cases. But I also see the blessing and opportunities in both. I'm not particularly eager to look at these options as best or worse. I like to consider them gifts that were in small packages and oversized packages. I still need to take the ribbon off the big box. But this year will be the year to take the ribbon off the big box and share it with the world.
The new CD, Everything and More, is the gift I am putting together for the world to share with me once it is opened.
Is there a song you've released that you thought would do well but didn't? If you've had an experience like that, please tell me about it. I don't have a situation like that. Every song released over the past six or seven years has done very well, not to mention that a couple of songs have even hit the billboard charts. Again, it all depends on how you look at the situation. I didn't have any expectations of what a song may or may not do. If the right industry partners picked it up, it would do well, and they all have. I think the same will happen with my 2022 remaster of "Just Like Christmas Before," which I wrote as a tribute to our military and their families. I genuinely believe that when AFN and the stations that service the U.S. military start playing the release, our military personnel will be touched and feel the warmth of home, and that will be successful enough for me.
Do you have a daytime job, or is music your full-time job? I am a full-time songwriter/artist.
How important is it that your friends and family support your music by purchasing and downloading your single? How crucial is their support for the success of your career?
I am eternally grateful for the support I've always received from my friends and family, but they have been listening to me forever without fail, so I think it's fair to say the support from the ones that haven't heard my music is what I'm really looking for now. That matters to me. That will be what really moves the needle going forward. That's what will be necessary to take it to the next level.
In your opinion, are likes and dislikes on social media an accurate assessment of the artist's talent, worth, or ability? No! That is not accurate at all. Likes and dislikes are "opinions" and even indicators of "flavor choice," but not always indicative of an artist's talent. Not everyone loves country music. The fact that you like old or new country music does not mean the artist is untalented. I don't like, nor listen to all of the artists of today's sound; but my preference isn't necessarily indicative of their talent.
When I was younger, I didn't listen to every style of music, nor did I pay attention to what people were saying because if I liked it, it didn't matter if it was on billboard or not. It was being played on my car stereo. Social media can sometimes be a little harsh with their opinions, and an unsophisticated palette shouldn't set standards for the creative process. And to any artist affected by what people say on social media about your music, don't make music because no matter how incredible it is, it won't be incredible to everyone. I'm working on changing that, but for right now, that is what it is.
What do people who hear your music say about your vocal style, and what sets you apart from other vocalists? "Luther." "Crooner." "Smooth." Most people that hear my music realize immediately that I love to write for women and tell them how important they are to the world. No matter what they are going through, we wouldn't exist without them. I make sure that comes across in every song I sing and will continue to bring that "old-school" mentality and vibe. “Love” is the theme of any music you hear from me, and people can feel it; that is what I mostly hear.
How would you describe your music to those who have never heard it? If you want to touch someone's heart and soul, play my music. It's honest. It shows vulnerability from a man's point of view and the willingness to see the areas where we could grow. I will tell any man to listen and to understand it's okay to be vulnerable and still be strong. It's not one or the other. You can do both and, believe me. I try to learn new ways every day.
Do you write and produce your music? Most of it. Especially lyrically. I write 95% of my songs unless they're covers. I employ other people's talents; I do some, but that side of playing and producing is not my lane, and I try to stay in my lane when it comes to music to give myself a fair shot at taking it to the next level.
What would you like to see change in the music industry? I would like to see them bring back some of the older more polished artistry. A certain musicality has always been present in the old school of musicians, but it is missing from some of the music of the newer generation. I would like to see that change.
In your opinion, what's the solution to illegal downloading? I don't have a solution or idea on that issue. With technology the way it is, I think if we say too much about what we should do to stop it, they will figure out a way to stop it altogether, which would hurt all of us, so that I will take the 5th on this one.
What is your opinion about vinyl records, and do you think they will ever come back as strong as they were before? I liked the vinyl record era, but it will never come back strong. Today's listeners don't have the patience to do the record store or play a record and take care of it; I think that era is gone for good, at least here in the US. I don't know about other countries.
What do you like and dislike about today's music industry? As stated, the industry doesn't support artists like it used to. It takes so much more to get noticed and make a career. Streaming now drives the industry, and the individual artist has taken the hit. It's so different than the way that it used to be. What is the industry doing for artists? Having been in the industry for decades, I've seen a major change in the industry culture.
How do you prepare yourself mentally for public opinion (either positive or negative) when you're preparing for a new song release? I don't! I will only release what I believe expresses me and what I do. Some will like it, and some won't. I hope to stay on the side of the ones that do. And for those who don't, they may be. It just takes time for that right song from me to tug on their heart, and then they will become new fans for life.
Have you ever felt so discouraged in this business, for whatever reason, that you just wanted to give up? For Sure! I wanted to give it up as recently as a few months before my latest deal. During the pandemic, I turned my hand to a different kind of writing and fell in love with it, and now I have released two novels and one children's book. I am glad I took time off from music to do it. But, yes, several times as an artist, you don't feel that you are getting the attention or notoriety you deserve, and that sucks for anyone striving to make it and not feeling like they are being given a real chance. If it weren't for the fans that follow me who continually reach out with love and curiosity for when the next song is coming out, I would have given this up a long time ago. But I love what I do. I do it even more for my real followers.
What is your favorite album/song, and how many singles/albums have you released? I have two full albums and about ten singles, not to mention songs on compilation albums with other artists.
How did you create inspiration for your latest album or song? How can people purchase it? Is it available now? My latest song, "Just like Christmas Before," was inspired while watching a Hallmark movie. A couple was away from home, stuck somewhere on Christmas but remembering what it was like when they were able to get home to their families. The incident made me want to express my sincere apologies to our military families who are going through similar challenges. So, I did what I know I do well: put it into music and put it out there—the global release date was Nov 22, 2022. The new CD, Everything and More, will be coming out in the Spring of 2023, and you don't want to miss it. It is going to be "fire!"
Is there one thing you want your fans to know about being an independent artist that you would like them to hear directly from your heart? The platform may be smaller, but the music is still the same. Considering the major changes over the last 20 – 30 years in the music industry, your support of independent artists is critical in efforts to keep the music industry alive. The effort it takes to get your music heard as an Independent when you don't have the strong arm of a large label is intense and expensive. You have to do everything yourself. It is a labor of love, so everything you do to show your support is appreciated; every download matters.
What advice would you give to new artists entering the changing industry? It's not a cakewalk; you'll have to work hard because there are so many new artists and music vying for fans' attention. Be about your craft! Believe in yourself and what you do. Make sure you are creating a quality product you love to withstand the industry's challenges. Don't put too much energy into "making it"; instead, recognize that giving your best effort to create something you love is a goal you have control over.
Ask yourself one question, what does "making it" mean to you? Be clear on your expectations; this will prevent you from going crazy, as I have. Narrow down what's important and stick to it. Don't give up if you believe in what you are doing; that's true for music or anything else.
My love to you and your journey. My support is for you always as the person first, and I wish that you get a chance to enjoy "making it" and continue honoring your person and your passion for a very long time to come.
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Artist page: https://www.facebook.com/TheEugeneCole/
Record Label page: https://jegmultimediagroup.com/
Album: Everything and More anticipated in Summer 2023 (see Discography on Website)
Record Label: JEG Multimedia Group
Facebook - IG: https://www.instagram.com/geneomusic
YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/@gene-o
Photo credits: Roman Palacios Photography