Tom Petty, asked in an interview how he approaches music covers , responded with this simple observation (paraphrasing here a bit). “You have two choices. Make the cover an exact duplication of the original, or make radical changes to create essentially a new song.”
No thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic beleaguering the United States, I’ve been listening to lots of music on YouTube, especially covers of songs I fondly remember. The availability of home recording software (e.g. AudioBox 96 for $300) allows anybody to create music that sounds as good as the world’s most expensive recording studio. The truth be told, I’m hearing the best music of my life these days on YouTube, and of all these cover artists I listen to, there is none better than Margot Cotten.
Margot Cotten is a multi-talented, thirty-something singer-songwriter from Paris, France who can play a variety of instruments (guitars, drums, bass, and keyboards) at expert level. She has produced a couple of albums (Margot Cotten and 2&2), available on Amazon Music, iTunes, Spotify, and other outlets. Cotten’s songwriting, almost all in English, would be described as folk-rock. As for her singing style, let’s just say that if Bob Dylan had ovaries, he’d sound like Margot Cotten.
Most interesting to me is her penchant for doing covers (in English) of the music from the sixties and seventies; covers where Margot plays all the parts. Margot has explained that she loves that genre, locates the original vinyl albums and CDs from that era, and analyzes their structure (what is the rhythm guitar strumming, what are the lead guitarist’s melody lines, string bending, and so on). The result of this dedication is an eclectic set of covers on YouTube, specifically the ones labeled “Margot Cotten – One Woman Band.” Allow me to introduce you to a couple of them.
Cotten’s “Listen to her Heart” is a faithful duplication of the Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers version, with a minor difference. Margot plays Mike Campbell’s lead guitar parts on a Stratocaster-style 6-string rather than a Rickenbacker 12-string guitar. That said, she still has Campbell’s part down pat.
While most people are familiar with the Tina Turner rendition of the song “Proud Mary,” it was originally a garage band song penned by John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival. The essence of Fogerty’s sound was a pounding rhythm guitar with a lead guitar playing off the same chords up the keyboard. As Tom Petty suggested, Cotten’s rendition is an exact duplicate of John Fogerty’s version; the video a veritable lesson on how to play the song.
Margot Cotten’s work harkens back to the days when people actually wrote songs with a melody, with lyrics that meant something thoughtful, with guitars and drum sets that filled the nooks and crannies of your soul.
Thank the heavens for Margot Cotten, who writes her own songs and pays homage to the greats of yesteryear. Give her a listen, and support good music!
I contacted Margot Cotten by email, linking this blog post, and asking if she was OK with it.
Margot responded with this interesting response:
Hello James !
Thanks for your blog post ! I love it ! It’s very sweet of you !
On Listen to her Heart, Mike didn’t use a 12 strings. The first 12 strings he bought was the one on the cover of Damn The Torpedoes. Listen to her Heart was on their second record and they used six strings guitars that they doubled ! That’s why I didn’t use my 12 strings on it !! Don’t change your article for that I just wanted to let you know. Like you I’ve always thought that he used a 12 strings on listen to her heart until I read (or heard in an interview?) that he didn’t !
Have a wonderful day James !
Well, I stand corrected. The lady does her research. Makes me love her even more!