LOWELL – Less than a year after Colleen Green sold nearly all of her possessions to fund a move across the country in a Dodge Shadow with her boyfriend in Oakland, Calif., The 24-year-old Dunstable native and graduate of the ‘UMass Lowell was diagnosed with an incurable autoimmune disease she hadn’t even heard of before that left her unable to work or pay rent.
It ended up being the best thing that ever happened to him.
Now 36, she makes music for a branch of a label she idolized when she was younger and has the first single from her latest album. recommended by the New York Times for the country’s summer playlists, Green is back a decade in Los Angeles and told her tequila story at the Worthen House Cafe in Lowell, where she performed upstairs shows with her college bands.
Four other friends, including those who started The Have Mercys with Green in Boston, had also moved with her to Oakland in 2009, but Green had to leave her boyfriend and band mates a few months later because of her illness – myasthenia gravis – initially left her with no real option but to move with her brother to Los Angeles, a city where she didn’t know anyone else.
“I had a seizure when I realized I had an incurable disease and would never go back to normal and would have to take medicine every day for the rest of my life. I was devastated. J I was also really (expletive) depressed and I was alone and it was really, really hard. It was bad, “Green said.” I had an epiphany like I’m dying? I don’t know what this disease is going to do me. I’m basically blindly following what my doctor tells me and I don’t know what’s going to happen so I have to start living for myself and do exactly what I want to do and stop worrying about this and that because I could die tomorrow. “
Green had three things in his favor.
The first was an immediately intense reaction in Los Angeles, where her brother lived in a neighborhood near Santa Monica, and where Green would stay for the next decade even if she came under pressure. Green had previously lived in Dunstable, Lowell, Boston and Oakland, but said she never felt the way she did when she arrived in Los Angeles.
“I remember it clearly. I went out and I just… the sun was shining and it was so beautiful, and I was like ‘I belong here,’ ”she said. “Maybe it was because I was alone for the first time, completely experiencing life on my own. I just remember being really, really happy once I was in LA regardless. what had happened before that.
The second was a friendship worth $ 35 that somehow survived the purges of Green’s property when she moved to Oakland and then to LA – a drum machine she bought from a friend in Boston. in an effort to help him raise money years earlier.
“I had this drum machine and never had the means to play with it, but when I was out there, alone, with no friends and nothing to do with my time, I thought it was was the right time to play it, ”Green mentioned. “I just started doing drum beats with and did like 10 different beats and wrote songs on those beats and that’s what ‘Milo Goes to Compton’ was.”
“Milo Goes to Compton” was Green’s debut album as a solo artist – no band – and her lack of work or money caused her to pay “two punk friends” $ 100 to make him 75 cassettes and sleeves.
Green had wanted to be a rock star from the age of 6, but said that until she was in Los Angeles, she didn’t realize that making music on her own was an option – she had always thought that she needed a group.
“I’m very self-sufficient, I’m really independent and I don’t like having to rely on others for everything,” Green said. “I would have loved to play music with myself alone, but I guess before that I never thought that was an option. At my age and where I’m from, I was like ‘no , you have to have a group ‘. “
She preferred to record rather than play live shows, but started playing shows around LA just to distribute the tapes.
Green – who earned a marketing degree from UMass Lowell after loathing her time there as a music major – also distributed a six-song EP that she recorded on CDRs to those who purchased. tapes, which she probably knew were shared online.
Green’s first tour used public transportation to take her to about a half-dozen stops across the country which she set up with help from Craigslist. But then she was offered the chance to go on a six-week tour across the country with the group Girlfriends, whom she knew from Boston.
“Maybe halfway through this tour, I started getting orders for my tape from people with Sub Pop email addresses,” Green said. “I’m totally a ’90s kid. I loved Sub Pop as a label, and I remember one day I was in New York City and just like,’ people with Sub email addresses Pop order my tape and email me how much they love my music right now ”. I was quite overjoyed.
Green released his tapes in January 2010, toured with Girlfriends in July, and signed with Hardly Art Records – a subsidiary of Sub Pop – in September 2010, as medication for his illness increasingly enabled him. to resume a normal life. , no longer dealing with the life-threatening muscle weakness that untreated disease can cause.
“I just started doing my thing and I never stopped a bit,” Green said.
In 2013, Green released “Sock It To Me” on Hardly Art. In 2015, she released her second album with a riffing track on albums by punk rock legends The Descendents. “Milo Goes to Compton” was a riff from The Descendents “Milo Goes to College” and Green took inspiration from the punk rock classic “I Don’t Want To Grow Up” when she did “I Want To Grow Up” .
It was the 2015 album – his first recorded in the studio – that pushed Green to the pages of magazines like Turn and Rolling stone, with critics often noting Green’s humor and riffs on other bands, as well as deeply personal lyrics that a review of Spin called “jaw drop.” In 2019, Green released an all-cover album, creating a lo-fi version of “Dude Ranch” by pop punk group Blink 182.
“She’s doing something that’s a bit of a delicate balance, where her songs have humor but they also have heart. If you look at the titles of his songs you think it will be just a blunder, but there is something personal about them. There is a lot of thought behind them. This is not a blunder. She tries to get her point across, even though her fashion is funny, ”a record store owner told the Los Angeles Times for a profile of Green the paper published in 2015.
The first song from his new album, “Cool,” still fits that bill. “I Wanna Be A Dog” was described by The New York Times last month as “a catchy, funny and downright serious song” as the newspaper recommended Green’s new song and a dozen others for national playlists in the summer of 2021.
Living with an autoimmune disease and facing a pandemic that devastated the music industry that had allowed him to live in LA on nothing but royalties and his music career, Green returned to Lowell from a LA “dark” a few months ago.
“Cool” was recorded in 2019 before the pandemic hit, and will be released on September 10.
Reflecting on the path she’s taken through the City of Angels, Green recognizes how incredibly lucky she is to have experienced the third thing she had in her favor when she arrived in Los Angeles.
“I always like to say that getting the disease was like the worst thing that has ever happened to me, but it was also the best thing that has ever happened to me. I was kind of forced into this situation and I think it was the best possible thing for me in my life, ironically enough. If I had had a job I wouldn’t have been able to devote my whole brain to making music, but I was able to because my brother didn’t charge me rent and that’s all I did. ‘ve done it, ”Green said. “Even though it was because of something so devastating, it was such a privilege to have this time alone. Most people will never, ever get that, and it sucked, but I’m really lucky that I got this opportunity.
Green plans to stay around Lowell now. Her parents and 102-year-old grandmother still live in Dunstable, and although she works part-time since she can’t tour due to COVID-19, Green is enjoying housing prices that are much lower than in LA, and feels back home in New England.
“I think if COVID had never happened I wouldn’t have come back here, but I always wanted to,” Green said. “I am so happy and I can afford to live here alone. I’m going to be 37, I can’t live in a fraternity house, and that’s kind of what I felt like (in LA).
And what are the next steps for a woman whose life experience has shown that doing what she wants leads to success? Music is not the first answer.
“My plans for the future are to continue, above all, to try to grow as a person and to try to grow emotionally and to just try to be the best version of myself that I can be. That’s my # 1 primary goal, ”Green said.“ No. 2 is to keep making music that I’m proud of.
To learn more about Green and his music, visit: www.hardlyart.com/artists/colleen_green.