Spirited and determined, bassist-vocalist extraordinaire Tim De Cotta is a familiar and popular face in the local R&B, soul, funk, and jazz community, having performed under his eponymous solo project and alongside many of Singapore’s brightest musicians – including neoDominatrix, TAJ, and L.A.B.
He’s been hustling in the scene for years, and now, the 31-year-old director of Getai Group (the folks behind last year’s successful Getai Soul, a neo-soul music festival that took place at Pearl’s Hill City Park) has released his debut album, The Warrior, a celebration of people who’ve struggled through and emerged, and remembrance of those who’ve fallen, and a reminder of what’s “not-so-right” with the world today. He’s more than just a looker; he’s a warrior.
Hi Tim! Tell us more about your musical background.
I’m a bassist and vocalist who loves soul, R&B, hip-hop and jazz. I grew up in a house where there was always music playing and singing going on. I picked up the bass when I was 17 and was singing since I was 7 or 8. I’m self-taught but along the way, I’ve taken lessons with people whose playing I admired.
What or who prompted you to go for the bass? And when was that?
I used to listen to a lot of funk music and discovered bands like Jamiroquai, Earth, Wind & Fire when I was 12-14. Before that, I was a huge fan of 90s R&B and Hip-Hop with my older sisters in the house, as we used to listen to Joe Public, Kriss Kross, Mary J. Blige, Salt ‘n Peppa, Janet and Michael Jackson and countless more. And the common thing among the music was always a funky bass line that made us dance in the house.
Apparently, there’s a stereotype that bassists don’t get the girls.
I’ve never really known that stereotype existed. In funk, soul, R&B and Hip-Hop, the groove section is king and that’s made of the bass and drums, which always tend to lead the music. So I really don’t know what you’re talking about. If that’s a stereotype where you come from, clearly they’re not playing the bass right.
You’ve played in several different configurations, from solo shows to huge set ups with a big band. Where does your new album, The Warrior, lie?
My album The Warrior is my music. It’s what I’ve written independently, regardless of who I’ve played with or how many shows I’ve done alone. The Warrior is about the messages and issues or feelings I want to talk about and is less collaborative than the iterations of my music with my other bands.
The music from this album can be played in any configuration, from playing it with my seven-piece full band, my trio setup or even solo. So it doesn’t actually lie anywhere. If you listen to it, you can see I talk the listener on a journey through stories I want to tell with each song. The instrumentation varies but it is all intentional for the purpose of the record. But live, it can be performed in many ways.
What do you look for in collaborations? Are these projects something you actively look out for, or do people seek you first?
Collaborations happen out of connection with other musicians. And if it happens it happens. I don’t actively look out for them, but they just happen the more our connections gravitate to each other. Friendship normally exists before we actively collaborate and that can be said with everyone I’ve ever collaborated with. That and of course, de-conflicting schedules.
You’re with the Getai Group, which recently helped launched The Great Singapore Replay. What are you guys trying to do for the Singapore music scene?
We are trying to do what anyone who wants the future of music to be better is trying to do. We’re trying to create more awareness, arouse more support, enlighten people on the long-standing tradition of Singapore music and grow the support it deserves. Sadly, in the progress of Singapore, the arts have been neglected and looked down upon. But ironically as the world progresses more into the era of tech, it is these pursuits that we are freeing our lives up for, to create meaning in them. We want to create more opportunities for local original content to flourish simply because we want to actively secure a future in pursuing it.
With TGSR, we’re also more importantly, trying to create a buy-in for the masses to start acquainting themselves with Singapore music, and starting to actually discover an affinity, if any, for it. We want people to give it a chance, because we make amazing music. It’s just that the common stereotypes and baseless pre-judgements that it’s inferior continues to plague public opinion of Singapore music, and that’s frankly, very illogical.
Any emerging local artists we should take note of?
Well, you can start with the 10 “emerging” artists in The Great Singapore Replay, but beyond labels, you should just get out there and watch a gig. Come to local shows by local bands who play their own music. Find events on Facebook or social media and take a chance.
What’s next in the works for you?
I’m probably going to keep making music and start work on the second release within the year. Looking forward to a couple of live shows happening until the end of the year.
Any thoughts of going on the road to tour?
Yes for sure. We always have to find ways to grow the fan-base and Singapore alone wouldn’t do you justice in the long-run. But of course, it has to make financial sense and having support systems like grants from the NAC (National Arts Council) really do help. I’ve toured with my other bands before, so looking at enhancing the formulas and hitting the road, for sure. Slowly, but surely.
Last question: your latest earworm?
I have a lot of earworms in a day, as it seems, the longer I live, the more music I love, and the more music I tend to pull out of my brain at different times of the day. As I write this I’m hearing Butcher Brown’s Strollin’ in my head.
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