Be Somebody

March 5, 2010, 2:26 pm

Hello friends,

Hope all is well with you and your days are getting brighter as spring draws near! I have some good news to share — I got a cut on the new Danny Gokey record that came out this week. As you know, these days it is nothing short of a miracle for a song to make someone’s record, so I am extremely grateful. 

So often people want to know the story behind the songs. As for “Be Somebody” it goes something like this.......

The song’s history began when a publisher friend of mine started working with Texas artist Adam Hood, and began connecting Adam with the Nashville songwriting community. When thinking of co-writers, you try and make a similar style connection, and knowing Adam’s soul factor, it seemed like a natural fit for us to get in a room and see what would happen! 

It all started like any normal day; getting jacked up on about three cups of coffee and telling stories, hoping you can grab hold of just one magical line that you can build a song on. Greg Barnhill and I had written many songs together, but this was our first time in a room with Adam. All first-time co-writes usually start out something like a scene at a dog park. You know, dogs gotta get a good sniff just to get a sense of what’s going on.

On this particular morning, Greg, as he so often does, just starts plowing away and before you know it, in two hours we had written a song that none of us even remember! Then it’s off to lunch we go, with intentions of coming back to write another song. As we are eating I notice a security guard at the restaurant who has that sort of Barney Fife vibe. I turned to Greg as we were walking out and said, “everybody wants to be somebody.” Immediately he said, “that’s what we’re writing,” and the heavens opened up and the tune came down! We were off to the next thing by 4 that afternoon and never thought another thing about it. So often songs just sit in your computer in work tape form and nobody ever even hears them. 

My publisher friend who set the co-write up called me several months later and said Adam wanted to cut the song on his new demo session. So we all agreed to rock on with it! He then played it for the A&R staff at Sony Records, and months later it somehow survived the process of trying to make somebody’s record and is now available to the masses!

You can hear Danny’s version on his website or on iTunes. If you take a moment to listen to it, please take a few extra minutes and give us a good review of the song. People honestly take notice of all those comments that are posted, and you would help us out greatly by putting in a good word. And if you have an extra 99 cents, I personally think it would be a great one to add to your record collection. Not that I’m partial to it or anything!

Thanks for all your support. Just for grins, I’m gonna load our original demo up to my myspace page for you to hear as well. 

Stay soulful and as always...may the groove be with you


Usher in 2010!

January 31, 2010, 12:56 pm

Happy New Year friends! I hope your year has begun in a prosperous way. I am absorbing the beauty of snow-covered streets for the first time in seven years here in Nashville. I have to admit even though winter has never been a season that inspires me, I do find it mesmerizing to open my door and see a full moon glistening off the layers of white crystal, and I’m inspired as I drink my first cup of coffee the next morning and watch the sunrise bounce off the ground. As I step onto the front porch to take it all in, I am struck by the sound of absolute silence. There are no cars going up and down the road, not even a paper being delivered, and it’s as if everyone is content to just relax and receive a day of God’s rest. 

As I reflect on another year gone by, I see such a parallel between the winter wonderland that begins our 2010 and where last year ended. 2009 was a year to contend, yet be content. Knowing the balance of the two is no easy task. Just as strange as it seems to walk outside and have no activity going on around you, that is what I had to learn to be content with in many situations. There is true beauty in that, but it is not my norm so I was forced to adjust my perspective in many ways. On the other hand, there were battles to contend with, as my own family was stricken with the effects of the economy and health issues arose that proved to be yet another chance for God to show His sovereignty. 

Quite honestly, I am counting down the days to the budding of the cherry trees that line my street. That’s when I know sunny days without end are just around the corner and I thankfully (without any hesitation) give up one hour of sleep to spring forward into the new life that is all around. 

I know in the grand scheme of things, life is but a fleeting moment and I certainly would not want to miss one minute, however I am glad to see 2009 go! I would love to continue in an eloquent writing style to tell of all that happened, but one line starkly describes it in so many ways...”2009 can kiss my behind!!”

With that being said, I look expectantly toward all that 2010 has in store. Already I have two songs being cut. One will be on the new Danny Gokey record and is titled “Be Somebody.” Danny was on American Idol and I have been told by numerous sources that he is a soul singer who desires to inspire, which is a motto I carry as well! So I see no reason why this won’t be a fantastic experience!! I co-wrote the song with Greg Barnhill and Adam Hood and we will go to the listening party on Feb. 8thto hear what Danny and his production team did with the song. Who knows, maybe it will be chosen to be a single and we’ll be celebrating our first number one record this year. Now that would be a moment to hold on to!

The second song is one of my most prized creations. For those of you who know my music, you know the song “Keep My Faith.” An artist by the name of Helen Baylor will be cutting that song for the gospel market here in a couple of weeks. I am honored that an artist with such great integrity would pick this song to go on her record, and I can’t wait to hear the stories of how her version touches others and brings hope to the ones who are struggling. You should Google “Helen Baylor’s testimony” and give it a listen...truly inspiring. “Keep My Faith” is a song that is all about the message to me and I know Helen will deliver it eloquently. 

