Those are just a few phrases that I can personally come up with to describe not just the memorable music of the incredibly talented Danielia Cotton, but of the incredible woman she is. Growing up in New Jersey, Ms. Cotton got down to her music roots early on in life, but it came with a price–over the years of her recording and making music, Ms. Cotton battled with extreme depression and was also forced to deal with the unbearable loss of losing the twins she’d conceived through in-vitro fertilization five months into her pregnancy.
A true music fighter, Danielia has seen the dark and beyond, but she’s never, ever lost her faith in the music. While you can feel the pain in her powerful tracks like, “Save Me” and “The Gun In Your Hand,” you can also feel the rough joy behind it, especially when she does her own soul-laced cover of Eurythmics classic ’80s groove, “Sweet Dreams(Are Made Of This).”
Currently, Ms. Cotton has just released “Anything But Ordinary,” an explosive new track that undoubtedly sets the tone for her much anticipated new album. In fact, right before we broke music tea mugs, the dazzling diva was coming off of three hours of sleep after intense recording sessions for the new set went into the wee hours of there morning–and the afternoon. You know those sessions must’ve been good.
However, like a true professional chanteuse, Ms. Cotton kept on and her and I had an inspiring music tea about those recording sessions (wait until you read who she worked with), the new album, and really, just spilled about this crazy music life in general.
Read on below for all of the Danielia Cotton music truth.
First up, thank you for taking the time to chat with me. I know you’re tired from the studio, so it’s very much appreciated. This will be easy, I promise I won’t grill you like Barbara Walters! (Laughs) It’s all good! I’m awake now! We were just going at it until 3 a.m., man it was so good!
Before we get to that, I just have to ask you to spill about your incredible local music background. I’m a Jersey girl, Hopewell New Jersey. Like my album that WPXN broke, it was a small white town. I listened to a lot of rock growing up, my mom gave me first guitar when I was twelve. I come from a very musical family. My mom had six sisters and they sung in an a cappella group. My aunt’s actually pretty known in Philly, Jeannie Brooks. I grew up under some serous singers!!
My mom pushed me, she was a single mom, did a great job, though. I actually started out studying acting, but still dabbled in music the whole time. I went to the Mercer County School for Performing Arts, graduated with top honors and that’s when I got into Bennington College. I was able to attend on a full ride, graduated, got a movie, it was all kind of quick. I did a movie called Fresh which is with Samuel L. Jackson because he’s in every movie! I ended up linking up and singing with the Bitter End. So, so deep, when Kenny of the Bitter End died. Wow. I pretty much started from there and built my way up. A well-known “money/mogul” guy by the name of Anthony Lipatore wanted to support me and he created the label where “Small White Town” was created. My brother actually took “Small White Town” to WXPN in a box and pretty much left it on their doorstep. Next thing I know I was on their Artists to Watch list. You know, it’s crazy how my ride has been like dominos, but like crazy dominos because I feel that is the path I was meant to be on.
You’ve had a very lustrous career and have worked with some of the best in business, but you say you haven’t truly made it yet. How come? A lot of people around me have taken off like Grace Potter, who I performed with. You know, I just don’t think I’ve reached that moment, you truly have to believe that it will come. It takes a long time in the indie world to finally get to be able to do your thing. I’m not going to lie, I’ve truly struggled to find my art at times and I think it’s held me back from some big moments, but I think it’s crucial that I wouldn’t want it any other way unless I did it the right way. I’m just so glad that this has been my path, my journey and I’ve been able to do it.
Okay, let’s get to those studio sessions and your upcoming record! Spill for everyone what the last few days have been like for you… It was magic, it was so great. I worked with Jerry Marotta, he was on So with Peter Gabriel, he’s a freakin legend! I strayed from my normal drummer, John Clancy, who’s great and incredible, but I needed to take a step back. I have absolute love for every musician I’ve worked with, but I knew this was the move I had to make! I also had Tony Bruno on guitar, who’s played with Joan Jett and has a crazy resume. Andy Hess of Government Mule, Rob Clores whose played for the Black Crowes. Everybody was legendary in that room. It was crazy! But the session was also about me growing as an artist. I’m still me and I’m still telling my story, and I believe the fans will follow me on this journey. With the new album, I really wanted to go back to what I believe in and feel what truly propelled me in the beginning. Something really came back and I hope it comes when we release the rest of the music I think we felt it the last few days.
What certain elements are using that are taking things back to the beginning for you? There’s a soulful element to my beginning. Singing in my mom’s a capella groups, I’ve always sort of identified with that. Also, the fact that I grew up in a small white but I’m black! I grew up in churches. I had to take the road and find my way back to those experiences a little bit. When you grow up, you really begin to understand all parts of you. The new music’s also got a little bit of country in it, which is not really my thing, but I just felt it and am keeping it still true to me and still true to the song. Also, we just got back to working our asses off and remembering why we do this.
Studio time can certainly be the best of times, but also the most stressful of times. What did you all do to ease the inescapable tension? We laugh. Laughter in life is just necessary. Laughter…is….necessary. Always a top three quality in a friend-somebody who can make me laugh. It’s huge. Life is deep and hard and it’s never easy and laughter is what gets you through, and I think it saved us. I do. When we started to lose our way and I think I saw these great musicians struggle at times and I just hugged them and said, “I love you, man.” That’s why you do this–for those moments. It wasn’t easy, we didn’t always see the path clearly. We had to dig down and just listen to each other so the music truly matched the story. It just was beautiful, man.
You’re well versed in Philly life. Any fond memories of the city of brotherly love? Yes! First, I can’t wait to come back to perform at World Cafe Live! I love the Sellersville Theater, the TLA. South Street. I remember partying with my boys all the time down there. So many memories. Philly was my stomping ground, Being in Hopewell, it was the closest city next to New York, it’s so accessible. Philly’s just has this vibe. Home of the cheesesteak! And those cheese fries! Philly holds something for me because I remember it’s where I first heard my song on WXPN after my brother took the EP there. I was driving, I just pulled over and cried. Philly’s just incredible like that.
Your music is just so soulful, so real. But there’s one track that stood out for me while listening to it–your take on Eurythmics classic, “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” What made you decide to cover it? I love the song, so I was basically like, ‘let’s do this up.’ To me, when I first listened to it, I thought it was happy, but then I really listened to it and I was like, ‘some people want to use you, some people want to abuse you,’ damn, this is life, This is the reality. I was at a point in my life while I was feeling exactly that from the people around me. It’s a deep thing-“hold your head up, keep your head up.” This is what people do, man, Oh, shit, that’s what she sayin?!!
One last spill, we’re going to leave everyone to get lost in your incredible new single, “Anything But Ordinary.” In your own words, what’s the meaning behind it? It’s the mere fact that you are you. There’s only one us, so just be anything but ordinary. It’s hard out there, but what I always say is that when you’re depressed,, or down, or just not feeling’ it, go outside. Life is beautiful. Just live and be you.