Artist Profile: Greg Coles

I would like to begin this post by saying that I have a bajillion-and-one-half lovely interviews completed for artist profile posts. That being said, I am also a bit too busy/lazy to write the accompanying posts in a timely fashion. When I realized that the particular artist featured in this post (our first male specimen, yay!) would be graduating from Roberts Wesleyan College in a few short weeks, I knew that I needed to pay this little homage to him before the odds of our paths ever crossing again severely diminished.

Some of you might remember the mention of Greg here and here. His most recent role in Josh’s and my life has been as director of Roberts Wesleyan College’s 2011 One-Act Festival.

If only this was the greatest of his achievements, this post would be a whole lot shorter ;-). On the other hand, Greg is one of the most successful artists that I have ever personally met. He is talented in so many different disciplines that I might as well let you know now that his accomplishments as related in this post are about to to begin piling up, starting now.

All About Greg of Potsdam, New York

Greg grew up on the tropical island of Java, Indonesia. This cultural background so far removed from the conventions of American society seems to have given him quite an edge when it comes to his creative life. Greg says of the creative environment in which he grew up, “Indonesians are quite a bit less logical than Americans.” He believes that this perspective has helped free him to be more unorthodox in the practice of his art. It also influenced the spirituality of his work, the supernatural being a very important element of life to the Indonesian people.

The Coles family found themselves in Java because Greg’s father worked there as an English teacher. The similarly multi-talented Mr. Coles senior also happened to be a talented musician, having majored in music in college.This contributed a great deal to one of Greg’s greatest passions–music. He says, “I grew up taking informal piano lessons with [my dad] and singing four-part harmony with my siblings.” Greg’s vocal ability is impressive to say the least. He loves to sing, especially in the context of leading worship services. He is also a very apt piano and violin player, able to play many popular melodies by ear often without ever having heard the original song.

For a recording of one of my favorite songs by Greg, head over to YouTube: “Hide and Seek”

(C) 2008 Red Seawolfe Images

Greg has been writing and performing his own songs for years, but he also enjoys writing words not accompanied by music. He isn’t particular about whether it is fiction, nonfiction, or poetry, and all three types of literature flow easily from his pen.  Greg recalls when he first fell in love with literature and how this experience has shaped his own writing:

“One of my earliest ‘big kid’ books was The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, and I think the idea of Narnia and the idea of literature got cataloged together in my mind. Ever since, I’ve measured the quality of literature by its ability to invoke that sense of Narnian wonder in me.”

In his opinion, writing poetry and prose is easier than composing a song because the words do not need to be so carefully written that they can coexist perfectly with a specific piece of music. On the other hand, he adds, non-musical writing is also intimidating. There is no music to cover up or compensate for what the lyrics lack. In Greg’s words, “You can’t depend on a beautiful melody or voice to gloss over your mediocre ideas.”

Nowdays, Greg is working actively as both a musician and author even though many of his projects have been put on hold in light of the responsibilities leading to his impending graduation from Roberts Wesleyan College. He has spent the past four years studying Communication (a man after my own heart), providing a wonderful statement concerning why this course of study is so important to an artist. As a Communication major, Greg has mastered the art of audience analysis by “reading, discussing, and writing down [his] thoughts about human beings and how we work.”

More about Greg including the notorious grilling provided by the Third Degree after the jump!

A still from the production of Greg’s play Sheltered

The issue of creating art with the purpose of pleasing an audience or even with the purpose of publication is a critical issue that torments many artists today, but Greg is able to cope with this struggle from a perspective that is both logical and faith-based:

“I think any artist worth their salt should want to be heard or seen or read, because every artist worth their salt has something important to say. Whether what I have to say is really as important as I think it is, and whether or not I’m communicating it effectively–those are the questions that plague me. But I take comfort in the fact that ultimately, those questions are God’s to worry about, not mine.”

Pleasing an audience has not recently been one of Greg’s difficulties. He regularly authors well-received articles in the RWC campus newspaper and performs original music at campus events. He also authored a play produced last fall (which I’m sure you remember) and a young adult novel published in 2009 (Against the Current, Baker Trittin Press). Greg plans to continue writing after graduation, but most of his energy will be devoted to postgraduate seminary studies and to an internship at his home church in Potsdam.

With regards to his promising future, Greg says, “I have hopes and plans, but only God knows for sure.”

The Third Degree!

Greg Coles


Yes. (Haha, just kidding! I’ve got three siblings and two parents, and no love connections or offspring of my own yet 🙂

Student, for a precious few more weeks.

How many digits in a paycheck?
Usually three.

What are some of your favorite inspiring books, movies, songs, etc.?
Books: So many! The Chronicles of Narnia and Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis, Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle, and Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, to name a few.
Movies: Seven Pounds. What an amazing picture of love and sacrifice!
Songs: Anything by Nichole Nordeman.

What is art?
An attempt to express the inexpressible.

Do you prefer to sing/play your own songs, or those written by other artists?
I like both a lot. Singing my own songs is fun, and also necessary if I ever want anyone to hear them, but it’s very personal at the same time, and if people don’t like what I play it’s a lot more painful. Then again, when they do like it, it’s pretty exciting!

Acoustic or electric?
Acoustic, as long as I can still have a microphone.

Coffee or tea?
Definitely coffee–and I like it black. There’s something so refreshingly edgy and imperfect about it. Tea is just a little bit too refined.


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