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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Denis Coleman On ‘pillowTHOUGHTS,’ His Songwriting Process, and Mental Health

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Denis Coleman On ‘pillowTHOUGHTS,’ His Songwriting Process, and Mental Health

Welcome to our exclusive interview with Denis Coleman! Denis is truly one of the most exciting rising stars in the industry right now. Eloquent and erudite, Denis would seem like an old soul if it weren’t for the fact his music is some of the most innovative in pop! Even if you don’t know him (yet!), your faves do – he’s toured with the likes of The Vamps, HRVY, and Why Don’t We; plus he can call James Arthur a fan!

[apple_music_ad artist=”Denis Coleman” song=”pillowTHOUGHTS”]

Denis’ most recent single ‘pillowTHOUGHTS’ is an exploration of late-night reminiscing and sees Denis step into pop-punk territory for the first time. We were honored to chat with Denis Coleman about ‘pillowTHOUGHTS’ and so much more in this exclusive interview!

​We’ve heard the brand new single ‘pillowTHOUGHTS’ and we love the pop-punk influences so much! What inspired you to head in this direction?
Thanks for having me! With ‘pillowTHOUGHTS,’ I wanted to capture the pleasure and solace that can be found in painful memories, and few genres have captured that dichotomy more poignantly than pop-punk. Producing the song was a long process, and the song changed many times, evolving through different styles and genres. Ultimately, however, it was this take on pop-punk that felt the most sonically interesting, emotionally impactful, and true to the song.

​​The lyricism of ‘pillowTHOUGHTS’ intertwines so perfectly with the production. Can you talk to us a little bit about the contrasts in the story of this song?
Absolutely. I wrote ‘pillowTHOUGHTS’ about the night-time overthinking that comes after a lost relationship – the strange balance between wanting to move on but finding a hollow comfort in reminiscing about what could have been. I tried to capture this self-sabotage in all its beautiful ugliness, the way it preys on anxieties and discolors happiness. I wanted to convey how overwhelming these thoughts could be, making each line of the chorus bleed into the next like thoughts cascading through the mind as the lyrics becoming increasingly extreme and panicked. Looking back on the song now, I think it might be more about the pre-pandemic era as a whole than any individual person.

​​As both a writer and a producer, which usually comes to you first, the lyrics or the track?
The track almost always comes first. I find that I’m most inspired when listening to a really exciting empty track or beat that’s ready for a vocal. It gives me stylistic direction and a guide for the emotional cadences of the track. I’m not synesthetic but I often picture colors and images when I listen to music, and I draw on these visual cues when crafting the topline. Once the song is more or less there, I revisit the track, sometimes changing it completely – which was the case for ‘pillowTHOUGHTS.’

Image Source: Sam Leviton

​​Are there any particular pop-punk artists or songs that you love that have inspired your sound?
While quintessential pop-punk bands like Paramore and All Time Low certainly played a part, I felt truly inspired by a lot of my contemporaries, new pop-punk artists who were really challenging the genre, exploring and pushing it to its limits. I was captivated by artists like brakence, renforshort, and WILLOW, who were all harnessing pop-punk to convey their songs and their vision in a way that felt refreshing and personal. That’s what I sought to emulate on ‘pillowTHOUGHTS.’

​​We love the music videos you post on TikTok! How do you choose which songs you cover? Which would you say is harder to create, mashups or covers?
I try to stay fresh! I generally choose new releases that I enjoy and attempt to make them my own. Mashups are slightly more complex, as they involve multiple songs which have to be combined in just the right way, but I love the challenge.

​​We also saw that James Arthur duetted your verse on ‘Medicine!’ What was your reaction when you saw that?
I was buzzing. James Arthur is a legend, a great artist, and it was nice to know that he had seen my verse and enjoyed it.

​​We follow you on Instagram too of course and love your style, it’s very representative of Gen Z. Who are your fashion icons?
Conan Gray, A$AP Rocky, Travis Scott, Machine Gun Kelly, Dominic Fike.

