Danielia Cotton
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Danielia Cotton

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The best kept secret in music


"Danielia Cotton @ Austin City Limits"

New Jersey’s Danielia Cotton has the sort of voice for which the phrase “force of nature” was coined. Perhaps she comes by it honestly —- her mother was a jazz singer and her aunts sang in church —- but the instrument into which she has honed that natural gift is uniquely hers.

A hard-rock devotee in her youth, Cotton came on the scene in 2005 with her debut full-length album, “Small White Town.” Not having heard the album, I don’t know if it accurately captures her chops. But onstage, she shows a gift for bringing a tune from a rolling simmer to a full boil and then using her powerful but nuanced voice to raise the temperature into blowtorch territory.

Her kickoff song, “Devil In Disguise,” was all crunch, crush and yowl. But as her set progressed, her control over that big voice became apparent. “Found Another” was a bouncy, don’t-let-the-door-hit-ya kiss-off, while “It’s Only Life” (“The first song I ever heard myself sing on the radio,” she said), with its stoic, sing-along title line and unvarnished look at hard times, had “hit single” written all over it.

After “Try” (“stanky, nasty rock,” she described it) and the gospel-flavored “Take My Heart,” a new song, “Bang the Drum,” revealed another aspect of Cotton’s repertoire: a gift for the U2-style Big Anthem.

After all of that, her ebullient cover of AC/DC’s “Back In Black” — even conducted at a volume that knocked the sausages off the sticks at the food court across the grounds — was almost anticlimactic. High cotton, indeed. - America Statesman

"Danielia Cotton"

Essence Magazine

"She sings with raw intensity, ranging from beautifully tender to howling, not even caring if her powerful voice cracks...this Jersey girl who names Led Zeppelin and Tina Turner as influences confirms that rock is Black Music too."

- Essence Magazine

"Danielia Cotton"

"Her music has the swagger of 'Let it Bleed' era Rolling Stones. Her singing has the raw emotional power of Janis Joplin. Her songwriting places her among the top new musical storytellers."
- Philadelphia Daily Local News

"the Redefining Rock n' Roll"

''Rock and roll is all about rockin' country, rockin' jazz, rockin' blues -it's more an eclectic genre than most,'' she says.

There are lists in every magazine touting the next big thing or the next ''it'' girl, but these lists have overlooked someone who belongs high on the list: recording artist Danielia Cotton.

The daughter of a jazz vocalist, she may just be proof that musical genius can be inherited. Although her mom provided jazz influence on Cotton, her taste was decidedly more rock and roll.
The chanteuse grew up in Hopewell, New Jersey, a small white town and the inspiration for her debut album of the same name.

Cotton says, ''We were pretty much the Black family of the town.''

Her exposure to rock came from her peers, who were either unaware of or unexposed to hip-hop.
Cotton identified with the themes of angst and alienation characteristic of rock music and found solace in it. She wrote her own songs on the guitar her mother had given her at 12.

''Rock and roll was a more of a vehicle of expression,'' Cotton says. ''It was the perfect outlet for whatever it was I felt.''

Cotton is a rare breed: a Black female rock and roller, and she wouldn't have it any other way. ''You have to choose the genre where your heart keeps going.''

She does not find rock confining or adhering to a certain sound, and enjoys exploring the nuances of the music. ''Rock and roll is all about rockin' country, rockin' jazz, rockin' blues -it's more an eclectic genre than most,'' she says.

Danielia was originally a drama major at Bennington College in Vermont. After graduating and pursing acting professionally, she discovered it just wasn't for her. ''I didn't love it enough to be out there kicking,'' says Cotton. She could not mute the stories in her head and tunes in her soul.

Her rock and roll aspirations were solidified when Cotton took the stage at the Ottawa Blues Festival last year. ''It was the biggest stage I ever played and I got a standing ovation.'' Cotton adds, ''I knew people were really hit,'' as if the long line of patrons waiting for Cotton to sign autographs wasn't an indication. Cotton not only won over the crowd, she also won the respect of her fellow musicians.

