A former Wellesley Idol winner, Ben Cottrill continues to following his plan to be a full-time musician. Having just released his second EP, Spice-Box, the young performer is currently on tour to promote it.
It’s a huge step for the former Elmira resident, who has been chasing the dream of being a musician all his life. The journey has been great thus far, but not without its challenges and sacrifices. Ultimately though, Cottrill says he’s in it for the long haul.
“I decided I needed to take a good hard look at what the future is going to look like for me because, from the earliest days, I basically was just, ‘yup, I’m going to do music.’ That was it. Essentially, I don’t think I had another serious plan for my life,” he says.
Cottrill grew up in a family of musicians, and was naturally drawn to the performing arts himself from a an early age. He spent his years toying with the guitar, plunking at the piano and singing, and had the familiar background of church gospel in his life. But it was as he entered into his teenage years that music took a more serious role in his life – or as serious as a teenager can get, he adds.
“I spent a lot of time writing songs just playing back songs that really spoke to me, plus stuff from the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Beach Boys,” he says.
For Cottrill, it was these artists ability to speak to their listeners that inspired his writing as a folk rock performer.
“A lot of really classic artists I find were just brilliant writers, performers, interpreters. You know, communicators. Really just people who are just so talented speaking to the human heart. Stuff that had real authenticity to it,” he says.
It’s that universality of spirit that he says he hopes to bring to his own music.
“I want people to feel understood. And I think that’s kind of the ultimate purpose of the music I write,” he says.
Playing and practicing as a youth, Cottrill soon found a modest bit of stardom courtesy of the Wellesley Idol competition.
“Eventually from years and years of writing towards the end of high school, my first, probably reasonably big thing was Wellesley Idol, which is right in the district here.”
In 2014, Cottrill entered in the contest and won, marking his first real foray into the realm of professional music.
“That was kind of the first opportunity – and I mean, it was just to show that this actually could be bigger than myself,” he says. “It’s the kind of thought that, no this doesn’t just have to be a dream. It’s not just a hobby. This could be something bigger.”
But if Wellesley Idol was that first important step, it was Cottrill’s success the following year as a finalist in the RBC Emerging Artist contest that showed him, for the first time, that being a musician was a viable career for him.
He was still in high school and had just moved to B.C. when he got the news.
“Suddenly I get an email that says they’re flying me back to Toronto and sticking me in a hotel, and I get to meet with all these Universal music executive folk, and talk music, talk biz’, and get some mentorship time. And a little financial help, which is always nice for the working class musician. So that was amazing,” he says of the experience.
“And typically you don’t get flown into hotels and flights and all those things, but when it happens it’s a pat on the back, that’s like ‘OK, keep going. Keep going forward.’”
Encouraged and enthusiastic, Cottrill carried through on that momentum, with his most recent EP Spice-Box released in June.
He’ll be touring and playing at some local venues in the region before heading back to his home in B.C., but those that don’t catch Cottrill in the act can still find his music online on most major platforms, including Bandcamp.com.
“It’s a beautiful, beautiful journey. It just takes a little bit of work,” he says.