Kate Cotter
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Kate Cotter

Reno, Nevada, United States | SELF

Reno, Nevada, United States | SELF
Band Rock Singer/Songwriter


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"On the Rise"

"On her new record, Drink the Desert, Kate Cotter’s voice is sweeter than morning dew and as intimately feminine as your mother’s music box. Her signature etherealism is accented by a wisp of melodic Americana, leading the listener around her introspective heartscapes with a palpable sense of nostalgia. Lyrically declarative, her standout tracks “Find Ourselves,” “Tulip Song,” “All the Time” and “Bare” button up a taut recording (with production and engineering by Tim Snider and Sam Minaie) that reveals an artist in top form and in full possession of her considerable gifts." see more... - Reno Tahoe Tonight

"Cotter Seeks to Unearth Life's Meaning"

Kate Cotter recently said she never intended to become a professional musician, but a story from her youth tells a different tale.

“I remember going door to door with my girlfriend to see if people would pay us to sing songs,” she said during a recent interview at the Spread Peace Cafe in downtown Reno. “Our parents found out and we got in big trouble for that.”

Twenty six years later, Cotter, now 33, still looks for gigs but with grown-up credentials behind her. She has spent the last decade or so making music with Reno as her home base and on Dec. 4 she will hold a party at John Ascuaga’s Nugget to mark the release of her latest album, “Drink the Desert.”

Born in Reno, Cotter’s family moved to Oregon for a while and she attended college in Tennessee. She came back to northern Nevada and began playing some open mic nights around town. Cotter had always written songs and loved music, but she said it wasn’t until her casual performances garnered her some strong local support that she began to pursue it as a career. She was accepted to live in the Riverside artist lofts in downtown Reno, subsidizing her pursuit of a music career.

Her formula is not unusual — a girl with a guitar and a soft voice — but she strives to make herself stand out with original music. She wrote the 10 songs on her new album, and even prides herself on being unique when she does covers, such as for the local Dollars for Dylan and Bones for Stones fundraisers.

“The biggest compliment someone can give is saying you have an original sound,” Cotter said. “I’ve always intentionally tried not to emulate anyone when I do a cover. I try to give it my own sound.”

Her original work on “Drink the Desert” has a familiar feel musically — heavy on acoustic guitar and soothing instrumentals and backing vocals — so it is in the lyrics that the listener will find Cotter’s unique voice and experience. The first song, “Saloon Hotel,” for example, came from a dream she had and draws on Western imagery with a marching drumbeat. The title track to the album “Drink the Desert,” is a metaphor for life. People often use the term “dry spell” to refer to an emptiness of some kind, Cotter said, focusing only on the barrenness of the surface and ignoring the richness just below. She said her recent songwriting efforts have been strongly influenced by the music and storytelling of Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash.

Cotter’s longtime musical friend Tim Snider, front man for the local world rock band Sol’ Jibe, and Sam Minaie, a Reno native and renowned bass player and jazz musician, produced “Drink the Desert,” which was recorded at Imirage Sound Lab in Sparks. Snider also contributed to the album by playing violin, guitar and mandolin. The two have played together since Cotter’s open mic nights a decade ago.

“The CD is really pretty and honest,” Snider said. “It sounds like Kate to me. It’s hard to come across albums that end up sounding honest and we really accomplished that.”

Releasing this album will allow Cotter to go back on the road, she said, traveling and performing for as long as the work will sustain the tour. Her upcoming schedule includes a New Year’s gig in Costa Rica.

“I feel like I have more momentum than I’ve ever had before,” she said.

For her next musical experiment, Cotter said she has been working on something very different. She has two projects going: one with Snider and local rapper Tony Walker, known on stage as Locus, combining songwriting with an artist of a very different style. In another project, she and electronic musician Dave Madsen, known by stage name Kristophari, are combining melody and lyrics. She hopes to debut both projects in the near future.