Although she is known for her gut-wrenching, body-rocking ballads on guitar, Cotton is also an accomplished pianist. She laughs, saying, ''I actually know more theory on piano than on guitar.'' She is also learning to play the bass. ''I'm going to tackle bass - just give me a minute.''

She often finds herself compared to the likes of legends Janis Joplin - to which she laughingly asks, ''Do you ever get tired of a Joplin reference?'' - as well as Tina Turner and Bonnie Rait.

Cotton says she most admires artists like Bruce Springsteen: ''great storytellers, great careers, and great showmanship.''

A combination of beauty and talent, Cotton's model face and jamming guitar riffs go together more than nicely. She commands the stage with her presence and penetrating vocals. She is a powerful musician that cannot be ignored.

Check out Cotton live at Harlem Summerstage on August 28th and pick up her debut album ''Small White Town'' in stores September 6th. Can't wait until then? Previews of Cotton's tracks and info are on her website, www.danielia.com, and on www.cdbaby.com.

- Amanda Cassandra - Amsterdam News

"Power of Cotton"

Power of Cotton
by Frank de Blase

Rocker Danielia Cotton recycles pain into beauty.
Getting the credit she deserves: Rock 'n' Roll artist Danielia Cotton.

Flash forward from the music that exploded in the late 1940s and you'll be swimming in a sea of white. Black is beautiful, but today, it's rarely considered rock 'n' roll.

"I think it is," says New York City rocker Danielia Cotton. "Blacks were instrumental in rock 'n' roll coming into play. No one gives us that credit. I think there's a slight bit of racism in the industry in the sense that people just want to see you do soul music. It's become that way because very few have crossed over and been successful. I think it's harder because we haven't remained visible in that genre."

But Danielia Cotton is.

Cotton recently opened for The Derek Trucks Band in Rochester during the Jazz Festival. As she and her backing band nonchalantly took to the outdoor bandstand, nobody knew what to expect. Within minutes, everybody was blown away.

They tore into their set voraciously, immediately hitting a passion peak --- as opposed to the dynamic tease 'n' build some artists choose. Pedal kissed metal from song one.

Switching between acoustic guitar and singing with Joe Cocker-with-a-feminine-twist moves, Cotton belted, bellowed, shouted, and sang. Her songs combined a singer-songwriter tone with rock passion and determination, all of it seasoned with anger and joy. Her voice soared the East Avenue sky, breaking just when the lyrics sounded as if they couldn't take it anymore. She was mesmerizing. People were knocked out.

"They're doubly thrown back because you're black and half Hispanic," Cotton says. That shouldn't matter, but it does.

"People want young and obvious," she says. Cotton's talent is obvious, but she wouldn't fit into the current wave of adolescent concubines the big wigs tout.

"I'm not 17," she says. "And if you say to somebody you've passed over the 30 threshold, they're like 'ohmigod' and you know, that's not old. But when you hear me, how could I sing those stories? How could I sing that way? It came from a life, it came from a life. I couldn't have sung that way at 17 --- nor could Janis Joplin, nor could Tina Turner, who made her debut in rock 'n' roll at 40."

"It was a rocky road in my life," she says. "It's all made me, me. I rose above it. I got out. I went to college, and you know, I'm here and I'm telling my stories in these songs."

The songs on her self-released EP are full of a resilience that shrugs off life's trouble, making the most of it.

Rock 'n' roll seemed like an obvious outlet.

"It's great music in that it's sort of cathartic," she says. "You can really let a lot out. I like that about rock 'n' roll; it can tell a story but it's also a great release."

Cotton's tunes are fleshed out in such a way it's easy to see where they came from: They're lean and tight interpretations of simple, beautiful ideas accompanied by simple, beautiful hooks. They may not come from a place of splendor, but Cotton's brassy patina sure makes them sound that way.

