Fresh off recording his first EP, Elmira native Ben Cottrill has been named a finalist for Canada’s Walk of Fame Emerging Artist Music Mentorship Program.
The 2014 Wellesley Idol winner, now living in Abbotsford, British Columbia, spent the summer recording new music with producer Morgan Dunbar and frequent collaborator – and 2014 Wellesley Idol runner-up – Scott Carere.
The result was Red Lines, an eclectic four-track collection full of deep, contemplative lyrics, jazzy riffs and soulful vocals.
“I’ve struggled in how to properly define the sound or its genre,” Cottrill said about his debut recording. “I guess it’s a mixture. Some of it is different. In general though, I guess it’s somewhat pop, almost pop-rock with a bit of folk in there and also some soul as well.”
With melodic piano, soothing acoustic chords, silky electric riffs, Cottrill’s powerful, distinct vocals and even some punchy trumpet, each song on the EP brings a fresh sound, yet they all feel cohesive together.
It all amounts to a combination that Cottrill has been developing for years, with a little inspiration from a number of musical icons.
“There are a lot of influences there, including people I have mentioned before, like my singing, it’s true, there are little snippits of Billy Joel or Carole King, for example,” Cottrill explained. “More recent artists as well, including a guy from Vancouver named Tobias Jesso Jr. who’s a big influence.”
The lyrics, performed with passion and vigor throughout, also show Cottrill’s seemingly limitless creativity. And they tackle topics like love, loss and depression in thoughtful ways that speaks to a level of insight well beyond Cottrill’s 19 years.
“I think relationships and connections with people have really decided the mood and feelings of these songs,” Cottrill said. “They’re all just kind of about people. For example the first song is about relationships, and the second is about the downward spiral that one’s life may take at a given point after a high of shallow enjoyment. The (third track) is just a fictional story, it’s symbolic. ‘Smoke Killed the Atmosphere of Love,’ is a weird chorus, but it almost symbolizes that you can easily, figuratively, burn a relationship to the ground with poor decision making, I guess.”
It was for the opening song “After All This Time,” that the Elmira District Secondary School grad nabbed the coveted emerging artist award.
The selection will see Cottrill get the opportunity to perform in front of big crowds – and music industry execs – at Canada’s Walk of Fame festival September 30 at Yonge and Dundas Square in Toronto.
“The songs came together quickly,” Cottrill said. “‘After All This Time’ was the song that came together first and then the other three came together very quickly. ‘Smoke Killed the Atmosphere of Love’ and ‘This Too Shall Pass’ I actually finished right on the days that we were recording. I had written the choruses for both the songs, and on one session we recorded ‘Smoke Killed The Atmosphere of Love,’ in about six or seven hours. I think except for the drums, which (Dunbar) added later, but everything else we did in one day.”
Going forward, Cottrill says his next goal is to write and record a full-length album.
You can listen to Red Lines for free at bencottrill.bandcamp.com and keep up with Cottrill’s latest music through his facebook page, www.facebook.com/CottrillMusic.