Everyone in entertainment has a defining look when announcing themselves. For comedians, it’s leather. Richard Pryor wore casual suits, most prominently the red getup that was a focal point of his 1982 special Live On the Sunset Strip. After Pryor, leather became the thing to signify your arrival. Eddie Murphy stepped it up with Delirious and RAW, followed by Martin Lawrence (You So Crazy), Chris Rock (Bring the Pain) and recently Kevin Hart (Let Me Explain).
Leather, however, isn’t much of a signifier in R&B. It’s par for the course. When we meet Coline Creuzot in a swank office building just beyond the sprawl of Midtown, she’s wearing a leather jacket. The weather beckons for comfort, T-shirts and shorts, unusual for a February, but Creuzot is a grounded star. Her look, much like her writing and her voice, has to belong to her and her alone. Which is why she touches the mostly black ensemble with black heels and golden studs jutting out in an east-west direction.
The daughter of a father from Louisiana and a mother from Washington, D.C., Creuzot’s last name may pique initial interest because of its familiarity. She’s related to Percy Creuzot, the founder of Frenchy’s Chicken, and is considered an heiress to the restaurant chain. Her mother, strong and opinionated, taught her daughter to follow what she knew and loved. Even when it came to her brothers, like a trip to the Kappa Beach Party in the early 2000s, she warned her daughter to not go. “The things I saw down there…” Creuzot says in a direct imitation.
“The things I saw down there…” Creuzot says in a direct imitation.
If you want to get a strong idea of who Coline Creuzot is, she's a songwriter first and foremost. The initial record that got her signed to Sony's ATV publishing arm was a breakup song, a means of catharsis more than any other. “I draw off of things that go on in my life,” she says of the crazy period. “So I wrote about a lot of it. You have to figure out how to channel it in a way that’s positive. To make a situation not turn you into a negative person.”
“I draw off of things that go on in my life,” she says of the crazy period. “So I wrote about a lot of it. You have to figure out how to channel it in a way that’s positive. To make a situation not turn you into a negative person.”
Fighting negativity is one thing with Creuzot; figuring that she needs the last word is another. As she twists a bit in her chair, her eyes light up when she discusses “Truth Is." In a moment of argument, Creuzot sticks to her nature and unleashes on her lover with a fury of admissions. It’s a kick to the gut of the male ego, a reversal in the R&B breakup dynamic where males are the ones committed to slinging insults and pushing the masculinity agenda of having women on call regardless if a relationship is over or not. To Creuzot’s credit, she flips it into a sultry ballad; nasty and pointed more than bitter.
Her full-length project, which doesn’t have a select date yet, is pieced together by mid-tempo tracks and ballads. Happy Perez holds credits on three of the singles and the rest belong to legacy child much like Creuzot, Troy Johnson whose uncle belonged to the ‘70s funk/soul band The Brothers Johnson. It’s all about crafting a different sound for her, crafting stories amid eras of heartbreak and fun. “It spreads out like a relationship, your happy periods all the way to your crazy ones,” Creuzot says.
“It spreads out like a relationship, your happy periods all the way to your crazy ones,” Creuzot says.
She flips her hair and adjusts a bit, laughing off ice breakers about fruit snacks and how R&B at the moment lacks vulnerability. Despite having the innate ability to pick through questions and answers with the control of a pro, Creuzot manages to flick a smile when rapid-fire curveballs come her way: the Beyoncé “Formation” controversy (“people are crazy”); whether or not big gifts matter for Valentine’s Day (“I’m good with whatever”); the strengths and weaknesses of a long-distance relationship (“depends on the people in the relationship”); holding onto her patience, love languages, continually avoiding stop-and go moments and how “sweet” her words on “Truth Is” are.
“Truth Is," though a fantastic R&B record, is going to linger for a little while before the next single arrives. (She also released a cover of Aaliyah's "At Your Best" last month.) Talking about "Truth" begets a conversation about other songwriters of the day and relationships in general, and on to the fragility of men once they’re cheated upon and how women are asked to merely suck it up if the deed occurs to them. “There should be a lot of give when it comes to love,” says Creuzot. “And not a lot of take. Love is selfless.”
“There should be a lot of give when it comes to love,” says Creuzot. “And not a lot of take. Love is selfless.”
