Canadian jazz singer Holly Cole is big in Japan – and that’s no joke.
“At a certain point I was going four times a year. I like it a lot there, it’s so different though,” she says.
After the release of 1993’s Don’t Smoke in Bed, Cole made her first visit to the island nation. “I don’t really know what it was, but holy mackerel, did we fly out of the gate. The first time I went there it was like Beatlemania at the airport and I’ve never experienced that. I’m used to paying my dues. And paying them, and paying them, and paying them – that’s what jazz musicians usually do. And there I was just like, ‘you’ve got to be kidding me.’”
One of those trips left Cole and her band quite shaken up, no pun intended.
“We were there for the earthquake, the bad, bad, bad earthquake,” she says.
“We were in the hotel and it was swaying back and forth, stuff was falling from the ceiling on our heads. People were screaming and running and wiping out in the hallways … I was on a different floor than my band, and I was (thinking) ‘my band’s going to die, my crew’s going to die, it was absolutely horrible and so scary.”
The group was in Tokyo during the magnitude 9.0 Tohoku earthquake that triggered a deadly tsunami, and all suffered post traumatic stress after returning home to Canada. “Any shuddering sound like if my washing machine went on the spin cycle, it was, ‘oh my god, oh my god,’” she says.
And though a trip to Victoria from her home in Halifax carries a risk of earthquake, it’s not the first thing on her mind.
“I love it there, and so does the band. We’re playing with the symphony there which is wonderful. I always look forward to coming there and the band does too, because we always have great gigs. The symphony’s great – and even if we don’t play with the symphony – the crowd is great. People come and are vocal, active participants and really are clearly into the shows and I think there’s a really reciprocal vibe that happens.”
Cole loves performing her Christmas show and feels a strong connection to the holiday. “My first name’s Holly which is pretty Christmassy, then Cole, like a lump of coal in your stocking and I’m born on Nov. 25, exactly a month before Christmas so there’s a lot of Christmas stuff in my life.”
In fact her first EP, released in 1989, was a Christmas record. “It was on vinyl too, that was a long time ago,” she says.
She describes the show, Christmas with Holly Cole as about sharing the Christmas spirit along with having some fun.
“I find I spend a lot of time poking a stick at Christmas a little bit in the commercialism and stuff – it’s kind of easy to make fun of that … But I’ll tell you one thing, I’m working hard making Santa seem sexy up there. It takes a lot of work to make Santa seem kind of sexy.”
The show includes favourite Christmas tunes along with Cole’s unique interpretations of jazz and pop favourites.
“I’m craving and loving coming back to Victoria, it’s been a few years. I love the venue, I love the symphony and I just love the vibe of the city and the energy of the crowd, there’s no bad gigs there, and not only that, I feel like the crowd anticipates me coming and I anticipate going there.”