INTERVIEW: Brad Cotter "Just In Time"

You most likely recognize Brad Cotter from his National thrust into stardom after winning the 2004 Nashville Star competition; and with so many reality television shows and similar contests we have not been able to keep up with where the winners are now.

If you are like a lot of people, you have asked yourself “whatever happened to Brad Cotter?” He has the answers for you; he is still right here in Music City putting out new songs, recently released a new CD project and is in the process of writing a book about his journey through life and the struggles he has faced in the music industry from a very young age.

Recently I had an opportunity to sit down with Brad and take a peek at his life, his music and the very honest, very open and very interesting book which he is writing.

Q. Brad, I know you have been very busy with promotions for the new CD and currently have a contest which incorporates YouTube and your fans. Can you tell me more about this?
A. The contest is a really neat thing. We got the idea from people who submit videos to YouTube. A friend of mine suggested I watch one of the cutest little girl on YouTube singing one of my songs. We thought it was so neat; we decided to see if there were any other people out there who would like to participate. My management came up with the idea of a guitar as a prize; to encourage youngsters to learn and develop their craft, rather than an autographed CD or something similar to that. We were hoping that the contest would be about young people who wanted to write songs or sing, to give them a place to showcase their talent and also to drive more traffic to our sites. Instead, there are all kinds of video being submitted; like little boys playing air guitar, jumping around dancing, then we have some that are serious about it that are really trying to sing the songs. It has really been fun to see all the different styles being submitted. Anyone can submit anything they want as long as it is clean. As far as age goes, there are no limitations. I’m really glad we did that because it is really entertaining to see; as opposed to a contest to see who performs Brad’s songs the best.
Q: Have you had any where the words have been changed?
A: Like the Cletus or parody thing? Not yet. The first video that was submitted was two little boys jumping around playing the air guitar to one of my songs and I thought “Man that will be so cool when they are sixteen and mom pulls that out for the girlfriend.
Q. Do you find it challenging to continue to find new ways to draw attention to your music and your websites? Things have changed so much over the last few years with the impact of the social networks.
A. I am really new to the whole social networking thing. I know I’m telling my age when I say that. It is amazing to me how difficult it is with the vast number of people out there trying to get your attention. It is hard to get someone to spend five minutes on a website; and yet it is important that we let people know what we are doing these days. Without a big number one hit single, my team and I were trying to come up with ideas on how we could get our fans and new listeners to say “I wonder what Brad is doing?” So I hope people are wondering and will check our website out.
Q: Are you doing the social network things like Twitter, Facebook, and Myspace?
A: I am doing it. I am supposed to say yes I love it, but I don’t get it. It is a lot of work and I don’t think that people are that interested in my mundane moves. ---I’m going to the bank now, I just wrote a song--But I guess they are. I can’t say it comes natural to me to tell everybody my business. But for the record, I am social networking my tail off!
Q. You recently released a new CD project called “Right On Time”; did you set out with a grand scheme in place as you prepared to do this?
A. I am real proud of the new record. It was finished up last summer and we have been trying to get some dates on the books tour-wise to go out and support the new record. Everything is slowly but surely heading in the right direction. We didn’t really have a big marketing plan or any preconceived ideas promotion wise. We just went in and cut a bunch of songs we really liked and thought we would just let the music dictate the direction we would go.
Q: How many of the songs on this CD did you have a hand in writing?
A: I wrote or co-wrote three. But it really wasn’t about who wrote the songs as much as just trying to find songs I could relate too and that felt right to me. I really wanted to record a record something I would like to sit and listen to myself.
Q: Does it have any kind of a theme?
A: It did! I have a lot of people close to me who tell me what they like or don’t like. It seems to have a lot of religious overtones to it. Not necessarily preaching to people how they should or should not live, but spiritual, like searching for things; life questions such as what does this really mean? Why are we here? There is a lot of depth in the lyrics. There is also a couple of fun songs that you don’t really have to think too much about; Just go down the road, roll down the windows and listen to it. For the most part, the overall theme is about making choices. Good choices, bad choices and the outcome. There seems to be a little spirituality involved in that because of my gospel background, my dad being a preacher and all.
Q: How is this one different from the others you have done?
A: The first one was Nashville Star oriented; to get the product out on the shelves as fast as possible before the people forget the television show. It was done at a breakneck pace. I am very proud of what we were able to accomplish in the little time we had. The second record was intended to be similar to the first, I wanted to go in and record some songs that were close to my heart. I actually had more songs on it that I had written. The label I was involved with at the time ran out of funding before we were even able to get it off the ground. So by the time I had perfected it, it was too late. My dad, a couple of my friends and me are the only people who ever heard it.
Q: Any chance any of the songs on that record will ever be resurrected?
A: I have a song or two that I have pitched around town and have had some interest shown by other artists, but I have never had anyone cut one. There is a possibility that some of the songs will find their way, but as far as me recording one of them I just don’t see that happening. I never rule anything out anymore. This business has changed so much in the last couple of years much less the last ten that who knows? Someone might hear that and want to put that out.
Q: When you perform in concert or for events, do you ever sing any of those song during your show?
A: Yes, there are a couple of them on the previous project on my live show; but my live shows are always changing. I do so many different types of shows and events; everything from solo acoustics to trios to acoustic gigs to the full band with the whole extravaganza and the songs are constantly changing depending on what we’re doing.
Q: Are you currently doing any shows or scheduled to perform?
A: Since the first of the year I have done a few corporate events and conferences and a lot of private functions. We are going overseas towards the end of February or the first of March to do a USO tour for the troops. It will be a 7-10 day trip. I know we are going to be in Kuwait for the first stop, but I really do not know where else we will be going. We are hoping for the months April, May and June hopefully to fill up fast.