The reaction to the record, from love on gossip blog The Shade Room to her own mother, makes Creuzot blush. “I warned her that there was a little cursing in it and she told me, ‘I think you should have cursed a little harder,’” she laughs of her mother’s advice. “I love constructive criticism. It’s not gonna hurt my feelings.”
Her process, whether writing for herself or sitting in on a session with others, is always to listen first. It’s what made her, a Third Ward daughter and mother even more relatable to fans and more. It still all starts and ends with her though, even as she invites the likes of Happy Perez into her mental circle. “He’s the first person I call, he’s my go-to,” she says of Perez, who has crafted music for Le$ and South Park Mexican, all the way to a co-production credit on Kanye West’s 2010 massive hit “Power." “When I write stuff for other people, I feel that it isn’t me as an artist," Creuzot continues. "It may be country, pop, or more uptempo. But when I’m going in for me, I know I’m going in for me.”
“When I write stuff for other people, I feel that it isn’t me as an artist," Creuzot continues. "It may be country, pop, or more uptempo. But when I’m going in for me, I know I’m going in for me.”
Sony’s initial plan for Creuzot occurred in 2010 when they inked her to a deal as a songwriter. It was fantasy camp for her, sitting in with producers at various sessions and learning how to write a pop record. “We’re gonna send you stuff that’s really popular in the UK, Japan, etc. It’s how I learned to write outside of my box,” she recalls. “It was fun because it was music. I’m still getting to sing and demo all the records, just format it a little differently.”
As a songwriter, Coline Creuzot plays to her own drum, dealing with the things only she knows. To her, the national anthem of Texas belongs to “June 27th." I question her, “You’re singing that for 35 minutes?”
“That's the first song I think of when I think Houston,” she laughs. I counter with "Mo City Don,” and she doubles back with, “Well, I’m from Third Ward, so…it would have to be Screw, what do you mean?”
Her connection to those halcyon days of Houston hip-hop goes back to her being a fan of Big Moe. “My cousin’s boyfriend was cousin to Screw, used to work in the Screw shop," Creuzot says. "He knows how bad I loved Big Moe in high school. So, he took me to meet him at the barbershop, and Moe asked me to sing something for him. He told me, ‘That’s real good, that’s real good.’ I asked him could he sign my poster? He was a legend to me! I was so sad when he died.”
Currently windows down with her favorite Big Moe album blasting from her car, Creuzot splits her time between Houston and Los Angeles. But if L.A. is her work home, Houston is forever home. When she returns, her family stays at her parents' house, a palatial point to fit in everybody. She relishes the thought of sampling a Big Moe song for a record down the line, but an eventual duet may come instead. “My team was like, 'We didn’t want to take the focus away,'” she says on why her upcoming project is her voice and hers alone. Dream collaborations lean toward hip-hop favorites such as Andre 3000, J.Cole and of course Lauryn Hill. “Dreams,” she deadpans. “That’s why they’re dream collaborations."
Though she may be constantly on the move, Creuzot bobs and weaves on social media, limiting her Twitter and Instagram usage. “I try not to stay on Instagram all day, try not to read the YouTube comments,” she says, almost with a cautious tone to her voice. “I try to keep people knowing what’s going on, but I think they’ll enjoy it better when it’s right, when it’s ready. People want something to be great, and I want something to be proud of.”
“My team was like, 'We didn’t want to take the focus away,'” she says on why her upcoming project is her voice and hers alone. Dream collaborations lean toward hip-hop favorites such as Andre 3000, J.Cole and of course Lauryn Hill.
“Dreams,” she deadpans. “That’s why they’re dream collaborations."
Despite having connections in D.C., Louisiana, Houston and Los Angeles, there are things that Creuzot fears.
“Heights,” she admits with a fluster. “I was the person who used to hold jackets for my friends at AstroWorld. And I’m dramatic, too. I got on one roller coaster at AstroWorld and we got off, and I fell and hit the ground. My friends legit said, 'Okay, we’re not doing this again.' I wanted to get my point across, that this wasn’t right. You know I’m scared! And they never asked me again.”
But she isn’t fearful of the stage. “I get nervous, not scared," Creuzot explains. "When I get out there, though, I’m in my zone. And when I’m not there, I like my privacy. I like doing my shows, doing my interviews and then when it’s all done…I like going home to my family.”
“I get nervous, not scared," Creuzot explains. "When I get out there, though, I’m in my zone. And when I’m not there, I like my privacy. I like doing my shows, doing my interviews and then when it’s all done…I like going home to my family.”
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.