His music is as likely to include the sounds of endangered songbirds as it is woozy waltz rhythms or marching-band brass. His lyrics read like the free-association ramblings of a man well-versed in the work of Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear, to say nothing of Syd Barrett.
If that makes Cosmo Sheldrake sound like an unlikely pop star, well… He isn’t exactly a pop star. The 28-year-old London, England–based musician did, however, manage to have a viral hit with his song “Come Along”. Apple licensed the track—which, A.A. Milne fans will be delighted to learn, kicks off with the line “Come along, catch a Heffalump”—for an iPhone XR commercial last year, and that ad has since racked up more than 18 million plays on YouTube.
A further 5.3 million views have been garnered by a slick cover of the song by American a cappella superstars Pentatonix. Reached at a Los Angeles tour stop, Sheldrake admits that he had never heard of Pentatonix before the platinum-selling group recorded “Come Along”, but he says he likes what they did with it.
“It’s a very good arrangement,” Sheldrake tells the Straight. “They’re very technically amazing singers. They’ve made some different choices than what I would, obviously, but I’m definitely impressed. Yeah, it sounds cool.”
You could say Sheldrake comes by his musical talent honestly; his mother is the internationally renowned singer and voice teacher Jill Purce, who is perhaps best-known for her early-’70s work with German avant-garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen. His father is notable in his own right. For decades, Rupert Sheldrake has been a thorn in the side of scientific orthodoxy, espousing ideas that include the notion that humans have telepathic connections with their canine companions.
Cosmo Sheldrake credits his father’s unique world-view with shaping his own.
“It has very much been a part of how I’ve grown up and think about the world,” he says. “I very much feel connected with his ideas and analysis and philosophies. It’s had a huge impact—I guess first and foremost, this idea of nature being very much alive and evolutionary. So I’ve definitely inherited this sense of a holistic understanding of nature, which is somewhat animistic in a way. That definitely had a big impact on the way I think, and it trickled through into the music, for sure.”
To that end, Sheldrake has created songs that incorporate his own field recordings of birds and aquatic animals made in various locales, including a few that will be familiar to attendees of the Squamish Constellation Festival, where he performs this weekend.
“I’ve spent time up on the islands between Vancouver Island and the mainland, in that amazing part with smatterings of islands all over the place,” he says. “I’ve spent basically every summer of my life up in those islands in Desolation Sound and that part of the world. It’s beautiful.”
The sense of hushed awe in Sheldrake’s voice when he talks about the wonders of the Sunshine Coast suggests that he’d rather be in forest or field, conversing with nightingales and Heffalumps, than tallying how many millions of views or Spotify streams his deeply quirky songs are getting.
Cosmo Sheldrake plays the Squamish Constellation Festival, which takes place at Hendrickson Field in Squamish from Friday to Sunday (July 26 to 28).