"What I do is I get to recycle pain," she says, "and make it something beautiful and give it to other people so they know they are not the only one. And it's great. I think that's the beauty of art. Most artists have these tortured souls and they need some outlet for that. And that's extraordinary."

Some might be quick to point out she's still just a singer in a band.]

"Am I a singer?" she asks. "No. Am I an artist? Yeah. Yeah."

- City Weekly - Rochester

"It's Only Life"

REVIEW 03/31/2005
It's Only Life
by Matt Smith, TimeOFF

Soulful rocker Danielia Cotton is poised for big-time musical success.

Hype is nothing new in the music industry. Every man, woman and (lately) child is "THE next big thing." Once in a while, however, talent outstrips the hype, as in the case of Danielia Cotton.

The soulful rock singer was named an "Artist to Watch" by influential Philadelphia radio station WXPN 88.5 FM. The adult-album-alternative powerhouse put the song "It's Only Life" from her independent six-song EP into heavy rotation, and soon Ms. Cotton started selling out shows at Delaware Valley venues such as The Point and World Cafèñive. Record labels took note, and the Hopewell native is on the verge of signing a contract to release her debut full-length CD, which she recently finished recording thanks to six-figure backing from New York City outfit HipShake Music.

The pressure is enough to drive a girl out of her mind, but Ms. Cotton seems to be taking it in stride. "This is a good place to be," she says. "It's exciting, cool, awesome. I hope it stays like this - the sense of purity of the moment.

"My definition of success is constantly changing," adds Ms. Cotton, calling from her New York City apartment. "Lately, it's been more (about) the respect of my peers and people within the music industry, and trying to be what I liked about music when I was young. You know, if I couldn't cry or wanted to be happy or wanted to be sadder, it was music that took me to those places, just like any good art does, a book or a painting. I want what I do to have an effect, for it to leave some sort of imprint on the audience. That's been my goal lately, I think more so than a career goal."

Ms. Cotton will play her first show near her hometown when she hits Triumph Brewing Co. in Princeton April 7. In Philly, she's now big enough to headline the Theatre of Living Arts on South Street, where she'll appear May 7.

Growing up in the small New Jersey town, Ms. Cotton says singing was a part of her everyday life: "Honey, stick in hand, singing to the woods, from an early age."

By the time she graduated from Hopewell Valley High School and the Mercer County School of Performing Arts, Ms. Cotton's passion was acting. She even studied for a year at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London after finishing up at Bennington College in Vermont.

She lived in Princeton when her husband, restaurateur Sam Roberts, owned Quilty's on Witherspoon Street. When his business shifted to New York City, "I was foolish enough to go," Ms. Cotton jokes. Soon thereafter, "He bought me a Fender Telecaster at a place called Chelsea Guitars, where we still live now in Chelsea. I started taking lessons, got a gig at the Bitter End, and the rest is history."

It's the ups and downs on her semi-accidental journey to a music career that provides her songwriting fuel - perhaps more so for her than for some of her barely pubescent female counterparts.

"What makes music good," she says, "and what you kind of have to do as a writer, is going into not-so-comfortable spaces... If you were to ask me why my pictures on the Web site are kind of almost naked behind a guitar, it wasn't for the reason (you might think) - it's more the way you feel on stage. It's your life. It's naked moments that you've put on paper."

Likewise, Ms. Cotton has no qualms about being an African-American rocker, which is supposed to be an oxymoron in the music world.

"What's gonna make the next waves is what everybody said wasn't marketable," Ms. Cotton contends, "things not easily contained in one specific box. I think more and more folks are starting to realize that. It's almost like racial lines - you shouldn't be boxed in. When you see a black performer, you shouldn't automatically think R&B and soul. They have a right to the genre of rock - Chuck Berry. You have a right, no matter who you are, to sing and do what's in your soul. If it's true and it's good, it's valid."

Ms. Cotton has been helped in her quest to sing what's in her soul by her producer and collaborator, Kevin Salem. Mr. Salem seemed to add that missing ingredient to her music, perhaps what another New York City singer-songwriter, Jesse Harris, did for now-superstar Norah Jones.