​In ‘Tangerine,’ you hint at the importance of making sure you’re genuine on social media. How has that idea impacted how you interact with fans online, especially throughout the pandemic?
It’s something I constantly think about and wrestle with. I often find myself turning my feed into the kind of highlight reel that’s responsible for making social media so detrimental to mental health. At the same time, however, I want to make sure I’m giving my fans the best possible content and entertainment. It’s a fine line. Often, I try to use captions to share some of my personal thoughts and challenges in an effort not only to be transparent but to help anyone who’s struggling feel less alone.

​​‘Magpie’ reflects on toxic masculinity and falsities. Honesty is something that reappears throughout your work, what draws you to these themes?
All of my music is ultimately a reflection of myself. The subjects that I tackle in my music are the subjects that I find interesting, intriguing, or can relate to. Honesty is something that’s very important to me, so it often worms its way thematically into my art. Other themes of modern relationships, online reality, and escapism continue to play a big role in my upcoming work.

​​You’re a great role model for fans! What inspires you to campaign for mental health awareness, especially within schools?
Thank you so much! Mental health is something that’s very important to me. I first got involved in mental health charities and campaigns when I was 15 after one of my closest friends suffered a mental health crisis. I was looking for a way to understand the issues and help others better than I was able to help him. As I gained more experience as a mental health spokesperson, I started to notice the power of conversation and “awareness.” I began to receive messages from the students I had spoken to, telling me that the talk had encouraged them to reach out to a friend or get the help they needed. Since then, I’ve personally witnessed fans and students overcome so much, and their resilience and determination inspire me to keep going every day.

​​You’ve released a few singles so far this year, and we can’t help but ask if we can look forward to an EP or album any time soon?
Yes, you can! My EP will drop this autumn – stay tuned!

Image Source: Sky Rizzo

​​We’re so excited that you’re going on tour with Here At Last and The 202 this fall! What part of being back on the road are you most looking forward to?
I can’t wait to spend time with everyone on tour and be surrounded by incredibly talented, inspiring musicians again. I’m very excited to experience the euphoric adrenaline rush of live performance again. But most of all, I want to be able to stand in a room and talk to my fans, the people that have kept me going despite all of the past year’s adversities, who have supported me even while fighting battles of their own and who have been there for each other.

​​You’ve previously toured with some incredible artists, such as The Vamps, New Hope Club, and Why Don’t We. What do you think are the biggest things you learned through those experiences?
I learned so much, the list is genuinely endless. There are three things that have truly stuck with me, however. Firstly, tremendous respect for the hard work and talent that every single person on stage dedicated to the show. Secondly, the realization that live music is 100% a team sport – the sound engineer, tour manager, drummer, promoter, etc. are all just as important as the lead singer when it comes to building a live performance. Lastly, no one is perfect. I learned how to cope with small mistakes and accidents and ensure that the show went on no matter what the night threw in our way.

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​​We love the music video for ‘Wrong Reasons’ (a banger, by the way), which you wrote and directed yourself! What made you decide to take on that challenge?
Thanks! Simple, I love film! I act as well as sing and am very interested in writing and directing. After brainstorming video concepts, I had such a strong, clear idea of how the Wrong Reasons video should look, that it made sense for me to direct. The final product ended up being frighteningly similar to what I had envisioned in my head, so I guess it worked – for better or worse.

Can we expect more directing from you in the future?
You certainly can! I’m always heavily involved in my visuals, and I plan to continue being involved in every way possible.

Thank you so much for chatting with us, Denis! We can’t wait for the EP!

Don’t forget to catch Denis on tour with Here At Last and The 202. The tour kicks off in London in November and you can grab tickets here!

What did you think of Denis Coleman and our interview? What are your thoughts on ‘pillowTHOUGHTS?’ Let us know over on Twitter @TheHoneyPOP!


Featured Image Source: Afnan Acharki, The Honey POP Graphics Team

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