Pilgrimages, parables and scrambled pancakes

Kate Cotter makes beautiful music with insightful lyrics

Kate Cotter’s music often uses parables and metaphors to get her ideas across.

Kate Cotter’s music often uses parables and metaphors to get her ideas across.

Photo by David Robert

I stumbled upon Kate Cotter’s music one late-winter evening while I was waiting for a friend outside the Parking Gallery downtown. I walked by Esoteric Coffee House, which is located underneath the garage. I saw some friends inside and opened the door. Cotter, guitar in hand, was just stepping up to the improvisational stage in the corner.

I just had to stay and listen. The music was lyrical and melodious—beautiful and ethereal, but also down to earth and folksy. Cotter’s clear soprano was like a mild opiate, allowing me to forget where I was and drift off into a reverie.

Cotter played her first solo gig at Java Jungle last January, and after playing a few more shows, she withdrew from the scene to focus on a currently untitled CD, which will come out this summer. I met Cotter months after that show at Esoteric and found that Kate Cotter the person is much like Kate Cotter the musician—luminous, serene and reserved. I’d heard someone describe her as a “child of God.” When I told Cotter about the description, she laughed.

“Most of my inspiration deals with faith issues, but I don’t want it to be seen as religious issues,” she said. “[The music deals with] themes of knowing and wanting to be fully known, whether it be in romance, friendship or a relationship with the divine.”

For Cotter, songwriting is clearly a huge component of the music-making process. She sings about parables, about pilgrimages, and about that desire to know another person intimately–and for that person to truly know you.

“Point of Real” is about this intimacy, about being brave enough to look at another person honestly, without blinking or looking away.

“If our muses are all quiet/And we have to search ourselves to find them/I need to know that you can know me/That you will touch the point of real.”

Cotter wrote “The Pilgrim’s Song” about a 2 1/2-day, 80-mile pilgrimage she took with 15,000 other people while in France. “It was a lot of walking and thinking,” Cotter said. “It was fascinating and hard, and it turned out to be a wonderful experience, but there were some moments when I was questioning my sanity.” Cotter said the song, which is sung in both English and French, is about that particular pilgrimage, but that it also metaphorically chronicles other kinds of journeys we take in life.

Cotter also writes about the simpler things in life. “Crazy Mirrors,” she said, is about “the mundane things that shape your perspective.” She wrote the song about her brother, David.

“I’d be getting ready for work at 4:30 in the morning in the dead of winter, and he’d make me breakfast and coffee, with scrambled eggs and scrambled pancakes, too. ‘I scramble everything, [he explained].’ “

Cotter said that the song is about how her brother not only scrambles breakfast, but also scrambles her perspective when she needs to see things in new ways.

And Cotter, like all good lyricists, writes the kind of music that encourages her listeners to understand things in new ways—to see relationships, journeys and early-morning breakfasts in a new light.