Already I know that 2010 holds many celebrations, my 10-year wedding anniversary being at the top of the list. I can’t believe I have been married that long and that my husband somehow finds the strength to continue to steadfastly join in on this crazy journey life brings us. He is by far the greatest gift in my life and I am already looking forward to the next 10 years and the 10 after that and however many years God has us on this earth. There is no greater prize than having someone to love, and with that I have hit the lotto!

One goal for this year is to come see my fans! I already have a few dates starting to line up and will hopefully have many more travels to add to the tour dates page. So please check back in with me and come hang out with us when we hit your city!

I am tempted to start what I am calling “The W.O.G. Blog!” Like many others, I join in the battle of the bulge as a New Year’s resolution and I use the synonym W.O.G., which stands for “work on gut!” That was at the top of the page when setting goals for the new year! I have decided that Weight Watchers appears to be the most practical of all things to attempt because there seems to be a way to practice balance within their system. So, if I decide I want to have something in particular (say maybe a celebratory glass of wine!) then I don’t have to deprive myself. However, balance doesn’t seem to be a word that comes naturally for me. I have a bit of a tendency to go to extremes with things, including having a good time (!) so I’ll add balance to my list of resolutions. Right after, of course! 

So for all of us who struggled to survive 2009, let’s begin again in 2010. Here’s to an adventure that will bring us together for many musical and magical moments

May the groove be with you!


Soul'd Out

March 5, 2009, 7:06 pm

Hello friends. 2009 has started off very busy. I have returned from the Soul Choir tour and it was a trip, to say the least. We went to Phoenix, Tucson, L.A., Oregon and Washington on the first part of the tour. Then we went down to Delray Beach, Fla., for a week. I just hate it when I get paid to go to Florida. That’s definitely one time I simply love doing what I do! When we were in Tucson, we were throwing the football around outside after sound check, and when I called home I found out it was 2 degrees in Nashville. I was certainly glad to escape some of the cold weather this year.

The tour itself proved to be a success. The crowd’s response to the message of hope and love conveyed in such a familiar way was, at times, overwhelming. For me personally, being from the Bible Belt and loving soul music, this project was a no-brainer. Of course, coming from someone who sings about snake handling, like I do in my shows, I’m sure it is no surprise to you that I love combining spiritual messages with my gift of song and taking it to the streets. To see it affect people is the gift we get back as performers.

Speaking of performers, the level of talent on the Soul Choir stage was remarkable. To get to work with 9 unbelievable singers was inspiring and, at times, a challenge for me. This is the first time I have ever been involved in this type of a group project, and I have to say, trying to compete with 9 other singers all sharing a monitor proved to be a challenge! Do you think it’s wrong that at times I wanted to knock a few of them out of my way? Oh Lawd, I need prayers for my sick ways!

When we got down to Delray Beach I swear there was nobody under the age of 75 years old in the crowd. The very first show, the lights are dim when we come out on the stage and as soon as the lights came up the first thing I saw was some older man with his fingers in his ears. If their fingers weren’t in their ears, they were adjusting their hearing aids! Then I thought I was going to die when one of them was dead asleep in the front row. One of the other singers started punching me and pointing and it was hard to keep it together. I called home and told my husband “honey, we are killing ‘em down here...literally!” We kept it all light though, and it was some serious comic relief for the singers.

The next stop on the soul choir tour is a PBS television special that we will be filming in the spring. I believe we will be filming in Nashville at the Ryman Auditorium, so for all the local folks, you will certainly have a chance to come check it out. I can’t wait for everyone to see this incredible musical experience.

As for now, I am back to focusing on my solo career and getting ready to launch the new record. I promise before the end of the month it will be available on iTunes, and my official website. Also, check back next week for free downloads of two songs that people ask about a lot. I just want to give a little something back to the fans for supporting my music. The free downloads will be available for about a week starting next Thursday, March 12.

I have teamed up with one of my writing partners, Greg Barnhill, and we now have office space together, which we have appropriately named “The Department of Soul.” We have been working on some new songs and want to share them with you. My goal is to have a new podcast coming to you weekly by the end of March. Surely the D.O.S. can crank out a few numbers for the world to hear! I am very excited about the new creativity that will come from our corner of the world. The building we are in was an old Catholic school and the nuns used to live in here. There is also another church that meets in the amazingly beautiful chapel downstairs. Needless to say, with all the prayer that has gone on in this building there is a very cool vibe here.

I will be in touch soon. Just wanted to catch up with you guys and let you know what’s been going on. Look for some changes to the website here real soon.

Stay in touch,



December 9, 2008, 8:40 pm

Hello world.

It has been such a year of healing, rest and seeking which direction to go next that I haven’t quite had the words to describe the experience, so please forgive me for not writing in such a long time.

