Euphoric, dynamic, and downright fun, Safety Escape, the debut LP from Bainbridge Island, WA’s Erica Cooper bursts from the speakers in a cavalcade of enchanting melody and joyous musicality. Fusing her classical and jazz background with a newly discovered love of pop melody and EDM production techniques, Cooper has crafted a record that is at once immediately engaging and technically virtuosic.
Cooper grew up in a musical home, enrolling in music school as a classical vocal major. Halfway through the program she switched to a study of jazz vocals; “I was trying to figure out what sound suited my voice best, and just soak up as much music information as I could” she explains. After graduation Cooper was still unsure about which musical path to follow. The course came clear when she got a job at a local music store and teaching vocal lessons. Her students, mostly young girls, gave Cooper a crash course in pop music. “I started to notice patterns in the music,” says Cooper. She immersed herself in a study of pop songwriting techniques, chord structure, and melody.
Around this time, Cooper discovered audio recording programs Audacity and Garage Band. She became obsessed with capturing found sounds: dishes breaking, water droplets, and song doodles and ideas. Cooper was introduced to producer Alek Edmonds (Macy Gray, Goo Goo Dolls), who began teaching her the ins and outs of ProTools and helped her assemble a home studio. Around this time Cooper happened to attend a performance by Grimes and was inspired. “Seeing a woman singing, producing, writing, and performing all of her own music by herself on stage was so incredibly inspiring” says Cooper.
Armed with a newfound sense of purpose, Cooper got to work. “I was dealing with the loss of a very important relationship at the time” says Cooper, “so I was drawn to recording and audio because of the element of being able to keep something forever and freeze a moment in time.” While each track stands as its own, there is a broad theme of dissociation to the record. “The title of the album comes from personal experience with a specific type of psychotherapy called EMDR which used to treat people with post-traumatic stress disorder” she explains. “Music in general – and making this album specifically - was a safety escape for me.”
Working with Edmonds and a host of talented musicians including Sam Miller (piano, bass, synths), Matt Singler (drums), Shohei Ogami (guitar), Josh Dawson of the band Timbre Barons (lead guitar) and string arranger and violinist Andrew Joslyn and the Passengers String Quartet. Paul David Hager mixed the record and the legendary Howie Weinberg mastered it. Together, they crafted a record that is both undeniably fresh and immediately familiar. “I hope people can feel some sense of comfort and hope from my music” says Cooper, “and that, just maybe, it helps them make some sense of their own personal journeys, and – if they need it – can be their own safety escape.”