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Charis Cooper (/ˈkeɪrɪs/ /ˈkuːpə(r)/)

Musical artist, actor and writer of genre-leaping, literate songs with rock flavour.

During this pandemic, while we're all in lockdown, I'm making a special effort to entertain you all. I'm playing a weekly Facebook live set (facebook.com/iamchariscooper), and I've started a weekly vlog on YouTube: Quarantine Tunes, in which I'm sharing some music and my imaginary flatmate Liza-Marie. I'm determined to make life in lockdown suck a little less.

www.youtube.com/iamchariscooper

 

Music

Loved the mixture of intelligence, wit, punkish truculence and sheer musicality.”
...rocked our hearts.”
...this lady blew me away...”

Blog: Life And Other Absurdities

Not Slowing Down 

For some the world has actually slowed down since the lockdown. 
For me, as a creative, trying to keep my head above water, it's accelerated. 

I see the world whizzing past, and try not to pay attention to all the noise and the facts that the road underneath me keeps changing, and I'm not wearing a crash helmet. I keep my foot on the gas while I speed along without a map, changing course frequently to avoid crashing into unexpected objects. I 'm only scared though, if I think I've got to know what I'm doing, and that I've got to get things right first time. 

But there's no getting things right first time. You try something, and it might not work. You fail, you make adjustments, you fail a little better. 
Maybe I'm hooked on the adrenaline, but I get up each day, with the potential to exuberantly crash; and the challenge is to keep my eyes firmly on where I want to go; and to only look back at the wreckage to figure out a better way, one that works. 

And if you all see me crashing, may it be fun and spectacular to watch.

Let it Die. 

It’s been a strange few weeks. I’ve been watching, mostly from my window, how the world as we know it started collapsing, how the streets suddenly became quiet, and my mind pretty unquiet.   

And I didn’t care much for any silver linings. I didn’t want to blog about the empty supermarket shelves or share endless toilet paper memes.  I wanted to scream that one can’t eat silver linings, and where you all can shove them. I didn’t want to visit virtual galleries or do free courses. And I sure wasn’t about to start macrame or origami. I wanted to curl up and cry. I didn’t want to write a song about it, or write that dormant novel we’ve each got in us. I didn’t want to smile. I wanted to fall apart. I didn’t want to be strong, be the heroine the world needs. I wanted to be pathetic, and angry. I didn’t want to look for new opportunities, and didn’t want to add to the now imminent deluge of livestreams and online classes - I was determined to keep my lips locked and not let a single note escape them ever again.   

I wanted everyone to shut up, and let me bury my plans, my dreams, my security. Let me bury my passions, my hopes, my comfort. Let me bury my world and everything that’s familiar, let me lie in my unquiet grave and just feel the pain.   

I wanted there to be a voice to tell me, it’s okay, it’s okay to feel your grief. It’s okay to put your smile back into its box and kick it as far as you can. It’s okay to let the world turn without you for a bit. Nobody will even notice.   

And I felt like a failure for needing to, when everyone else seemed to manage just fine. But I can't cover up and can't pretend. And I don't care if I'm alone in saying it, but .... It’s okay to let yourself feel your grief.

Digging Up the Past 

I like researching for the songs I write. Recently this included reading the journals I wrote when I was in my early 20s. It’s not a very uplifting read, I’ve got to admit. It’s strange - you write something down and the passage of time becomes irrelevant. As soon as you read those lines you’re back there again. Like timetravel. 

I’m always surprised about how some utterly important things didn’t get the slightlest mention in my journals, but other things I took the trouble to record in great detail. Some of these things are quite heartbreaking to read, others make me laugh. Like the description of me being asked to play at a party but being aware of being too drunk to even tune my guitar. My surprise and delight at striking all the right chords in the right order are priceless. (Miracalously, it was still extremely well received…) 

I’ve never written songs specifically for an album before, but this time it looks like that’s what I’m doing. They’re not all set in the past, and not all about me, but so far I can say, they are probably the most honest tunes I’ve ever written.

Words. Words. Words. 