The CD release party for “Drink the Desert” will be at 9 p.m. Dec. 4 in the Celebrity Showroom at John Ascuaga’s Nugget. Tickets cost $19.50 and include a copy of the album. Purchase tickets online at www.janugget.com or by calling 356-3300. Anyone under age 21 must be accompanied by an adult.

For more on Cotter, visit www.katecotter.com. The CD is available for purchase in Reno at Discology, located at 190 California Ave., or online at iTunes or www.cdbaby.com.

Read more: Sparks Tribune - Cotter seeks to unearth life’s meaning
- Sparks Tribune

"Kate Cotter in Full Bloom with 'Drink the Desert'"

For Kate Cotter fans, the album they've been awaiting.

A year in the making, Cotter's third self-released CD shows Reno's best-known singer-songwriter in full bloom as a melodic songstress, and in full control of her mezzo-soprano -- its dreaminess belying harsh-as-day lyrics layered with meaning.

Sonically, the 10 tracks on "Drink the Desert" are one mellifluous flow: a credit to the producers -- Reno native Sam Minaie, a New York-based jazz bassist and cellist; and Tim Snider, front man, guitarist and violinist in Reno's world-beat ensemble, Sol Jibe.

"This one was, start to finish, the same producers, the same vision," Cotter says, noting 2007's "August" took three years to finish.

Lyrically, metaphors addressing the struggles of love -- and triumph of self-reliance -- swirl beneath the placid soundstream. Cotter's isn't the tortured spirit of the subterranean folkie prophet, but of the introspective soul searcher. The title track's chorus: "I drink the desert in again/To satisfy a thirst that looks like passion caving in/I will drink my desert while you live inside your rain/Under cover grey."

"I wanted to push myself outside my comfort zone with more complex melodies and lyrics," Cotter, 33, said. "'August' had a bit more of a rock feel. 'Point of Real' (2002) was more stripped down. 'Drink the Desert' is very orchestral but not without an edge. It's lush and organic. There's also an Americana feel in the two-step rhythms of 'Tulip,' 'Siren' and the opener, 'Saloon Hotel.'"

Cotter will debut "Drink the Desert" on Saturday at John Ascuaga's Nugget -- where she'd introduced "August" to a packed house. Backing her will be local stars including Snider, drummer Jason Thomas and bassist Gia Torcaso, plus a string quartet featuring Reno Philharmonic players. Cotter promises surprises, too.

"Drink the Desert" relied on local talent. The production -- characterized by Snider's violin, Minaie's cello and Cotter's acoustic guitar -- is deft and restrained. Instruments (including standup bass, piano, mandolin and melodica) and harmonies (by locals Joel Ackerson and Eric Andersen, Grace Hutchison and Tyler Stafford, Snider and Minaie) color tones and atmosphere. Fittingly for a local gem, the CD was recorded by Tom Gordon at Imirage Sound Lab in Sparks.
On "Saloon Hotel," Gordon's marching snare raps a persistent undertow. Snider's violin dances around Cotter's phrases like an old friend.

The only cover is "The Scientist." Unlike Coldplay's ballad with piano and reverb, Cotter's understated version is playful, with violin pizzicato behind her breathy delivery.

As with Coldplay, women's psyches seem wired to respond to Cotter. But any listener will recognize "Drink the Desert" as honest art. On the last bars of the last song -- "Bare," reprising motifs of "Siren" and "Find Ourselves" -- the piano arpeggio and doubling vocal drop out, leaving Cotter's naked voice to intone the final repetition of a truth emergent in the aftermath of a stormy relationship: "We find ourselves."

An earlier incarnation of "Find Ourselves," backed only by guitar, closed "August." Its contrast with the strings-laden version evinces Cotter's continual growth. One of just a handful of singer-songwriters enjoying a full-time performing career in Reno, the slender, mellow blonde with wide, expressive eyes has logged more stage time than any local indie troubadour. The perpetual question has been when she'd sail into the wider sea.

That voyage has begun. Cotter will play a festival over New Year's in Costa Rica. She and Snider plan on touring Italy in spring.

