Your social media name is ‘whoiscotton’, I was going to ask the same question! Please tell us about yourself, your musical background and how you ended up in London?
Well, I grew up in the mountains and surrounded with trees and nature, it was quite a hard one to move to London and it took me a while to find a good balance here in the city. I lived in Geneva for a couple years but that's just a big town compared to London. I was home schooled until I was 16, both my parents were teaching at the time and they did the same for my older sisters. A lot of people ask me about the social aspect of it and how it might have affected my upbringing in some way, but for me it meant more freedom to do what I'm actually interested in, that included more time to practice my instrument or just going out with my mates to build shelters in the forest. It doesn't sound great for everyone but I think things likes that forged me as a person and my approach to work and my passion. So I was born in a family where everyone plays an instrument, my dad was a pianist, my younger sister does classical violin and the older one did a jazz degree in accordion, even my mom was in choirs when I was a kid. Being in this environment pushed me towards music and I took trumpet lessons when I was 8 years old. Then I changed to guitar around 14 because I wanted to play a polyphonic instrument and just because it's a little cooler you know! I regret dropping trumpet a little, I still play but not as much as I used to. Then I started to sing and play in bands as a teenager. I went to college learning different styles of music, the classical history, jazz approaches and so on. When I finished that music course, the obvious choice was to go to university, I wanted to study abroad for a change and London was the most interesting and accessible city around. Yeah I guess my music tastes are a little eclectic... for me every genre says something in a special way and everyone's got their own way of hearing music which is why they will like a certain kind of music. In my case it's a way to have a balanced opinion, I will listen to a track and focus on what it has to say.
Your influences include solo artists, DJ’s rappers and Hip Hop acts, that’s quite a wide genre pool to choose from, what is it about these styles of music that appeals to you?
As much as I wouldn't call myself a rapper, I live the way the rhythm is built in the lyrics, it's bouncing and energetic while keeping the spotlight on the meaning and message. Hip-hop's got the beats for me, the groove and overall atmosphere it's just driving the tracks in my head. Most of the neo-soul artists I listen to are giving me the edge in the harmony, something chordal and melodic, whether it's through the vocals or the piano parts etc. Having a diverse taste in music allows me to take a bit of everything and hopefully turn it into something that people will relate to because it talks to them in some way.
London is a melting pot of acts, styles and genres, what do you do in order to try and stand out from the millions of other acts doing the same thing in the nations capital?
London is definitely a bit of a mad one hahaha, there's just everyone trying to push for attention and it can get a little cramped in here but for me the music speaks for itself, if you’re determined and self-aware with what you’re creating and what you want to achieve, you can always find your market. There’s a niche for every style and that's the beauty of it for me. Also pick your fights and pick your shows very well, everyone's trying to fill up their pub with some live music and it's up to you to turn it down if it doesn't give you anything. When I got here, I remember playing the most random shows and not feeling very well rewarded for my performance, quite hard to keep the enthusiasm up when you don't see any results but then I realised that I was just wasting my energy on something that wasn't offering me the right audience and that's something I learnt along the way. You can't do everything so choose wisely.
Staying with London, how would you describe the ‘scene’ there right now?
I feel like the London scene has a lot to offer, you have many artists blowing up and coming from London at the moment. We've seen amazing collaborations with big names and that's showing us how valuable the London scene is, on Drake's album for instance, there was a good number of tracks that were with UK artists. I think the competition is making the job quite tough but there's definitely a spot for you if you're willing to stick to it for long enough. I was discussing music with the manager of Lianne La Havas and he was saying how long it took them to break the artist into what she is today, for me that's all about having the right people around you who believe in you and are ready to support you even if you don't see the results just yet.
I was checking out a video for “Who You Wanna Be” on your Facebook page and I love the track, so soulful and groovy. Do you play with the same band all the time or are you in many acts?
Cheers mate, going in the studio for "Who You Wanna Be" was quite a treat, just inviting some amazing musicians and friends of mine to be a part of it, that was just great. I play with mainly two projects, my artist project and a new-soul band called OKAPI but I also work with artists as a producer to develop their sound and work on the compositions or as a guitar player for certain gigs or sessions. Having a few different things I'm doing on a weekly basis helps me to keep everything fresh, my day's never gonna be the same and I love that!
When you write songs, what comes first, the words or the melody?
The writing process changes all the time, it depends on periods, but usually I come up for lyrics and verses or I will produce an instrumental and listen to it until something comes up. Funnily enough the outcome is usually very different and that brings diversity in my sound.
You’re playing at Shindignation in East London on August 5th, for someone who has yet to see you live, please describe a typical live show?
I would say "energetic" is a good way to describe our performances, I tend to get lost in the music and it can carry me way higher than most people. I've had friends coming up to me wondering if I took coke right before jumping on stage just because I'm having the time of my life and I'm not afraid to show that to the audience!
Shindignation is shaping up to be a great one-day festival featuring over 40 acts, which of these are you most looking forward to seeing?
Where can people keep in touch with your live dates etc?
Any other festivals planned for 2017?
I've got a few shows planned over the Summer but not festivals. I'll be performing at Paper Dress Vintage in Hackney on the 3rd of June. I'm spending my summer writing and working on production so I wanted to have some free time.
Staying with festivals, what are your top tips to surviving one? (let’s assume it’s a 3 day UK festival with camping!)
I've not attended that many here in UK but I would say go either way, gearing up for the rain or embracing the swimsuit throughout and making sure you catch a cold by the end of it hahaha! Make sure you actually know how your bloody tent needs to be set up... Also a hammock is a win if you can find a dry spot !! Earplugs at gigs is a necessity for me but that's up to everyone!
If you could create your very own supergroup, using ANYONE (dead, alive, fictional), who’d be in the group and why?
I would bring Richard Spaven (or Nate Smith) for drums, D'angelo for the backing vocals, Michael League on the bass, Robert Glaspert for the jazz chords, Todd Prichard on the guitar, J Dilla on the beats and extra tasters, all of them in a room should be pretty interesting!
Lastly, when can the fans expect to see an EP or even an album?
I'll going back in the studio round the end of June to record some new material, I've changed the set up a little since the last time and I'm looking forward to showing that to all of you.
Probably releasing some new tracks around September/October time, stay tuned!!
We'd like to thank Cotton for taking the time to chat to us, we're really excited about seeing him at SHINDIGNATION on August 5th in London, if you're in the area that weekend, why not head down?