“Is tiredness a word?’ my daughter asked me just before bedtime. - "YES!!!” 
In my household we just got through chickenpox, and it feels like no matter what I do, my to-do-list is always at least 10 steps ahead of me. Actually, it’s towering over me, possibly because I get distracted by the chaos of my life, Brexit being one big chunk of it. Blog post, Charis, you meant to write a blog post, I remind myself as I catch myself scanning the news for any possible reassurances. It’s been a long day, I’m almost too tired to spell tiredness. I feel I’m about to come down with a cold or flu, and still my to do list is grinning at me. I’m almost too tired to care. It’s little things that I take comfort in, like - thank god, I remembered the recycling this time! (Though only because I heard my neighbour wheel his bin through the dark…) I’m too tired to feel excited about all the things I should be feeling excited about. Uncertainty wears you down. I find myself sitting on the stairs, in the dark, too tired to go to bed, reading the news on my phone. And I cry, because the Costa Amendment was voted through. I cry, out of gratitude to the man who chose to support EU citizens’ rights, although it meant losing his job. I cry, because I have been voiceless, and someone, who didn’t need to care at all, made it his business to speak in my stead. It is painful and terrifying to feel one doesn’t matter, and to have the government acknowledge one deserves to have one’s rights safeguarded - and to decide to act on it - feels huge. I’m so tired of this in-limbo-ness. I don’t even care if it’s a word.

Catch Me If You Can 

 

So far, this year I found myself spending not much time being a musician, but most of my time being an actor instead. 
Much as I miss music, it’s utterly unsettling and therefore exciting to do something new. I don’t know why, but I get bored so easily - I can’t ever see myself settling into a routine, or getting good at something and being content with that. 
I like getting to wear the white belt. I like learning new things. I like challenges. I like the feeling of achievement, too - but what do you do when you’ve reached a reasonable standard at something? Sure, there’s always more to learn, but it’s not the same as stepping totally out of your comfort zone. I always think of myself a little bit like the conman in the Spielberg movie ‘“Catch Me If You Can” - I like waking up, thinking, “What’s next? What am I doing today- and … can I get away with it?” 
I promise you, though, I won’t attempt surgery on you or flying you to your holiday destination. I’m happy enough getting to be different people on stage and screen.

Stretching to Be Tall Enough 

I remember my first encounter with the stage when I was a child very vividly. 

In the mundane context of holiday clubs in Italy and Grece, I found the meaning of life. I remember the awe and wonder I felt when spotting the amphitheatre recreated for the guests’ entertainment. I felt instinctively that it was more than that. (After all, early Greek theatres were very much like temples, dedicated to the God Dyonisus.) There was something magical and sacred about it, something that transcended everyday life. Instantly I turned into a worshipper, and I was drawn to it every night, regardless if I was to be on stage or in the audience; it was impossible to stay away. 

Of course I had not heard of Stella Adler back then, but I would have understood her perfectly. I would have agreed that getting on stage is nothing casual, and understood why no one slouches on Greek vases. 
She said: “The stage will always support you. It will never leave you. You can die on it, and it won’t leave you. When you die, it surrounds you. That’s even better. But you must always be worthy of standing on it, of receiving the stature it will confer on you.” 

I can still feel how tall I tried to stand in the vicinity of that amphitheatre. And I’m still stretching to stand tall, in the hope that when I eventually will die and you'll have to drag me off stage, I would have been worthy of it.

Living Out Loud - Resolution for 2019 and Beyond 

 

I’m trying not to make resolutions, but to be resolute in what I do. 
It’s the nature of life to provide challenges and struggles - I won’t let them throw me off track or keep me from being myself. 
Some days it feels like my self is being buried under a huge heap of worries, chores, responsibilities and fears. I will not let them distract me from what’s important. Somewhere among the wreckage and the rubble there’s a faint hint of my own dusty footprints that will always lead me back to myself. If not, I’ll draw them in the dirt myself. 

“If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you: I am here to live out loud.” -Emile Zola

Shut Up and Be Grateful 

It’s the time of the year when people are busy setting goals and making plans. I’ve got trouble focusing on anything but the fact, that I am one of three and half million people in the UK, who presently can’t make any plans for longer than a year ahead, because apparently we’re a threat to this country. 

