Justin Stewart Cotta is one of those multi-dimensional artists with seemingly a finger in every pie. Whether it be singing, songwriting, writing poetry, acting, guitarist or playing the piano, he is obviously an artist with wide-ranging talents.
With a knack for writing big anthems and with lyrics that resonate with us all, Justin brings together his well-lived experiences to this record. He was a founding member of Memento, as well as playing keys and guitar for VAST. Justin also turned the U.S.A. with global giants such as Queens Of The Stone Age, Marilyn Manson, Ozzy Osbourne and many others.
Justin explains what the album meant to him, and how deep he went to put together a collection of songs as personal as these:
“At what cost does an album come? What price is the artist willing to pay? Which dark secrets are you willing to transpose to light? Which mistakes are you willing to share given that they will be seen by all in 20/20 retrospect? How many years are you willing to sacrifice? Which fears are you willing to lay bare? How much can you live without? How soft are you willing to be? How honestly will you recount? What loss are you willing to revisit? How willing, to hold yourself to account? Which betrayal will you relive? What humiliation can you endure? And which love will you lose again and again and again.”
and finishing off he says
“Come with me. Listen. Revisit and reinvest in a deep listen. Scrunch not your brow nor bite your lip to appear committed. But rather let go, and, let me in. Listen. I am not interested in your money. I do not want your praise. I would like for you to Listen.
To simply Listen.”
Listen you shall. Justin has written us a track-by-track description for the album. So do press <play>, sit back, have a read, and enjoy this gripping and enlightening record from Justin Stewart Cotta.
Track by Track – Melodies for Eulogies
This song was birthed in an apartment in West Hollywood, while chain smoking and clinging to an out of tune acoustic guitar for company. A standard breakfast at the time was Gatorade and a Camel Light. I had lost my band, my record deal, my partner, my dog, my mind, and I was in a life and death struggle to at least hold on to some semblance of my soul. To that point, songs and music had always stepped in to save me. To drag me out of the quicksand. And yet, there I lay, in cold silence. Seemingly deprived of even sound therapy. Not a single song made my toe want to tap, and not a single vibration would come out of me to so much as manufacture a hum. Done. Dusted. Finished. Clinical depression. And then, a spark. No, not Electroconvulsive Therapy. But an electrical current all the same. Magic? Yes. A lone melody… then the slurring of a lyric.. “Burning all my sketches of you…” The beginnings of a song. And, just in the nick of time.
(For the record, written before my namesake Justin Beiber’s tune) A direct flow on from sobriety… I had seen all of my important relationships evaporate, and if I was to get close to people again, I had to establish a baseline level of respect and love for myself. Strangers and shadows were my primary source of company at the time, and it was a good fit. I would literally catch trains at night to nowhere. Just for the motion. For the company of a stranger, or none at all. For the obnoxious white light of the carriage. All sounds a bit grim! But the truth is I learned to become my best friend over that period of time. This song and particularly the LOVE YOURSELF film clip, perfectly capture that initial solo voyage, back towards spiritual connection, and ultimately back towards community and relationships.
(100% of income from the preorder of the album will be donated to Beyond Blue & White Ribbon)
The shapeshifting mirage of sex addiction and love addiction are the backdrop here to a genuine cry for rescue, solace and meaningful love. Although there’s a bit of a victim lens on here, the cold hard facts are that there was a time in my past in which I was seeking out emotionally unavailable people in my relationships to try and retrospectively correct a kink in the love matrix. For anyone wanting to conduct the same experiment… it didn’t work! From a musical standpoint, this track highlights the quality of some of the musicians that are on this record. Paul ill and Kellii Scott are a bonafide genius rhythm section, and Chris Wonzer’s production chops are world class. One of my favourite tracks with some of my absolute favourite musicians including Clint Walsh on the Fender Telecaster.
