Courtney Cotter King: Singer-Songwriter

Courtney Cotter King

Courtney Cotter King is one of the Valley’s most talented singer-songwriters, with a beautiful soulful voice and adept songwriting ability spanning genres ranging from pop to progressive rock. The 23-year-old Gilbert resident has written more than 100 songs and released three albums since she was in junior high school, and she performs at venues throughout the state when she’s not making polished music videos for her singles.

King is signed to local record label Fervor Records and is available for hire for special events such as weddings. She also teaches piano lessons and plays house parties for donations, which you can read more about below. Keep reading to see her name her five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video, too.

What brought you to Arizona?

My ancestors came to Arizona, and my family has lived here for years. I was born here and went to Mesa High School. After high school, I attended a summer music performance program at Berklee College of Music before I studied audio production at Mesa Community College.

What’s your earliest memory of being interested in music?

I taught myself piano when I was 3 years old, and the first time I wrote a song, it was in seventh grade. I wrote a religious song about faith, and I wanted to write music after that. I wrote it within two hours in one night, and after that I thought, “I could write music.”

The first song I ever learned by ear was “The Feather Theme” from the movie Forrest Gump. I started to learn a lot of other movie soundtracks by ear, which was inspiring — a lot of John Williams. My parents saw this gift in me and put me in piano lessons from fourth through seventh grade.

Do you have musicians in your family?

I have a sister who writes lyrics, and she introduced me to some of my favorite artists. My oldest brother played piano, but most of my family is into sports.

Why are you passionate about piano?

I loved that I could hear a song and could play it on the piano. It was the first instrument I just picked up on my own, because it was there in my house. I got to learn all these different kinds of songs–classical, blues, pop, rock, all these different genres–because of many artists I grew up listening to played the piano, such as Elton John, Stevie Wonder, and Fiona Apple.

What is it about the instrument’s sound that makes it stand out among other instruments?

I love that the piano is a percussion instrument. I also love the piano has been featured in every decade, including the stride piano of the 1920s.

What has your musical evolution been like since you stopped taking lessons?

I never considered myself a singer until I wrote songs, which I just did for fun. When I got out of high school, that’s when I really started taking it seriously and decided I wanted to be a singer-songwriter because I’m doing what I love.

It’s a risky career. You don’t know where it’s going to take you. You have this job where you don’t know if it’s going to pay what you need, but you do it because you know you need to do it, and you love it. I believe in myself.

What are you working on these days?

I’m independently releasing my next singles. I’m releasing songs as singles because it’s more easily fund-able, and I want to do music videos with these singles.

The next single will be released in September. It’s called “Stowaway,” and I filmed a music video for it at Saguaro Lake.

What’s the song about, and what can people expect from the music video?

When you are in love with someone, and you let go of that person, you let go of your whole life at times. This song is about the trial of having that person in your thoughts and not being able to let go.

In the music video, at the end of the song, the “stowaway,” the man, is on a raft out in the water, and I push him away and let him go finally at the end of the song.

What inspired the song?

I wrote it when I was 15 years old. I didn’t really have an experience that made me want to write the song, but sometimes I write music, and it foretells the experience later on.

While I’m not going through that situation at this moment, I wanted to release the single because it has 17 tempo changes and is progressive rock. It’s different than any song I’ve written. The song has Middle Eastern influences, and the song features lots of rhythm, strings, flute, clarinet and brass.

I recorded it at Kube Music in Mesa, where I plan on recording the rest of the singles. The second one might be released in the middle of October.

What can people expect from your house concerts?

There’s a host, they invite 20 or more people, and it’s a donation-based hour-long concert where some of the donations go to a charity of the host’s choice. It’s a night of a concert in a backyard. Its a very chill atmosphere and my favorite place to perform. I plug in and bring lights.

How would you describe your songwriting process?

When I’m writing songs, I’ll give up a day of my time, which is hard, but it’s something that makes me really happy. I’m very piano-driven, so I’ll play the piano first, and I’ll try to write about something that I feel strongly about that fits the piano accompaniment.

What would you say are the biggest themes that inspire you?

I just always want a song to have a good theme to it, something a lot of people can listen to and relate to.

Since I’ve been married, I’ve written a lot of love songs.

How would you describe your vocal style?

I’m kind of like an old soul. I like to sing covers of classics, by artists like Carole King. I feel like I was born in the wrong generation. If I was born back then, lyrically and musically, I fit a lot of people in the ’60s and ’70s.

How do you hope your music impacts people?

I think music is looked down upon sometimes these days as this idol, but I remember the days when music focused on the sound and not as much on the person. I would like to bring that back if I can.

I hope people can see what they can create and that they don’t have to live their lives in this cycle where they don’t do new things or try new things. I want people to listen to my music and see me perform and be inspired to try something new. They don’t have to be creative, but I want them to not just stick to the 9-to-5 if they don’t want to do the 9-to-5. I want them to branch out, expand themselves and become a better person.

What advice do you have for people aspiring to be a professional musician?

Don’t go into it with expectations, but go into it with a plan and with confidence. Practice hard, and don’t get stuck in the worldly part of it. Do it because you love music.

How do you stand out as a piano teacher?

I’m not a normal piano teacher. I like to arrange music for the kids to play. I teach them to love the piano, rather than go crazy on them about practicing and being so strict. I just want them to love the piano, and that’s the goal.

How would you say you stand out as a live performer?

I talk to the crowd as if they are my friends. I am genuine. I think a lot of artists, you can see when they’re genuine and when they’re not. I’m honest with everything I say on stage. I don’t perform anything if I don’t believe in it, and I think I stand out in that way.

What’s your favorite venue in the Valley to perform at?

I like The Rhythm Room. They have good sound, and one of my most successful shows was there. It is an inviting place, I like the backdrop on the stage, and it’s a comfortable setting. It’s not just a bar — it’s a venue for music.

How would you describe the local music scene? What do we have going for us, and what needs to be improved upon?

There could be more venues in Mesa and Gilbert, for sure. There could be bigger communities that support the arts, not just music, but visual arts and starting-out artists.

I love the venues in Phoenix. I think there are talented people here.

Do you have any tips for getting over stage fright?

I never liked the idea of being in the spotlight, so the performing part was hard for me, but I kept doing it. Just go out there, and be yourself. When you’re on stage, talk to the crowd like you’re talking to your friends. I still have stage fright to this day, though.

What are your goals?

I want to write music for movies and television. I want people to get to know my music through house concerts and the music videos I’m putting out, as well.

Why would you encourage someone to book you for a house show or go to one of your concerts?

Sometimes when you go to a concert, it sounds redundant after awhile. If you come to a concert of mine, you’ll hear songs that sound very different from each other. Chord progressions sound different, rhythm sounds different, and the style of the song sounds different.

Learn about other Phoenix musicians:

Learn more about Harper and the Moths singer Harper Lines here on Phoenix People.
Learn more about Elvis Before Noon bassist Mr. P-Body here on Phoenix People.
Learn more about Scattered Melodies drummer Josh Montag here on Phoenix People.

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