Guilherme Cosme is a singer-songwriter who found solace in art at a young age. Born and raised in Brazil, in his teens, the self-taught musician began to write songs. He trained his voice by studying the work of Jazz greats like Andy Bey and the legendary Nina Simone.
Initially insecure about his abilities, Cosme kept his music to himself until his early 20’s when he found the courage to share it with other musicians. Although all his early work was in his native Portuguese, as a writer he loved the cadence and phonetical textures of English. He moved to Ireland to immerse himself in the language and never looked back.
In addition to his early Jazz influences, Cosme was inspired by the work of Layne Stanley (Alice in Chains) and Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees). He found his voice in Rock & Roll. In Ireland, he formed one half of the duo Eçá and then later transitioned to his current role of singer/songwriter for the band Mary Bleeds. Their debut album showcases Guilherme’s deeply personal writing style as he weaves biblical imagery and scenes from childhood into the band’s nuanced Post-Punk sound.
We talked to Guilherme Cosme about his track Amber,transichord, inspirations, creative process, background and much more.
Where do you come from?
I was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and I’ve been living in Ireland for 8 years. I was pursuing proficiency in English. I love the sound of the language and I wanted to find my own personal style in songwriting through it. The advantage of not being a native speaker is that you can merge different linguistic spheres and create your own realm.
Tell us about your track Amber. What’s the process behind it, how did it come together and why did you write this song?
This is the first single from my upcoming album “Persephone and The Ghost Brother”. This song was supposed to be a Capela at first. I’m obsessed with vocal harmonies so I recorded the main vocal line and 8 backing vocal layers to serve as a “sonic bed” for the main layer. A year later when I was at Analogue Catalogue studios working on the album with sound engineer Julie McLarnon. That’s an amazing old school studio, 100% analogue and where you find some really rare instruments such as the transichord that I used in this song. This instrument is a gem, an electric accordion with a meaty and unique sound.
After the session, I was in the live room with my partner when I had the idea of plugging the transichord into my arpeggiator guitar pedal and then chained to a Boss Harmonium. I went crazy when I heard that wobbly sound like an organic substance spinning on a wheel. At the time “Amber” was the only song with no instrumentals and I was happy to keep it this way but I thought it could be nice to experiment by singing the melody over that pool of sound.
Yet it lacked some dynamics as a whole, so later I added electronic percussive elements, etc. It took me 3 months to get the song done. Well, I’m not sure If it will ever be lol New ideas keep coming to mind but I try not to touch it anymore given that the album is already up for pressing on vinyl and I tend to get looped on obsessions regarding projects so I leave it as it is at least for now.
I wrote this song because I had to let go of resentment and that’s what this album is about. Resenting and letting go, giving in today to rise above tomorrow when your skin is thicker and your tongue is sharper.
Describe your creative process when you write new music
My music is organic and can be quite unexpected at times. I like to experiment with electronic elements, synths and all, but what I really rely on is my voice and I try to do as much with that as I possibly can. So If the song in question has vocals my start point is: If it doesn’t sound good a Capela I’m not there yet.
Regarding song structure, most of my tunes are born from improv. I don’t use metronomes, for example, so you can hear some changes in the flow as the tune progresses. I love improv and I have no knowledge of music theory so I follow my guts. At times I sound quite ethereal then I turn to roughness. Apart from my solo work, I’m also the founder of a post-punk band called Mary Bleeds. I play with different parts of myself in each project.
What is your main inspiration?
Anger and hurt usually, but eventually I find my solace and find inspiration in different sources. I never wrote a happy song in my life, I go at the most bittersweet as you can hear in “Persephone and the Ghost Brother”, though I don’t see myself as someone who is full of rage or sad all the time.
Who do you see as your main competitor?
Lack of originality. I think we are all sick of more of the same assaulting our ears. Formula music turned mainstream into this stinky and bitter pasteurized cheese lol I listen to a lot of things and I often check what’s on the charts as I like to be aware. Sometimes I don’t know who is who.
What is it you would like people to do while listening to your song?
To connect and let it all out.
What’s the best piece of advice another musician ever gave you?
It’s not a specific piece of advice but it means a lot to me this verse by Joni Mitchel (song: “Amelia”)
People will tell you where they’ve goneJoni Mitchel
They’ll tell you where to go
But till you get there yourself
You never really know”
What’s your process for dealing with performance anxiety?
I’m quite shy onstage and I’m definitely not a showman lol. So I rely on my voice (hopefully it’s not cracked on the day) and I try to remind myself of why I wrote that song and that’s the moment where I connect/ reconnect with it and feel grounded.
Do you follow a process or ritual before a performance to get rid of nerves or performance anxiety?
I sing “Farewell Angelina” by Bob Dylan or “Nature Boy” by Cole porter to myself. The first brings comfort and the second is amazing for warm-up.
What would you do if your audience looked tired or bored during your performance?
I’ll keep reminding myself of the reasons why I’m standing there. Funny enough it doesn’t come with feelings of rejection as I may have in different contexts in life. It’s a gamble, so you gotta be prepared to be ignored. If you don’t make music/ sing for yourself in the first place you’ll be trapped in depending on people’s approval. I may sound hypocritical because I just said I’m shy onstage, but this comes from a different place really.
How would your previous bandmates describe you and your work ethic?
They would say I’m driven, hardworking, and even idealistic due to my utter commitment to the music and my artistry but also obsessed and a heavy load sometimes. I would agree with them in the past, things have changed though in the obsessive aspect I mean.
What inspired you to start playing and making music?
I make music because I have this urge to express myself beyond words. I’m a very wordy person and sometimes what I have to say doesn’t fit the speech. I feel free to throw hidden messages in my lyrics and manipulate words through metaphors. I was a repressed teenager in regard to my artistic aspirations, so I did what was quiet: writing poetry. The music was always there though and when I had the courage to bring that out I merged the two things. I practised Judo when I was younger, I was very skinny and weak. I was pursuing strength and balance. Judo was developed by Master Kano who struggled in his early life for being too small and limited physically. So we can say that Judo was born from limitations. It’s a way to turn your “weaknesses” into something that transcends your own perception of self.
These days I find in music the strength I was looking for for many years even when I’m singing about my weaknesses.
What do you like most about playing music?
Somehow it reminds me of my value as a human being to myself.
What type of musician would you prefer to collaborate with?
Anyone who is into improv. That’s where the best ideas come from. You pick that moment in time that you will never recover and transform it.
Are there any musicians who inspire you? What qualities do you admire about them?
Musicians who play/played by their own rules: Joni Mitchel, Daniel Johnston, Nina Simone, Iggy Pop.
Connect with Guilherme Cosme via
Find more artist interviews here.
Fantastic musician and a great interview. I cannot wait to hear more from him!