Longing Is Not Enough
The intersection between authorship and point of view is an interesting one here. Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen talk a lot about the fact that the older they become, the more they realise they were singing to/about themselves through the device of character or the “other”. Well, in that spirit, it’s become clear to me that I am more or less pleading with myself here… a line in the sand moment. Grow or Die. The song needs to be as uplifting as it is, for the simple reason that your singer knows he will become what he sings about in the end. You need not look any further than one of my idols, Layne Stayley. I took the risk of losing some of my audience by being overtly progressive in my personal and spiritual outlook. And ultimately it’s my truth. “Would you rather be liked or be respected in this crazy colourful world” is not cute meme-bait. It’s a direct challenge. This track saved my life, in a very different way to songs gone by. Although it might not be a fatal dagger to the heart of self-sabotage, it is at least a fleet-footed step away from it’s grasp.
The numbers are stark. They are real. They are shattering. The sexual abuse of women, and violence against women, are the longest-running and most shameful pandemics on the planet. In the same way that ingrained racism is a disease, so too is violence against women. We all have friends, partners, sisters and mothers who have been abused. The personal toll is not for me to describe. But what I will say, is that the resulting PTSD can last a lifetime. For me, deeply loving someone who had experienced sexual abuse and violence, has been one of the most humbling privileges and educations of my life. Innocent Girl echoes that relationship.
(100% of income from the preorder of the album will be donated to Beyond Blue & White Ribbon)
My old man called me after he heard this song. He thought I had finally worked it all out. He said, “it’s the best thing you’ve ever written”. He took the song literally, and still does. And I love that he does. For him, it’s a meditation on self-determined peace of mind, a letting go of attachment in the spirit of Ekhart Tolle. But my truth is, in the writing of it, every single line is a lie. Bold-faced at that. This song, as sweet and assured as it may sound, is the final descent into madness, on the back of a dying donkey named “Denial”. And ironically, although I mean the opposite to every single thing I say on this track, it’s the most honest I’ve ever been. So in the end, the geezer was right. Probably my best song, if there’s such a thing in art. What’s special about it for me is that both the literal interpretation and the sub-textual interpretation have the ability to move people in equally meaningful ways.
Sleep On Stones
This is most likely the darkest song I will ever write. It has taken a place on the record by the skin of it’s crumbling teeth. I agonised around it’s inclusion on the album several times over. Sleep On Stones is a hard-won farewell to a misogynist from childhood. It’s tricky territory, in that the song is sung from the perspective of the perpetrator. It was always going to be an emotional challenge for me to inhabit my violent, drunk step-father. What’s equally as confronting, if not more so, is the fact that any one of us at any time can potentially become the very thing we despise if we don’t constantly shed a light on the darkest parts of ourselves and work towards the light. I don’t listen to this song. It’s too hard.
Could just as easily have been called “Kintsugi”, the Japanese art of putting broken pottery back together with gold. In Lady Stay, my soul is the pottery…shattered into oblivion. The gold here is the viola of Katrina Lenk, aka Moxy Phinx… Some years ago, I was madly in love with Moxy. As happens, it didn’t work out. To say it was a rather difficult break-up for me would be to say that “Scott Morrison, on the rarest of occasions, rather struggles to find the appropriate degree of authenticity and empathy”. In other words, it took a decade for me to recover. Yep, ten years… I wrote this song towards the end of that ten years.. I sent it to Moxy, and asked if she would consider playing viola over the piano and vocals. Her answer in the affirmative is encapsulated in time, forever, on this track. A mutual offering of healing and friendship through soundwaves. Sometimes the greatest gift you can receive from someone is to be remembered at your best. A gift I graciously accept from one of the finest artists and humans I know. Thank You Moxy.
And as the album begins with fire, so does it end in Rain. For my mother. Anna. My friend, my confidante and in a sense, my life’s muse. I had this fingerpicking intro and verse since I was 17 years old, and I could never find a chorus that was good enough to finish the damned thing. Some decades later, it turns out that the intricate John McGlaughlin inspired fingerpicking was complemented best by a three-chord progression and a simple lyrical truth. And the simple truth is, I have longed for my mother and wished for her company desperately since I was three years old and went to live with my grandparents. An ache difficult to describe, even in the most intimate of late evening conversations. And therein lies the recurring magic of Music. It is more than the “food of love”. It is love. As am I. As are we all. And in that spirit, there was never any debate as to what song and what message would close the album Melodies For Eulogies.
You can purchase Melodies for Eulogies by Justin Stewart Cotta HERE