"I think I was a singer when I met him and I walked out an artist," she says. "That was a huge bonus, to walk out with an album as an artist. I don't know. There's such purity in his love (of music)... He puts himself out there, and you've really got to put yourself out there, put your own story out there... I can't say enough about him melodically, harmonically, as a person. He's an extraordinary human being and he changed my life, if I could put in lightly."

Even if she never goes gold or sells out Radio City Music Hall, there's little doubt that Ms. Cotton has finally found what she's supposed to be doing with her life.

"I feel like that last line in the movie 'Ameri - Matt Smith - Good Times Magazine New York


Danielia Cotton - EP

Small White Town - CD


Feeling a bit camera shy


Danielia Cotton’s music is not . . . relaxed, mellow, sweet, or similar to anything else that’s out there.

Each throat-searing track on Danielia’s new CD, Small White Town, showcases the shocking, raw power of her voice. These are sheerly emotional songs—they hide nothing, they compromise nothing. From the guitar-driven blues force of "Devil in Disguise" to the aching dreams of freedom that haunt "4 A Ride"—every moment of Small White Town testifies to the fact that music is not merely Danielia’s talent. It’s her deepest calling.

Danielia loved rock from early on: as a little girl in rural Hopewell, New Jersey (truly a "small white town"), she escaped into her backyard, with a branch for a microphone, and belted it out to the trees.

Her love of rock crystallized a few years later, the moment she wrapped her hands around her first electric guitar, a Fender Tele, and she taught herself to play. "An electric guitar can sound painful," she says. "It can sound bright. Playing it is like putting on makeup for the first time: you start to live in a different world."

So who is Danielia? Growing up as one of only seven black kids in Hopewell Valley High School, she was not exposed to R&B and hip-hop. "I liked AC/DC, Judas Priest, Todd Rundgren," she remembers. She is the product of all kinds of musical influences. Raised by her mother, a gifted jazz singer, Danielia never knew her father. She often heard her mother and two aunts sing as a trio at church. Along with her growing love for rock, Danielia developed a warm appreciation for jazz and gospel.

Feeling like an outsider in her small town drove Danielia closer to rock and roll, at first as a listener, but soon afterwards as someone who dreamed of creating music. Danielia began to learn how to strum chords on an acoustic guitar and started to write her first songs. The time had come to step out of that back yard.

Danielia moved to NYC and gave herself fully to music. She established herself as a regular at the Bitter End. Word began to spread. More gigs filled her calendar: Arlene Grocery, Fez, the Cutting Room, the Sidewalk Café, CB’s Gallery...

And then the time came to capture her music on disc. Kevin Salem, an outstanding guitarist and songwriter, agreed to produce Danielia’s first album. Impressed by Kevin’s work with Chocolate Genius, Danielia sensed that he would be a dynamic studio partner. "His production has such a depth and feel. Harmonically, I knew he would get me."

WXPN, in Philadelphia, tagged Danielia as one of their top "artists to watch" in 2005 and slotted the song "It’s Only Life" into heavy rotation. Press raves sprouted online and in print, lauding Danielia’s "bluesy voice, her soulful guitar work and cover-girl face"; touting her as "the next big thing"; and concluding that "once in a while. . . ..talent outstrips the hype, as in the case of Danielia Cotton."

With the arrival of Small White Town, reviewers will fish for comparisons to such iconic powerhouses as Janis Joplin and Tina Turner. As the Philadelphia Daily Local News has already proclaimed, Danielia’s music has the "swagger of ‘Let It Bleed’-era Rolling Stones." Those comparisons place a heavy load on an artist who may share similarities with the giants to but who ultimately is unique.

"Small White Town is me," she says simply. "It’s a reflection of my love for rock and roll." And for those who believe in the magic of rock and roll, Small White Town shows us that a new sorceress has arrived.