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MUSIC Cor.Ece: Queer singer on journey, 'The Chi' and 'hopeful electro-soul'
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times

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Cor.Ece is a singer/songwriter who, unlike most people, seems to have found his niche: making inspiring music that he calls "hopeful electro-soul."

He is now based in Los Angeles, but has literally traveled the country while increasing his visibility. ( Editor's note: While in Chicago, he wrote for Windy City Times under the byline "Mark Corece." ) Part of that increased visibility includes one of his songs, "Get Up," being on the July 26 episode of the Showtime series The Chi—which is produced by friend Lena Waithe.

Windy City Times: How have you been doing during this pandemic?

Cor.Ece: I've leaned into creativity as soon as I could. When I first found out about the lockdown, I thought I would get bogged down, so I thought I'd find a project to do around my house until I was ready to write music. So that's what I did most of the time, at first.

As it got longer, it was more about day-to-day things and trying to find balance, which I'm always trying to do.

WCT: Creatively, I don't know if it's a good or bad thing to have too much time.

C: Hmmm… That's a really interesting point. Wait: Now that I think about it, I don't think there's such a thing as too much time. It can be good to have more and more time to create. I can sit in a studio and create work two or three days in a row. Some really beautiful and powerful stuff can come from having so much time. Before the quarantine, I didn't have enough time and I was trying to build time.

WCT: You've been on quite the journey—but I mean, more specifically, a geographical one. You're from St. Louis, but you've lived in Chicago, New York City and Los Angeles.

C: Yes; I'm living in L.A. right now. The initial stop in Chicago was about school and my creative experience, but I went to New York on a lark. I wasn't sure what I was going to do and a really close friend of mine planned on going to grad school [there]; I said, "If you get into grad school, I'll move in with you." With L.A., I just threw caution to the wind, although I had work opportunities. I decided New York was too cold and I decided to try L.A.

WCT: New York was too cold after living in Chicago?

C: [Laughs] I love Chicago, but notice I wasn't there anymore. [Both laugh.] But with L.A., I wanted to continue to be inspired—and I wanted to get some sun. Two years later, I'm still here.

WCT: You classify your music as "hopeful electro-soul." Tell me what you're hopeful about.

C: I'm hopeful about as much as I can be hopeful. [Laughs] Because I have that capacity with myself, I try to bring it into my work as much as possible. If there is any light in what many consider to be a dark time—whether it's politics; killings happening around Black or trans people; or the financial state of this country—I try to use my art to inspire, even if that sounds cliche.

WCT: And are you hopeful about the social-justice awakening some have had?

C: It's interesting because I remember being an activist when I was a teen; that was based on being a queer person in what was sometimes an unsafe situation. I then went to a camp where I got my foundation on social-justice work; back then, we got pushback.

But this "awakening"—it's really beautiful to see because I know how hard it was to have those conversations 10 or 15 years ago. Even during a time many see as darkness, I see that some people are unpacking the history of this country. And this is where I find hope. Hope can't just come from me; it has to be this reciprocal experience for all of us.

WCT: Let's move on—or back, rather—to your music. Your song "Get Up" was recently on The Chi. How did that come about?

C: It came about because of a little belief in myself. Making the move to share my music with the world came with some doubt, initially. I knew Lena from working at a studio in Los Angeles, Relativity Media—and we've kept in touch over the years. I reached out to her and let her know that my album was done, and that I'd like to share it on any project she might be working on. She responded right back, and she took the time to listen to my whole album; I'm so grateful for that. She's been supportive of many artists.

WCT: If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?

C: Wow—I'm kind of emotional about this, because I've been thinking about Black women and how they've been treated for so many years in the industry. I wish I could change the history of that, but I've dedicated myself to being part of a space where women can show up however they want to, in all forms.

I have a band and a woman named Priscilla Perry, who sings background—but also is an accomplished artist in her own right. That's so important to me.

WCT: And how is the industry when it comes to LGBTQ+ musicians? Is it a case of "You've come a long way, but there's still a long way to go?"

C: That sounds like a complicated statement because it sounds like infinity; it's hard to feel hope from that. But I would say I am, in many ways, new to some areas of the industry—but I have seen a couple sides of it. I would say that people know the history of us, and how we were almost erased—having to hide who we are to appease society.

Chicago's own [queer hip-hop artist] Roy Kinsey has made strides in the music industry. There are people like Cakes da Killa and Honey Dijon, who's from Chicago and who I've worked with; she's a Black trans woman who's making strides around the world. There's enough room for all of us.

WCT: I spoke with someone not too long ago who said that his experiences in the music industry sometimes made him wish he never came out.

C: Hmmm… Yeah—especially when you get to the corporate area, you are intertwined with people who are so much into your career that it's hard for you to make choices for yourself. I think that in those instances that people find themselves in rigid spaces that they either choose to be a part of or become part of and not realize it.

That's why so many artists end up trying to get out of contracts. They're not doing what they want to do. I try to be intentional about the choices I make but feel gratitude because I stand on the shoulders of others. You think of someone like ['70s disco artist] Sylvester, who defined a time and sound—and who allowed people like me to have choices.

WCT: Sylvester might be one of your answers to my last question: If you could collaborate with any three musicians ( living or dead ), who would they be?

C: [Laughs] Why do you have to do me like this?

You know what? This might sound like a cop-out but I am working with a disco label right now so, yes, working with Sylvester would be amazing. I would also say Luther Vandross; I've been thinking about him a lot, especially with vocal acrobatics. And the last person is Solange, only because she brings a special soft and musically pretty energy as well as a vulnerability that I could use more of. Also, I think she's connected to some interesting artists, so I'd like to be in her musical space.

Cor.Ece is on Facebook and Instagram ( @cor.ece ), and his music is on Spotify, Soundcloud, Bandcamp and other platforms.

He is slated to be on Honey Dijon's album in February.

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