In fact, a lot of my European friends’ plans include leaving this country. 

I can see a lot of you rolling your eyes and say, “Stop going on about it, it’ll be fine. They shouldn’t charge you to be able to stay, but stop moaning.”  
And I feel bad about even mentioning it, because I'm aware that, even after living here for 15 years, I'm still a guest here and I should shut up and be grateful.  

But this isn’t about being charged to stay. Because, actually, they charge us to APPLY to be allowed to stay. They’re not guaranteeing us any rights. Ever.  
Yes, they smile into our face and say, “oh, as long as you are who you say you are, have no criminal record, and let us put you on our register you’ll be able to stay.”  
But let’s face it, we could be rejected.  
Some of us could be rejected simply for making a mistake when filling out the paper work.  
Some of us could be rejected because the government makes a mistake.  
Some of us could be rejected for lacking the right documentation for something we never knew we needed documentation for.  
Some of us could be rejected for not being “desirable immigrants”, which doesn’t require involvement in any crime - low income, homelessness or similar would provide enough of a reason.  
Some of us could be rejected because our case worker is having a bad day.  

This government has worked hard to create a “hostile environment”, and it’s not only illegal immigrants who are made to feel unwelcome. I’m well aware of the fact that whoever will be going through my application will in all likelyhood just see me as a number or a name, to them I won’t be a person, I won’t be much more than a “low-skilled migrant.”  

I’m aware of the fact that even if I should be granted settled-status, I will be discriminated against. By landlords, employers, the government. I’ll be on their special register, I will carry a special ID, and if they should not like me, they can deport me anytime.  

If I don’t shut my loud mouth, if I critize them in any way, they might see me as a threat and deport me.  
If my income should be below the minimum income they require non EU and future EU immigrants to have, they can deport me.  
If I should ever accidently drive through a red light, I’ll subsequently live in fear of being deported.  

Don’t anyone tell me it’ll be fine. Because it won’t be. Don’t anyone tell me my rights won’t be diminished. Because it’s a lie. Don’t tell me I’m a citizen, because I’ll always be a guest.  

They’re going to fingerprint us like a criminals.  
We’re not beeing given rights, but being controlled.  
I hope you understand my anger.  

Happy New Year anyway.

Charis, Why the Name Change? 

I didn’t expect to get away with this without being asked questions. 

It was a hard decision to make, as it feels like starting at square one once again. I risk confusing people. I risk making all my previous hard work unavailing.

And yet, it is not possible for me to continue under my old name. I have changed, transformed into what I always had in mind.  

My old name is a cocoon I have outgrown, as a person and an artist. Instead of making up a new one, I’m sticking with my roots, as I want it to be as authentic an expression of myself as possible. Strangely, I‘ve picked the name I settled on as a stage name when I was about 15. I trust my teenage self. She knew exactly who she was and where she wanted to go. 

It is a mere rephrasing of myself, a translation. 

Cooper is my family name - like my ancestors, I value craftsmanship and hard work. 

Charis (pronounced with a silent h), is pretty close to Annika in meaning. Always having been fascinated by Greek mythology, my teenage self chose it for its  its associations. In Greek mythology a Charis, or Grace, was considered a goddess of the pleasures of life, creativity being one of them. Also, it happens to be the name of an exotic butterfly species - which makes it pretty perfect for someone who has just gone through huge personal and artistic changes, and doesn’t like to be pinned down. 

I hope I could answer some of your questions.

Thank you for following my flight so far. XXX 

Unbreakable 

This week I feel like an aviator cruising through a war zone, having to keep a cool head while dodging challenges. And sure enough, there ate plenty, and all of them pretty unexpected. When my perfectly good, still fairly new tyre bust earlier this week, it still threw me. Now it’s the end of a bizarre week, and even my mysteriously broken computer screen doesn’t even get a shoulder shrug from me. Ah well, a trip to the repair shop - just a slight course adjustment. Life, you can stop throwing things at me, I’m not afraid of it anymore.

 

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