Litchfield singer-songwriter Riley Cotton records first album

LITCHFIELD – Riley Cotton’s debut album, “A House with Blue Siding,” is a sweet and gentle collection of stories and love songs, accompanied by backup musicians and vocalists including her music producer, Tracy Walton.

Walton, who runs On Deck Studios out of his home in the Northfield section of Litchfield, works with numerous recording artists in and around Connecticut. He met Cotton a year ago, and has been working with the 23-year-old, helping her define her musical style

The album features a number of musicians joining a guitar-strumming Cotton, including Walton, a diverse instrumentalist who plays bass, guitar, drums and harmonica, and joins her on backup vocals. Her brother, musician Chris Cotton, also plays drums on the album. Her sound is a combination of bluegrass, folk and country.

“She’s great, she’s got a wonderful voice,” said Walton, who produced “A House with Blue Siding” at the studio. On a recent evening, Cotton arrived to rehearse with Walton on her next collection of recordings. “She works very hard,” Walton said.

Cotton, who grew up in Flower Mound, Texas, moved to Connecticut with her family when she was 12. Her father, David Cotton, also is a singer and drummer, who encouraged her to sing in talent shows and to join in whenever she had a chance to perform.

“I was always musical,” Riley Cotton said. “Singing and playing has always been part of my life. I just fell in love with singing, performing, and I enjoyed it as a kid.

“When I was in grade school and high school, I played sports and did school theater; sports didn’t really click, but music was always there,” she said.

After graduation from Litchfield High School, she attended the College of Art of Design in Boston to study art and graphic design. But it wasn’t the right fit, and she left after a year and returned home to Connecticut.

“It just didn’t work for me; I was really lonely and didn’t feel like I fit in,” she said. “I loved Boston, but the school wasn’t working. I left and went home, and I leaned back on my music; I picked up my guitar.”

She began playing at local venues and with friends. While playing out at The Barn in Great Barrington, she was approached by several musicians in the audience who asked her if she wanted to join them. “I met a lot of musicians in the local music scene in the Berkshires, but after a while it wasn’t a good creative fit for me. It was through that process that I knew I wanted to record an album. I did a few singles, but I wanted to do more. “

Cotton began searching for a producer, and discovered Walton on Instagram.

“He seemed like a cool guy, and it turns out that my brother Chris took drum lessons with him, and he had wonderful things to say about Tracy,” she said. “He also went to high school with my mom, Charleen. So we really connected.”

Walton’s musical style combines folk, rock and country, somewhat similar to Cotton’s. “We talked a lot about my sound; and we have commonality and overlap,” she said. “And he’s so well-rounded; he plays lots of instruments and has so much experience.”

“We made the album in about six months,” she said. “I used crowdfunding and raised almost $ 6,000 to pay for it, and Tracy guided me through that. He also helped me with promotion, and we sold pre-release copies, which got the word out. We really got it going.”

She has joined Walton and other local artists in a number of shows this year: Chickenstock, a music festival to benefit the CT Farmland Trust, and a concert at the Bantam Cinema. She’s also performing a Sunday set at the Black Bear Music Festival, which is set for Oct. 7-9 at the Goshen Fairgrounds in Goshen.

“It’s been a summer of go, go, go,” said Cotton, who also works full time at Write Way Signs & Design in Torrington. “It’s been challenging. But I got the album done, and I’m excited to keep going.”

But she’s going to do it her way.

“When I think about the modern ways people do things, like on Tik Tok and Instagram, it doesn’t fit my way,” she said, acknowledging that artists of all styles and genres are discovered online every day, and sometimes find success. “To have a record deal is a dream, but I want to be in an environment that’s interested in promoting my ideas. A grassroots way gives me more input, more control.”

“A House with Blue Siding” is available now at rileycottonmusic.com.

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