SHORT BIO: Throughout the years, Caroline Cotter has found a true home on the road and on diverse musical stages internationally, with audiences captivated by her vulnerable vocal quality which belies her insightful and award-winning songwriting. Caroline’s third national release, “Gently as I Go,” takes listeners around the world, back home, and deep into the human heart. Since her debut album, "Dreaming as I Do," which was the number five CD of the Month on the FAI Folk DJ Charts in 2015, Caroline has performed over 1000 shows in 45 states and 14 countries, with a follow-up release in 2018, "Home on the River." "I've got roots that go deep and grow deeper the more I leave my home," Cotter sings in the title cut of her sophomore album. ”Gently as I Go,” to be released in August 2023, pulls the listener in; exploring travel and connection, empowerment and creative practice, love, life and death, nostalgia and growing up, loss and gratitude.
FULL BIO: “Find me somewhere out on the road / Take me into your heart and into your home,” Caroline Cotter sings in the first song on her third album, Gently as I Go. The new music takes listeners around the world and deep into human emotions, reminding them that home can be anywhere, if you’ve found someone who shares your heart. “Don’t Wait,” the first single from Gently as I Go, encourages listeners to seize the day — “a reminder that we have in our power the ability to take action and create our present and future,” Cotter says. Ironically, though, the singer-songwriter ended up waiting three years to release her new album. She had just finished recording the 11 songs in March of 2020, and with the world reeling, she simply couldn’t find a reason or the motivation to share them. “To me, at the time, it felt unimportant,” Cotter admits.
Fortunately, the past three years have only strengthened Cotter’s belief in these songs while further defining her own essence. Gently as I Go explores travel and connection, essential to who Caroline is, as well as things many of us experience such as procrastination, love, life and death, nostalgia and growing up, loss and gratitude. Often, even the most disparate of those ideas coexist: for example, in “The Year of the Wrecking Ball.” Written by Cotter in early 2020, during Escape to Create’s month-long artist residency in Seaside, Florida, the song wrestles with the dissolution of a traditional family and the loss of a safe, comforting place from childhood, but finds gratitude for the beautiful, albeit different, relationships formed in the wake.
Songs dealing with difficult transitions that we face continueto pop up throughout the album, including “The Call,” which Cotter wrote for her 104-year-old grandfather’s funeral, and the title track, about saying goodbye to a partner in love, life, and music. Throughout, Cotter’s “smooth, tremulous soprano” (WickedLocal.com) and calming delivery are reminiscent of the female folk singers who came before her: Mary Chapin Carpenter or Natalie Merchant, for example.
Often, the peace Cotter’s songs bring is as much for her as it is for her audience. She started “Don’t Wait” to offer words of encouragement to a friend but recalls that it quickly became clear its message was something she also needed to hear, and now it’s “a song for all of us who put off creating our lives to the fullest,” Cotter says. “We really do already have all that we need. And yet, without confidence, our fullest life can appear murky or completely out of reach.”
Prior to making music her full-time pursuit, Cotter traveled the world working in international education. Quitting her job in 2015, even without much of a fanbase and on a shoestring budget, she trusted that touring was the best way for her to forge connections.
“There’s just this opening of doors that happens that totally shifts things. It’s a complete game-changer,” notes Cotter, a Rhode Island native now living just outside Acadia National Park in Maine. “When I’ve shared myself in this way, then people are really excited to share what they’ve got around them.”
But what’s a globetrotter, who has played more than 1000 shows in 45 states and 14 countries, to do when a worldwide pandemic makes travel nearly impossible?
“I became very close to nature and just hugged a lot of trees and rocks,” says Cotter with a chuckle. She nannied, worked on a goat farm, gardened, revitalized an arts non-profit, and taught music and songwriting. “In a way, I had to reinvent myself. I had to find a deeper sense of belonging and meaning in things that weren’t what I knew of myself for the prior 15 years. I identified as a traveler, a singer-songwriter, and a performer, and all of a sudden, I had nobody to sing to and nowhere to go.”
As Gently as I Go concludes with “Morning Mantra,” a musical warm hug of a reminder to keep going in a world that often feels dark, sad, and full of troubles that are out of our control, it serves to calm Caroline as well. She was diagnosed with ADD as a child and both songwriting and travel are key parts of how she manages to stay sane. Caroline released her debut album in 2015 and a second album in 2018, and is both a 2018 Freshgrass/No Depression Songwriter of the Year award finalist and a 2019 Rocky Mountain Folks Fest Songwriter Showcase finalist.
“Songwriting for me is a cathartic expression of my life experience. It’s creative expression that just completely shifts me and gets out the ickiness,” shares Cotter, recounting a recent moment when sitting down and writing a song wiped away the anxious feeling she had been dealing with all day. “Seeing new things and connecting with people helps also, because I can get so deep into my own head, and the second I start a conversation with somebody else, it’s not about me anymore.”
And it’s a win-win. “It’s inevitable that after a show, somebody will come and share their experience with me,” Cotter says, “so it’s got the right effect, you know? It helps us all feel not alone.