"Drink the Desert" marks a new phase.

"It's my most cohesive and mature album so far," Cotter says. - Reno Gazette Journal

"The List: 101 who mattered"

"Cotter’s credited by many as being the most popular female singer-songwriter to come out of Reno in the last 25 years. Her dreamy songs and hypnotic voice have influenced many playing in Reno today." - Reno News & Review

"Kate has that magical style..."

"Kate has that magical style about herself and the way she carries herself. Other people respond to her. She's one of those people who can stand in a group of people and everyone's captivated." - Reno Gazette Journal

"Nothing Hotter than Kate Cotter"

Easy to understand having an anxiety dream before playing at a venue like the Nugget's Celebrity Showroom.

Award-winning Reno songwriter Kate Cotter had played a couple of songs from her new CD, August, on a Thursday night in August. She didn't look nervous. She wore a simple black top with slender straps, black pants and a cicle-shaped silver pendant. Straight blonde hair, shoulder-length, pushed back from her face. A bit of glitter. A wide smile.

At ease, she picked graceful melodies from an acoustic guitar.

She told the story of a dream in which numerous things went awry: It was time to go on stage and she hadn't done a sound check. Other band members hadn't arrived.

"But I thought, in the dream, I'll be a pro and go on," Cotter said. "Then I looked down, and I was holding a toy guitar, like a ukulele. I went to sing, and the mic stand got floppy—flaccid microphone." In the dream, she saw a guy with a guitar sitting on a barstool playing "Freebird" while she attempted to sing.

"I think he was trying to help me out," Cotter said.


"After that dream, whatever happens is OK," she said.

"I'm going to sing a song called 'Whale.' It's about (pause) a whale."

More laughter.

"We love you, Kate!" a fan cried from the back of the room.

"I love you, too," Cotter said, "but I can't see you—the lights."

A Reno musician releasing her second album couldn't have played to a more supportive crowd. The showroom was packed with friends, family, members of the media and fans. There were folks from UNR's English department, where Cotter's friend Justin Gifford teaches, and co-workers from The Grill on South McCarran, where Cotter waits tables.

"That paid for this album," she said. "If you buy enough T-shirts, I won't have to wait tables anymore."

Cotter's face was in this paper and on the Nugget's plasma screen. She printed 5,000 postcards and 1,300 fliers for the show. Fans found her MySpace page (myspace.com/katecotter), where the new CD's title song plays, poignant and rhythmic. Lyrics: "He leaned over holding softness. Whispered 'this is August.'"

The Web profile includes info of Cotter's 2002 CD, Point of Real. "Evoking the musical spirit of Tracy Chapman, Toad the Wet Sprocket, and Counting Crows, Point of Real is a ballad-rich contemplation of the beautiful absurdity of human relationships and contemplation of the divine."

And now, August. Cotter played all of her new songs—balanced alt-folk bits of darkness and light. In "Find Ourselves," there's a chasm to bridge: "I keep enough distance from you / You keep enough distance from me / To keep us both safe from ourselves / To keep us both perfectly free." The solid dissolves in "Standing Near"—"The voice said, 'Know your name / Even if you don't ...'" Guest artist Tony Cataldo pulled out his trumpet for the piece. Tim Snider of Sol Jibe kicked in with violin on several songs.

"We love you, Kate!"

She smiled, lowered her eyes.

"Love you, too."

The set ended, but the applause didn't. When Cotter returned for an encore, she was tossed a white shirt with a huge photograph of herself on its front. The back read: "There's nothing hotter than Kate Cotter."

She blushed.

"I'm glad I didn't get this earlier," she said. "I'd have a hard time taking myself seriously."

Cotter held the shirt up. She was urged to put it on. Band members pulled shirts over their heads. Drummer Jason Thomas of Cranium and bassist Gia Torcaso of Dirty Pretty wore theirs backwards so the text was readable.

"I think I feel an anxiety dream coming on," Cotter said.

