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COTE; Photo Credit: Jen Trahan
Brooklyn-residing indie pop artist COTE is brimming over with a classic, singer-songwriter talent that infuses her 1970s-era-imbued song structures and her elegant, yet expressive vocal phrasings that recall the likes of renowned ‘70s icons Fleetwood Mac, Emmylou Harris, and Carly Simon. COTE has released a run of stylistically varied, lyrically reflective singles over the past year that showcases her versatile sound and voice.
Hey there, COTE! It’s so sweet to have this chance to touch base with you and find out more about you and your bittersweetly enchanting indie pop music, because you really do have a mysterious presence online! Is this by choice or do you just have too much going on to devote to the screen and keyboard?
COTE: Hey Jen, thanks for reaching out! Beth has been fantastic on the PR side of things for COTE. Other than that, life keeps me pretty busy, so keeping a low profile hasn’t been hard.
I included your slowly unfurling, longingly melancholic, guitar-touched number “Golden Hour” in my Top 10 Pop Songs of 2016 at The Record Stache. On this song you get lyrically deep while reflecting upon change and the idea of not being able to control everything, and everyone, in your life. Was it difficult to wrestle with these subjects while writing about them?
COTE: This was the first song I wrote after the end of a long relationship. I had taken a break from writing for a while, and “Golden Hour” was my first dive back in. Some songs take a lot of revisiting throughout the writing process, but after so much internal processing this one really poured out. Writing that song was really heavy – it still weighs on me in some ways, but facing these subjects through songwriting helped me heal and move on.
You’ve been releasing a string of captivating singles online, starting with “London” and moving through “Green Light” and “Golden Hour”. Are they all part of an overarching concept or does each one stand on its own, subject-wise?
COTE: I think that loss and the desire for control are overarching concepts in all of the songs on my upcoming album. They were written over a period of four years which was a time of great transition for me (relationships, relocation, personal growth, etc).
Are you a 100% DIY artist, composing, playing, and producing your material, or do you collaborate with other artists?
COTE: I wish! I’ve always been very aware of my limitations, musically speaking. I’m not a producer – I’m a songwriter and vocalist. I was very lucky to work with my friend and producer Jeremy McDonald on this album. I brought him any inspiration or ideas that I had for each track and he really took it from there. The whole album was a great collaborative effort between me, Jeremy, and the other musicians we worked with.
There is a definite retro streak that runs through your music, whether it’s the ring of reverb guitar on “London” or the soft harmonizing vocals on “Golden Hour”. Do you often look back to the past when creating your compositions?
COTE: I’m glad that comes across! Yeah, my taste in music is akin to most middle-aged dads: Paul Simon, Springsteen, Fleetwood Mac, Neil Young, Bowie, Dylan, etc. Also, per my grandfather’s influence, I listen to a lot of jazz standards which influences many of my vocal decisions.
“Green Light” is a much for straightforward song compared to “Golden Hour”, where you exclaim your words quite assertively. How do you decide on your vocal and instrumental approach for a piece? Does it depend on the lyrical content?
COTE: It’s a little bit of everything – lyrical content, overall vibe of the song, rhythm, etc. I’ve been learning the importance of holding back vocally, instead of always going for the belt or power moment.
I’m not sure if this is correct, but did you recently migrate from L.A. to Brooklyn? If so, is this geographical change related to your music career? Do you find Brooklyn and the surrounding areas a receptive environment for your endeavors?
COTE: I moved from California to Brooklyn 5 years ago and it is the best decision I have ever made. I have made all of my contacts in music here (most before I had even considered making a record) and they have all been the best support system I could ask for.
What called to you that made you decide to get involved in the musical sphere?
COTE: You know, in the end it all came down to timing. In California I had a few minor attempts at music, but nothing was really working. When I moved to New York, I started writing but never planned on recording. Through a number of conversations and events it started to become clear that this was the next step. Even throughout the recording process, I had no idea where it would go next. I’ve tried to take it all day by day.
Is the moniker COTE part of your given name? If not, what are its implications? Is there any association with “à côté de” meaning “next to” in French?
COTE: I love the French translation of Côté, but it’s the English definition “to pass by” that seemed appropriate, given the changes I had experienced while writing this album.
Have you played live at any NYC venues yet, or at other locations? Is this a goal for you or do you prefer to cocoon of the recording studio?
COTE: We haven’t played any shows yet, but it is definitely on our radar. I think we’ll have some dates worked out in the next few months.
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