Localmusician and producer Tim De Cotta has made something big – and he’s christened it The Warrior. It’s a glorious sprawl of music, of funk, rock, soul and quivering r&b moments that fold in on each other towards an ineffable endpoint that is larger and vaster than its disparate parts – so much so that it’s hard to believe it’s only his debut solo album; that it even exists in the same universe as a Chainsmokers x Coldplay collab. From his place at the centre of gravity of our local music scene, De Cotta has always been a reliably virtuosic force. But as The Warrior, he emerges as more than a gifted musician-songwriter and in his most personal and emotionally direct form yet. Here, he shares his story.
We understand that The Warrior comes after a quite a stressful period in your life. What would you say is the emotional standpoint of the album?
In a society like Singapore’s, where the arts is typecast as just a hobby, or something secondary, you find that you have limited means to express yourself. The Warrior,as a concept, protests this. It’s about standing up for what you believe in, without letting society dilute these values. If I need help, I remember the spirit a warrior embodies, and it becomes my drive. Most of the time, I see that in myself because I don’t say no and if I’m beat down, I try to recover and find new ways to approach things.
How long has the concept been with you?
Ever since I left SIXX. It woke me up – hard. I was like, “Man! I put everything in one bag!” I was so comfortable, lazy and complacent. When it went to pieces, I was left with nothing.
Lead us through what you’ve been up to.
After SIXX, my first gig was in 2013 at the Mosaic Music Festival. Getai Electronica started after, in 2015. It made me find purpose in elevating the scene. If you increase everyone’s rice bowl, the dinner table gets bigger. The market rate goes up, people get recognised, and the whole music industry benefits because the National Arts Council takes notice and pumps in more money, since there are more applications. There’s no downside to sharing.
That’s very true. Once egos are set aside, larger things can be accomplished.
The year before I got the grant to do this album was a tough year. Then I started producing The Good Life Project. I threw my music to different places. I played at Singapore Night Festival and Sing Jazz came, and it felt good because I wasn’t trying to prove something. Like, “This is my music, so enjoy it if you do, don’t if you don’t”. I think I’ve reached a certain level of maturity to know what I actually want, you know? So when I recorded The Warrior, starting November 2015, all the way through 2016 until now, I was very sure of what I wanted. My arrangements move around the lyrics. Certain soundscapes accentuate certain feelings.
“The ‘warrior’ was always an underlying motivation for creating my music. I’m not going to back down. I’m going to get kicked in the butt as much as I can, to get better.”
How did you cope?
There’s more to me than being defined as the bassist-slash-songwriter from a band. The ‘warrior’ was always an underlying motivation for creating my music. I’m not going to back down. I’m going to get kicked in the butt as much as I can, to get better. I’d stagnated; my skill level was the same. So, I just did what a musician would do: I played in as many bands as I could and started up projects with different people.
Why did you pick now to release a full-length album with this ‘warrior’ concept?
Now is the clearest point of my life. I’ve been through so many things – making music, having to make ends meet, knocking on the wrong doors, hitting brick walls… I think I’ve finally found my purpose.
What’s one way in which the process of creating this album has shaped the musician you want to be in the future?
It has helped me understand who I am not. When you record something, you confront your limitations. So, from this process, I’ve clearly understood what my musical strengths are – what I’m thinking about, where my voice can go, how my voice sounds on different microphones. All these are simple things that help me learn. This release is a scapegoat, musically and in terms of the marketing part, as well. I’m trying to see where my music will be received well. It’s even sparked the idea of creating my own label.
Images Henzy David