They could easily have spent their whole lives living worlds apart, but the chance encounter between the two songwriters of The Coo feels like it was always meant to be.
Matt Arthur and Jara Holdert’s journey started with a serendipitous meeting on a midsummer evening and has evolved into a deep musical and personal relationship bridging the North Sea. They write and sing songs together in two-part harmony about time, love, life and the universe.
Matt Arthur, finding himself somewhat lost and unfulfilled at home, left Britain on a spontaneous trip to Amsterdam, alone, searching for a spiritual and musical break. He took himself to a local open mic event at Amsterdam’s café De Koe. That’s where Jara Holdert first noticed him, sitting at the other end of the bar. After they heard one another’s songs, they knew immediately that they were woven from the same artistic cloth. A conversation started over some jenevers and continued when they met up again the next evening and Jara showed Matt around the canals under a full Amsterdam moon. They talked about music and philosophy and life and heartbreak. And then they had to part, way too soon.
Matt went back to London, and Jara stayed in Amsterdam. Too often, stories end there. And it would have been a beautiful story, even if it was only ever going to be a fleeting one. But when, almost a year later, Jara decided to pay Matt an impromptu visit, they discovered that their musical connection went far deeper than they’d realised. The moment they were in the same room again, something clicked. Something in the space between them – the space they had reduced from miles and miles to just metres – fell into place.
“The very first day, we went up to Matt’s studio in Tottenham and from the moment I picked up a guitar, we were playing, exploring, adding, and a song flowed out. It surprised both of us,” says Jara.
The next two years were spent writing songs over WhatsApp, meeting over FaceTime and visiting each other —- when they could afford it —- to play intimate acoustic shows together.
“We discovered that there was this kind of magic between us, musically.” says Matt. “We don’t ever need to discuss things too much. We could start and end songs on stage whenever we liked, or we could change melodies and arrangements and we knew that we would follow each other”.
Jara: “Our days together were always limited, so we never had much time to rehearse. But we discovered that it didn’t matter when we played impromptu concerts - we trusted each other musically, and because we took songs on stage right after we’d written something, the material stayed fresh and the performance adventurous. We both had experience with studio projects and band projects where tracks were perfected to a tee and rehearsed for hours, but that’s not what we were about. Our playing together felt more free, spontaneous, a breath of relief. We thought part of our magic was in that - and that the live-feel of our material is what we should try to capture if we’d ever record.
In April 2019, the time was ripe - the Coo was ready to capture their sound as it was created, as it evolved, and as it had always been heard —- in a live environment.