Q: Are you trying to package yourself on a tour with anyone or are you going solo?
A: It is sort of hit and miss, although I have done a lot of shows with Buddy Jewel because of the Nashville Star connection. I really have not been grouped with anyone in particular. The last time I was on a package tour was in 2007. I was out with Restless Heart for their reunion tour.
Q: Are you doing any traditional videos for any of the songs on the “Just In Time” project?
A: We have not really discussed any. If there were a glorified single that we were trying to gain radio support we would need a video to go along with it, but I guess we are taking it one step at a time. We are not ruling it out but at this time there are no plans for one.
Q: What plans are in place as far as starting over so to speak and reconnecting with your fans and trying to gain new ones?
A: For one, we are doing some charity events in collaboration with country radio seminar. When you kind of disappear like it seems like I did for four or five years, which was not intentional, it takes a lot of money to stay in the public eye. It takes a little bit of starting over. I am kind of climbing back up to the top of the hill if you will. We are just taking baby steps, trying to get people interested in coming back around. It seems to be working pretty good so far. It just takes having to remind people “hey, we’re still over here, we’re still making music”.
Q: When you look back with your experience with Nashville Star, if you could give any advice to someone, what would that be?
A: Depending on their age; if they were young, stay in school, be sure you have a back up plan, you could win all the TV shows in the world, have all the record deals in the world, it doesn’t guarantee success and none of that guarantees happiness if you are successful. My advice is to be careful and make good choices. Don’t take it too seriously. I’ve seen some great success stories through reality television and I have seen some hit and misses.
Q: Do you think there should be age limits set on those who can enter such competitions?
A: Yes, I think so. I think it is tough on anyone younger than sixteen to have all the pressure, expectations and not being mature enough to handle it yet. There are people out there who can and who have and have done a great job of it. But I agree with the age limit. I just do not think that fourteen or fifteen year old kids should be thrust into the machine of this industry.
Q: I am very interested in more information about the book you are writing, what can you share about it so far?
A: About a year or year and a half ago I noticed that Wikipedia has nothing but false information about me and there are several other websites out there that have misinformation about me. The only way I can clear this up and correct it is to tell my story. That is the best way I know to do it. My thought was that if there were some kid out there wanting to be on American Idol, Nashville Star or other reality TV shows; and if someone had told me the truth about how this business works when I was nineteen years old and making a decision not to go to college, to pursue this crazy dream. I don’t know if it would have done any good for anybody to tell me, but I would like to think it would have. So I think I am in a very unique position that I did have a number four record in Country Music and I have the ability to say, “Hey, I’ve been there. I know what it takes to get there. And it is not at all what I thought it was. Not at all what you think it is”. I am going to just tell the truth, warts and all, the good, the bad, and the ugly; the dumb stuff I did, the good stuff I did. I just want to let that reader see “Wow! This business isn’t what I thought it was! Maybe I do need to listen to mom and dad! Maybe I do need an education. Maybe I do need to think twice about a back up plan. “
Q: I know the book is still in progress, any idea on when it will be available?
A: We are just beginning really, so it is still in the process of being written. We are probably about 40% there. We still have a long way to go as far as the telling of it. We have an outline, what we want to say. It is just that I have to get in there and get the work done.
Q: Are you recording your thoughts and then having a writer translate and write it?
A: It is a combination of that and a narrative from Steve Bogart’s view; my words will be italicized. It will be narrated and there will also be personal stories. It won’t be in chronological order. It is not going to be an autobiography. It is going to be different moments in time throughout this career and different things that I have gone through that triggered things, memories etc. Hopefully it will be compelling because of the different behind the scenes of the music industry and the behind the scenes of the reality TV shows. Also I want to make sure that the truth is told so the message gets out to the upcoming hopefuls.
Q: Do you think that the 3-4 years off when you were not active that that helped to put you in that frame of mind to say, “Hey I need to get the truth out”?
A: Definitely. There is no way I could have written this book without having an agenda or my emotions being too involved. Whether they be good, bad or indifferent. I had a chip on my shoulder. I felt like the industry maybe owed me something because I had to go through the reality TV show to get a record deal. I couldn’t get A & R to listen to me. I couldn’t get any label to give me a shot. So I had to go through this crazy ordeal just to get a record done. I had a little bit of bitterness and anger going on that would have definitely been a tone throughout the book that I didn’t want. It is nothing I intended or planned; it is just the way the good Lord worked everything out. It has been enough time that there has been some healing. Things do make more sense now than they did 4 years ago. I can write about it without it being tainted.
Q: I know you mentioned earlier the CRS Charity involvement and an upcoming USO tour, what other charity work are you doing?
A: We are involved with Compassion International, with the Country Radio Seminar event, with Haiti relief fund, the Red Cross, some public service announcements for them and like I mentioned before, the USO tour. We are also in the process of doing a video of a jam with a friend of mine from my home town who happens to have a hunting and fishing television show that comes on Fox. I have been on his show before as a special guest, and we went down to do another, but the weather did not cooperate. We ended up sitting around and doing an impromptu jam which the TV crew filmed and one thing led to another; before you knew it we had ten or twelve songs in the can. He is going to promote that on his show. A portion of the proceeds from that will be donated to charity. It was very unplanned. I am excited about that.
Brad, as always, wonderful to see you and spend some time with you, I am excited to read more of the book and hear more great music from you.
Bev, thank you and good to see you as well. Look forward to seeing you again soon and appreciate all you do.
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