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Name: Adam Bernard
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About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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Artist Of The Week - Danielia Cotton
Monday, October 20, 2008

In an industry that is content to live by their preconceived notion that all black female artists need to be either R&B singers or rappers, soul rocker Danielia Cotton breaks the mold. Being different has actually been one of the prevailing aspects of her life since day one. Cotton grew up as one of the only black kids in the mostly white town of Hope, New Jersey, and by the time high school was over she realized she could parlay her uniqueness into a college education, making her way to Bennington College in Vermont. She notes, “there were only ten blacks when I was at Bennington because at that point it was one of the most expensive colleges in the nation. I sought them out knowing I really couldn’t afford a college education but I could give them something they needed and they could give me something I needed.” Now firmly ensconced in New York City’s rock scene, Cotton sat down with me this week to discuss what influenced her to go into rock music, why we don’t see very many black women in rock, and which artist she’d most like to hit the bars with.

Adam Bernard: From your work I can tell you have a lot of influences. Who did you listen to, or do you still listen to, that influences you?
Danielia Cotton: I can say that I just bought my first concert tickets that I’ve bought in a long time because I wanted to see one of my favorite bands, Oasis. I love them and it’s the first time I’ve wanted to go see somebody in a while. As far as influences, though, I know people say U2 and this and that, but The Rolling Stones are my boys. There’s blues in their music, just like Zeppelin. Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones are two groups that just, to me, really are eclectic if you really look at them. There’s country in those bands, there’s blues in there, there’s rock, they allow other genres to come in and affect what they do and they incorporate it and I like that a lot versus just straight ahead rock n roll. I love Prince, I think Purple Rain is one of his greatest albums. I like Stevie Wonder. I love Donny Hathaway. I like Loggins and Messina of all things. My mom was like, you were the weirdest little kid, you had adult contemporary tastes. I befriended my aunts who are almost a good two decades older than me and they listened to Dan Fogelberg and Loggins and Messina and one of them was on the road with Southside Johnny. They were just listening to different things; Johnny Winters, Leon Russell, things that I would have never been exposed to. My brother who was older than me, our rooms connected and he was listening to AC/DC, Yes, Chicago, Foreigner, Todd Rundgren, and my mom’s a jazz singer so downstairs was Nancy Wilson. I really got the benefit of being around a vast amount of music and people with really great taste, but they all had different taste. It was pretty phenomenal, I think.

Adam Bernard: Is your unique background what inspired you to name your latest album Rare Child?
Danielia Cotton: No. That song came about after I went out with a trio opening up for Greg Allman and I just got affected by all that southern rock and big mmph. We came back and wrote a few songs and “Rare Child” was one of them. I just like “Rare Child” because everybody is one. That whole song is not about the personal narrator thing saying I’m a rare child, it’s that everyone is. You are born you, you have your own DNA, you’re the only one with your DNA makeup and you can be anything you want to be, that’s the beauty of where we live, because you’re free. Inevitably it makes everybody a rare child, so I think when you look at it you realize it’s a universal thing, embracing one’s uniqueness.

Adam Bernard: In your music you wear your heart on your sleeve. What are some of the pros and cons of this?
Danielia Cotton: When you get a shitty review, when you feel like the audience doesn’t get it, you feel like you just put yourself out there and it’s like somebody said “I don’t like you.” {laughs} The upside is that I never have to try anything to get myself to go to a place. I definitely choose things that I’ve dealt with so that I don’t open a wound and find myself in a bad place every time I go to sing a song about a certain thing. When people get that you’re putting yourself out there, and when it actually hits, it’s extraordinary and you’re touched at how powerful that can be to the listener. It’s also cathartic for me, so it’s a great thing. There is a definitely the downside when people say “that sucks.” You take it personally, which you shouldn’t, because it’s like any art. When I’m in a museum I’m not gonna like every artist. You hope that people are of mind enough to say I appreciate it, but it’s not my thing, but that’s not always the case with critics and/or people. You definitely put yourself out there, but the upside far outweighs the downside.

Adam Bernard: While we’re seeing an influx of women in rock, including Amy Lee of Evanescence, Hayley Williams of Paramore and Lacey Mosley of Flyleaf, we still aren’t seeing a lot of black women in rock. Why do you think this is? Is there still an ethnic barrier in the industry?
Danielia Cotton: I can’t lie, there are still a lot of record labels and people scared to take a chance on that whole thing because it’s still sort of odd because it’s just not out there and the last person to be extraordinarily successful at it was Tina Turner and that was quite some time ago. I hope that regardless of how far I get the fact that I’ve gotten this far makes it a little easier for that little black girl behind me. When you think about the struggle of blacks, that’s sort of what we were told, at least in my generation; that every door you open makes it easier for the next person because that door is open now when they go through. You kind of have to look at it that way and you hope that you actually get to the end door and you get to open it.

Adam Bernard: Finally, which artist would you most like to throw back a beer with and why?
Danielia Cotton: Mick Jagger, on so many levels. He’s a great businessman, great musician, what a career that he’s had. I would say Prince, but he’s not the kind of guy to throw back a beer and spill out his guts. I’d want somebody who might actually give you something and Mick just seems to me like if you sat down and you spoke to him he’d say something that would stick with you and a year later you might be like DAMN.

Related Links

Website: danielia.com
MySpace: myspace.com/danieliacotton
YouTube: youtube.com/danieliacotton


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:34 AM  
  • At 9:42 AM, Blogger UndertheumbrellaGirl said…

    Danielia Cotton is one of the best live performances i ever seen. Her voice reaches into your soul and makes you captivated in awe

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