I have had great encouragement from the fans to keep the faith and keep being true to who I am, and I want all of you to know that I am so grateful for every e-mail you took the time to send me. It does reinforce that I am doing what I intended to do with music all along, and that is to touch people. I think that’s what every artist truly wants to do, but unfortunately the gatekeepers of our musical structure today throw a few kinks in that plan! But in this season of thanksgiving, I am also grateful that those structures are changing and there are new gateways every day to touch the world with the gift of song.

I recently ran into a music colleague and when they asked what I had been up to I told them “Well, it’s been a year of picking up the pieces after Warner Bros. and figuring out where to go next.” His immediate response was “Yeah, it’s like giving a dog a bath. They shake off all the water and then they look at you like WHAT JUST HAPPENED TO ME?!”

That analogy has made me laugh every time I think about it because it is so true. That’s exactly how I have felt. But just like a dog after a bath, even though they didn’t much like the experience, they are better for it! And that’s certainly what I hope for with my music and for me as a person. Going through something like that only makes you stronger. I know more about the industry now, I know more about what I will and will not do again and I believe it has prepared me for what is coming next.

I have come to realize in this season of my life that you have to let go of the past to make room for the future. My identity is not “Joanna Cotten, Warner Bros. recording artist.” Who I am comes from within, not from a record label, not from a producer and not from a manager. It has been liberating to create art again from such a fresh place.

I have been working on a new record this year. Even though I was not able to get my songs back from Warner Bros., I have created lots of other songs and I started looking at my catalog and picking out things that I loved. It has been a challenge to make myself decide which ones to include on the new album. I have been ruled by a committee for so long that I almost forgot I have an opinion too!

I also gained a greater respect for producers during this process. With little to no budget, that was one thing I had to step up to the plate and do myself this time around. The greatest asset of a producer I’ve found is making decisions and making them quick. When a musician looks at you and says “Are you sure you like that tempo?” You have to be the one to say, “Yes, I’m sure and no, you can’t change it!” Or you have to be open to the creativity available in the room to explore options that might take your art to a better level without letting it get out of control and off on a tangent that just eats up your studio time, which increases your budget!

I had such a great team around me on this latest musical journey. I was joined by Greg Barnhill, Greg Foresman, Jeff Roach, Craig Young, Dan Needham and Chuck Fields for the tracking. We cut the tracks at the EMI studio, and the great engineer Chris Latham was in charge of making sure the brilliance was captured!! Then we sang vocals for days, then we edited for days, then we mixed for days, then we sang more vocals for days and this dragged on for eight months! James Waddell was in charge of mixing, and the fabulous Richard Dodd mastered the record in two hours and we were off to packaging land!

So much goes into this process, but I have an end product that I am proud of and I hope it will touch others. After all, that’s really what matters.

Although that has taken up much of my time, I have continued to write songs when I am inspired. Unfortunately, we had a couple of major cuts fall through this year. One was a hold for Tina Turner. If Tina had cut my song, I could have just gone on to be with the Lord today and been fine with it. She decided she would go on tour instead of doing a new studio record, so maybe when she gets inspired, she will take another look at our song!

Also, Beyonce cut one of my songs, but it did not make the record. The song was called “I Know Who I Am” and the title of her record ended up being “I Am/Sasha Fierce.” Slight conflict there! However, just having the cut opened doors for me, and not making the record has closed a few doors for me! But it all goes back to letting go of the old to welcome in the new.

After eight years, I will be leaving my publishing company, EMI, and exploring new options. It has been a great run with them, but it was tied to my artist deal and it’s a new day, so hopefully I will soon find a new team of champions that will rally around me as a songwriter. I will certainly miss my old stomping ground and am so grateful for the nurturing of my gifts that they have given me. Gary Overton will always be one of my favorite people in the world.

Recently I was asked to be a part of a project that is very intriguing to me. It’s called the American Soul & Rock & Roll Choir. There will be four leads and a choir and we will be taking soul/rock & roll songs and giving them a new twist. It is such an inspirational project that I just had to be a part.

I admit, at first I was only involved because they were paying, but the more I got to know the people and started really paying attention to the messages that were being put out there, I got really excited about it. They have also cut a record that I am singing on and it will be available soon for downloads. They have the fabulous Dan Beck, who ran Sony Records’ marketing department for years, and music visionary Darrell Brown running the project. He has some amazing ideas for the marketing of this record as well. The thing I am most excited about is that it certainly has a taste of Heaven on earth in the message and I am always about that. After all, I do sing “Praise the Lord and pass me a copperhead!”

So be sure and check it out. We are on tour in January and February. Their website is and all the ticket information is available there.

On a personal note, I am a proud new aunt. My brother and his wife welcomed Georgia Kayleigh Haralson into the world nine weeks ago. She is quite possibly the most beautiful baby girl ever. I am certainly not partial and she will certainly not have her aunt Joanna wrapped around her finger!

Other than that, everyone is healthy and happy and we continue to press on toward the goal! Love to all and happy holidays! Remember, you don’t get time back so enjoy each moment!