"We love you, Kate!" someone sang out.

Cotter broke out the lopsided grin.

"Love you, too." - Reno News & Review


Drink the Desert (2010)
radio play: "Axis"

August (2007)
radio play: "August" "Already"

Point of Real (2002)
radio play: "Closer than Close" "Falling Down"



"Cotter’s credited by many as being the most popular female singer-songwriter to come out of Reno in the last 25 years. Her dreamy songs and hypnotic voice have influenced many playing in Reno today." --Reno News & Review

"Kate has that magical style about herself and the way she carries herself. Other people respond to her. She's one of those people who can stand in a group of people and everyone's captivated." --Reno Gazette Journal

Tucked away between Lake Tahoe and the high desert of the American West is one of the best kept secrets in independent music. In the city of Reno, a frontier town with just the right mix of homespun vice and sublime natural beauty, a subterranean community of working musicians has sprung from the coffee shops and bars of America’s biggest little city. An assortment of homegrown talent infused with Bay Area edge, the Reno music scene has been sustained by a diversity of musical styles, ranging from ska and punk to jazz and metal. Among the subculture of singer/songwriters, whose sound is marked by zany soulfulness is Kate Cotter, a Reno native whose ethereal voice, poetic craftmanship, and off-beat sense of humor has earned her a loyal following. As the arts editor from the local weekly describes her: “It is the rare artist who can weave metaphor-rich lyrics, haunting vocals and catchy melodies into something that is neither self-serious nor sticky-sweet, something that falls on the indie side of pop and well-groomed side of folk.” Although reminiscent of Joni Mitchell, and at times drawing comparisons to Imogen Heap, Sarah McLachlan, and Dido, Cotter’s breathy voice has its own hypnotic charm.

Cited by the Reno News & Review as being “the most popular female singer-songwriter to come out of Reno in the last 25 years,” Cotter has won numerous prestigious awards and honors, including the Nevada Arts Council Fellowship and the Sierra Arts Foundation Performing Arts Grant. She was also voted among the "Best Local Musicians" in Northern Nevada for 2006, 2007, and 2009 and has shared the stage with a wide range of musicians, including the likes of Brett Dennen, folk legend John Gorka, and Seth Horan (formerly of Vertical Horizon). A nomad at heart, Cotter has toured nationally and internationally, often weaving the experiences of her travels into the texture of her music.

Cotter’s first album Point of Real was released in 2002 and is an acoustic ballad-rich contemplation of the beautiful absurdity of human relationships and meditation on the divine. Cotter draws from the landscape of the unconscious and the profound details of everyday life; with allusions to parables and pilgrimages, her songs probe the crisis of what it means to be fully known and knowable to one another and one’s self. To quote from the album, Cotter’s music expresses “how by living we are healed.”

Her second and third albums, August and Drink the Desert, were both released to a packed house at John Ascuaga's Celebrity Showroom (a venue graced by entertainers such as Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, Indigo Girls, etc.) generating headlines such as "Nothing Hotter than Kate Cotter” and earning August the title of "Best Local Album" for Northern Nevada for 2007. While honoring the acoustic roots of the first album, August incorporates an electric edge, punctuated by violin and trumpet. Driven by these added musical elements, as well as Cotter’s truly haunting voice, August is a darker, more lyrically introspective album than her first. But ultimately, August is imbued with Cotter’s infectious and unwavering faith in the mystery of life and the hope of redemption. In this powerful second album, a wiser, more mature Cotter proves that musical integrity and experimentation do not have to be sacrificed for commercial appeal.

Cotter’s third and newest release Drink the Desert is a departure from the pop/rock-oriented August with its lush, and sometimes edgy, string-laden production, laced with a hint of Americana. Drink the Desert is driven by violin, cello and Cotter’s accomplished folk guitar in addition to featuring standup bass and mandolin, melodica and piano. The new album showcases Cotter’s beautifully haunting vocals, lyrical songwriting and memorable melodies.