“At the end of the day, no matter what, I will always be able to sit at a piano and play and sing. I’m really grateful for that.”
Singer, pianist, and all-around tastemaker Cole Ramstad has a unique talent of blending a variety of genres with his band, Chinatown. A well-known figure in the underground music scene in downtown Manhattan, Cole has assembled an all-star group of musicians that he makes music with. From writing originals to singing traditional standards, he always has a song in his head.
With jazz as his foundation, Cole earned his chops practicing with musicians in Brooklyn. Always striving to grow as an artist, he explains that his passion to make music comes from the fact that one can never stop learning. When it comes to Cole, there is no “top of the ladder.”
We asked him to curate our first-ever New Year’s Eve playlist, which you can find below. Hit “play” on the groovy disco mix and read on for insights into Ramstad’s inspirations and life as a musician in New York City.
Q: CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE INSPIRATION FOR THE NYE PLAYLIST YOU CREATED?
A: I’m going to Brazil with my girlfriend for the holidays. I wanted warm songs. Songs that make you want to dance in the sand, wearing very little clothing. I’m kind of myopic right now. Estrelar is actually a song by a Brazilian disco artist named Marcos Valle from 1983. He’s amazing. A lot of these are cool, kind of obscure edits that people haven’t heard. Lots of disco. At the very least, these song will get people moving. Just turn it up.
Q: Fill us in on what your band, Chinatown, has been up to and any other musical project you’ve been working on lately.
A: We have been performing around NYC for a bunch of years. Our music is kind of an R&B, soul, feel-good, musical love celebration. We’ve mostly been doing cool, kind of underground spaces, where we are really a part of it with the crowd. We had a residency (and dance party) every Monday night at Apotheke for over five years. We are playing Soho House on January 21st. We just try and make a party and a vibe wherever we go, and have been pretty successful in having a good time so far.
I’m also really excited to have started working with my good friend Nick Paul, of the band St. Lucia. He’s a genius, and we’ve been making some fun stuff together.
Q: What role has jazz played in your life? What do you think it is about those classic songs that people are drawn to and keep coming back to again and again?
A: It’s the foundation that modern music is built on. Jazz is probably the best thing the United States has ever given to the world. Also, so many of those old songs possess a folk like quality. Everyone knew them. It’s kind of a beautiful idea. Jazz turned me into the musician I am, and constantly reminds me I need to be better. That’s the beauty of music, that is so well defined by jazz. There’s no top of the ladder.
Q: What is your songwriting process like? Do you have a favorite place to write or a specific method?
A: In front of my piano is where I get most of my work done, but I’m writing down ideas all day, and constantly singing to myself. Sometimes the smallest melody line expands into an entire song. Can’t let any ideas slip away.
Q: Lastly, thank you for curating a playlist for us. Can you recommend some new music or up-and-coming artists you are currently listening to?
A: The Knocks. Love these guys. One of their new tracks is on the playlist. They are what’s right with creation in NYC. Also, our friend Jimmy Giannopoulos is producing killer music with two bands, Lolawolf and Mothxr. Special stuff. Tame Impala blew my mind this year, and Leon Bridges was a really pleasant surprise.