An Introduction: Ant Coughlin

I’d like to introduce you to the music of Ant Coughlin. The Philadelphia native has been featured on Stephen the Levite’s To Die is Gain, Shai Linne’s Storiez and Lyrical Theology Pt.1, Wes Pendleton’s Nebulous, Sunday Rec Tribe’s The Ten Album and shared stages with various artists including Tragic Hero, Heath McNease, J. Johnson, R-Swift, and Trip Lee.  Ant Coughlin is gearing up for the release of his new album Light Rooms, Dark Halls on July 22nd and recently released the lead single Thru the Floor which  features Tragic Hero, production by Wes Pendleton, and cuts by DJ Average Joe.   Check it out:

Thru the Floor, featuring Tragic Hero, acts as a follow up/continuation of the previous song. The first verse is written from the perspective of the Accuser (Satan), who waves our failures in front of us, tempting us to believe that God has finally had enough of us and our mistakes; we have exhausted His love and grace for us. When ever I hear this voice, I’ve always heard it as coming from outside of myself–like it’s coming through the floor or the walls.

Tragic’s verse is written from his own perspective, sort of like another look at The Amnesiac’s Memoir. The last verse is written as a call to action, to the doubter, the “guilty”, the accused, to recognize the Accuser for who he is and to instead, look to Jesus:

Somebody called that bluff–show his hand
Whose that fiend behind the curtain–oh it’s him
It’s like it’s always him playing with these puppet strings
preaching we ain’t nothing but just Mumford–no Sons of His in here
before you go and break another mirror–stop
look at His wounds and at that tomb and what He proved with it
where’s the prosecution? Vamoose with it.

We got a chance to ask the Philly emcee a few questions just to try and get some insight into who Ant Coughlin is; the person and the artist.  Check it out:

Who is Ant Coughlin the man and Ant Coughlin the artist?  How different are the two, if at all?

There’s really not much of a difference in terms of personality. I’m generally a pretty animated, high-spirited individual and I think that difference comes through in the way I carry myself behind the microphone. I might say the biggest difference between the content on Light Rooms / Dark Halls and me as an every individual is that the album might portray me as more of somber kind of person. The themes on the EP are generally pretty heavy—addiction, depression, loss of a child, fatherlessness. All of these are things that my life has been impacted by, but God has consistently been faithful in graciously giving me joy enough to endure. I just think its my responsibility as an artist to think deeply about the things of life and try to relay them with a measure of frankness, hope, and honest eternal prospective.

Where did your passion for music start and what inspires you?

I was raised by my grandmother and so music, when I was growing up, was an amalgamation of oldies—Motown, Doo-Wop, folk, artists like Neil Young, Al Maclain, even older stuff like Cole Porter, Louis Armstong, Billie Holiday. In fact, when I was in grade school I thought that stuff I was hearing at home was what everybody else listened to. I didn’t realize it was “old”. So, I think my passion for good music was birthed in the back seat of my grandmother’s grey Mazda, where I would listen to artists like the ones I mentioned. My love for hip-hop music came out my love for the sounds that preceded it; sort of a natural progression I guess.

Stories inspire me. All of life is made up of millions of different stories, and what I think inspires me most is seeing how God is intricately involved in each of those stories, whether the “characters” realize it or not. I also get a lot of inspiration from music outside of hip-hop. Hip-hop is unique in that you can pack in massive amounts of deep content into a sixteen bar verse, but I think there’s something very powerful about a songwriter who is able to invoke emotion with fewer words. When I’m in a season of writing, I don’t generally listen to a lot of hip-hop at all.

What does your creative process look like?  Do you write your lyrics before you get the beat or after? 

90% of the time I write songs after I have the beat in-ear. I sometimes will have a beat and no direction at all for a song. I’ll just know that it fits and there’s something there. I’ll start to write and feel led in a general direction; All My Life is an example of that. I try to write all of my songs in one sitting. I don’t plan rhyme scheme or cadence ahead of time, I just write. The Love that Finds Me was a song that took a couple of weeks to write. Because the nature of the song is so heavy, I wanted to be extremely careful that I was really writing something that was going to provide people with an honest but hopeful picture of how the Lord meets those who are suffering. I actually sat down with Wes through the entire process of making the music to the song. That dude is a like a well oiled machine. I guess that’s the mark of someone who’s mastered something—they make really great things seem easy.

How did you link up with Wes Pendelton and Tragic Hero?  What is it like working with those guys?

I’ve known Tragic for quite a while, close to ten years I think. We used to rock open-mics together in and around Philly. We lost touch when I got married, but through mutual relationships we managed to re-connect in last couple of years. One of the things I admire most about him is that his heart for people and the desire he has for his music to do “good work” is the same as it was when he started. He’s genuinely a humble person. That doesn’t come along everyday in the hip-hop world, Christian or not.

For a while, Wes and I sort of knew each other because we hung in the same circles. I was good friends with a lot of the guys he was doing music with, but wasn’t as close with him. We really became friends over the last three years after meeting at a show that both of us were just attending. I think Muze-One, Braille, Cas Metah, Wonder Brown and Sivion were rocking. . . We struck up a conversation and planned just to chill, not really to do music together. The collaboration sort of happened organically.

What is it like working with Wes? Refreshing. We both have similar affinities as far as the kind of music we appreciate. The process itself was really enjoyable because we have a genuinely good relationship. It’s not like I was just working with someone to finish a project. Musically, he amazes me. He is, by far, one of the most slept on producers of our time. He gets better with everything he puts out. Even with the acclaim he’s already garnered, the sky is the limit for him.

Philly has always been a hip-hop gold mine in terms of talent.  For a while, it seemed like Philly fell of the radar a bit; do you feel like your city is making a comeback?  

I think the presence of real talent has always been there, it’s just a matter of where you look. Are we making a come back? I’m not sure. I think a lot of that comes down to resources and how much exposure artists get. Truthfully, everyone and their brother raps nowadays so it can be difficult to mine for fold amidst a lot of pyrite.

This might sound really negligent, but I don’t have my ear to the ground of the Philadelphia hip-hop scene like I used to. Maybe it’s just because of the way married life and mission change some of your priorities, but I generally hear about things as they come down the pike. I’ve obviously got my eyes and ears on the culture at large, but I’m probably not the best source of inside info. Even still, I’m hoping to make a little noise myself. We’ll see what the Lord does with it.

Ant_CoughlinAnt Coughlin’s “Light Rooms, Dark Halls” releases July 22nd. Look for it at iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Bandcamp and other digital stores.

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