Needle Drop: GOLDEN, “Callus”

PHOTO: KEVIN W. CONDON | A classically trained pianist since the age of four and a teenage punk rocker, Bailey Cooke is creating music under the moniker of GOLDEN. Landing on Tunecore’s “21 Women to Watch in 2021” list, the creation of her brand of bedroom pop is an organic process with all songs written, performed, engineered, and produced by Cooke alone.

Everything from the her recordings to her music videos are created in her Brooklyn apartment, but this wasn’t always the case for Cooke. In the early stages of GOLDEN, she wasn’t well versed in the “brotools,” her word for more technical recording equipment—you know the stuff the dudes go to school for. Creating demos on her voice memo app, she’d plug her analog drum machine through her Echoplex into a bass amp and her voice into a guitar amp, and with said equipment she’d drag all 250lbs of it and her 100lb self in an Uber just to play a live show.

The weight has lifted since learning to engineer and produce her own songs, a path she never set out upon. “Like most emerging artists I was on the search for the perfect producer, and really by sheer luck I fell in with the crew of engineers at Electric Lady Studios,” she says. Through a friend Cooke was introduced to Grammy award-winning recording and mix engineer Phil Joly, a major collaborator with The Strokes, Courtney Barnett, Violent Femmes, Lana Del Rey, Common, and many more.

On off days, Joly would let her hook up her gear in Studio D at Electric Lady, nudging her to learn more. “I think it’s a dangerous spot to be in—needing someone else to figure out how your music should sound or finish your song. It’s sorta similar to expecting someone to read your mind,” she says.

Out of this authentic space the world of GOLDEN is blooming. With a handful of tracks released over the last year, each one the joy of opening a musical jewelry box, “Callus,” her latest single is a welcome addition to the organic body of work she’s amassing. Just like a callus that forms on a body, the song was the result of repeated friction and pressure she explains.

In the song’s opening lyrics “I’m living on borrowed time, it’s like every morning it’s the end of my life” her voice, a sound bath of light, washes over the lyrics distilling a reality of fear and anxiety that embraces us all. If the lyrics are dark, her voice isn’t—with a deeper focus it uplifts—and GOLDEN becomes a perfect moniker. Living on borrowed time is a unique moment right now. “Cuz whether it’s Covid, or losing my day job, evading rent, or emerging as an artist during a pandemic and doing it all alone—walking a tightrope to keep this whole thing alive—you know, living on borrowed time. It’s a song for all of the times that won’t be set right,” she says.

Cooke is intent upon “sharing your success with your community.” For those who like to geek out on equipment, technique, and the cast of characters involved, a Studio Diary is live on her site. It’s a fascinating visual and written repository of all that goes into the craft of a song.

LAZRUS, GOLDEN’s debut album arrives in stores in the fall and “Callus” is available now.

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