Interview: Hein Cooper talks new single, choir collab and connecting with nature

Credit: Dane Singleton

Sydney indie-pop singer-songwriter Hein Cooper wants you to stop listening to the television. His latest single “The Weatherman” featuring Yuin elder Uncle Noel Butler – released 24 Nov – discusses the societal disconnect from nature.

We caught up with Hein Cooper to chat about the song and more.

“I’ve felt this way for a long time, so it was something I feel strongly about that was kind of brewing ever since I was in high school,” Cooper explains. “In English, I think at one stage, our teacher talked to us about how advertising is done in a way to manipulate you and to be aware of that. Eventually I had this epiphany of bringing it back to the metaphor of the Weatherman.”

The song shares a deep connection with Cooper’s personal identity and its meaning can be interpreted in many different ways. Having grown up with Uncle Noel’s teachings of respecting the land, he is now encouraging others to do the same through his music and keeping the tradition alive.

“I just felt there was a real miraculous moment when my partner mentioned that I should bring it to Uncle Noel. He was just meant to play didgeridoo at first then Noel’s partner said, ‘Why don’t you say some stuff into the mic?’ All of a sudden, he just started saying this prayer in the Dhurga tongue inviting the winds that are common to this area.”

“It really is about who is the real weatherman? The people on TV can be full of shit sometimes, but when he got involved it was like a whole new meaning because he is the opposite. He’s very intuitive. For me, personally, it’s an everchanging thing what it’s about. Obviously, the media has been used in a lot of ways recently in the last couple of years to really freak us out about the pandemic as well. That’s kind of what originally inspired it.”

Cooper’s soft vocals dance above gentle acoustic guitar and driving keys as the rhythm sections kicks in for powerful chorus. With a spoken introduction in Dhurga language and compelling didgeridoo throughout, the track also shines with a choir consisting of Ulladulla and South Coast community members.

“I basically wanted the song to sound like Ain’t No Sunshine from Bill Withers, like it was from a different time. So we went for the whole folk acoustic guitar meets older soul vibes with strings. A friend from the Central Coast played the cello and he basically played all the parts from the string arrangement on the cello. I played the guitars, the bass, the piano, and Noel played the didge.

I wanted it to sound classic but then have a real blend of Australia. With the intro, I took a Zoom recorder out into the forest one morning when the birds were going crazy and that’s the sound that’s around Noel’s section at the beginning.”

With the help of a South Coast grant, Cooper invited members of his community to sing as a choir on the song. In an area affected by the recent rains and ongoing pandemic, it was a great way to bring people together for a good cause and to raise awareness.

“The choir is just a whole bunch of people that I know who are all very dear to my heart, not necessarily singers at all. I wanted to get the community from down here, Uncle Noel from this land whose ancestors have lived here for God knows how long, and now we’ve got the birds from this area. Like, we’ve recorded it in a studio here, so let’s just get all these people that live here to sing on the song.”

The accompanying video is just as moving as the song itself. It features provocative imagery contrasting someone truly connected to nature with someone reading a script in front of a green screen.

“That was shot on Uncle Noel’s property. He’s got this amazing spot down here out the back of Milton and he has lots of retreats, educational things and he grows, I don’t know, like 8000 different species of native plants. Even the fact that the fires really destroyed his place, so many people have come to help him replant everything and get it off the ground again. That was part of the reason why we chose to shoot the video next to a big burnt gumtree.”

Hein Cooper will be hosting a single launch at Barn on the Ridge in Morton on the 23rd, supported by Ben Morgan and Jack Willis. You can get your tickets HERE.

“I think it’s pretty exciting that Noel’s gonna be coming to play didgeridoo live. It’ll be quite a spontaneous, special show.”

So, with “The Weatherman” being his fifth single since the 2021 EP Turbulent Heart, we asked Cooper if fans can expect to see an album in the new year. It also sounds like there won’t be too long a wait between releases moving forward.

“Yes. Even the way I like to record now is so different to the way I used to record because my main goal is to allow what happens be what it is. Whereas in the past I’ve been like, ‘I need to be at the studio for endless amounts of time and make this sound exactly like what I envisaged’.”

Having shared the stage with James Bay, Lukas Graham and Sam Fender, the multi-instrumentalist has accumulated over 40 million streams. “The Weatherman” is available now on all streaming services. Follow Hein Cooper on Facebook and Instagram for regular updates.