Interview: Josie Cotton
“Johnny Are You Queer,” “He Could Be the One” and “Jimmy Loves Maryanne” – whether you know Josie Cotton from any of her smash hit songs of the 1980’s, or from her appearance in the cult classic Valley Girl, chances are you know Josie Cotton. In a weird twist of fate, when Netflix’s Stranger Things was looking for music from the 1980’s for their latest season, Josie Cotton’s shelved album Everything Is Oh Yeah was uncovered and has led to it now (finally) being released to the public. We had the chance to chat with Josie about the album, why it was shelved, the many different styles she encompasses on it, the covers she included, and much more!
Photo by: Piper Ferguson
1. It’s been 33 years since you originally recorded your album Everything Is Oh Yeah, and it’s finally seeing going to see its release in October (2019). How excited are you to be able to get this music out there and what do you hope people take away from hearing it today?
It definitely feels good to have it out there finally. It was a story that had no ending and now it does. But you never know how people will respond. You just hope they enjoy it and let it go.
2. It was an odd twist of fate of sorts in that the album was discovered by the production team of Stranger Things when they were searching for music for their latest season. Did you even know they were looking? How did that all come about? Etc.
My publishing company told me Stranger Things was looking for unreleased music from the mid 80’s. I really thought this record was lost but we began a search and came across all these 2-inch 24 track tapes with no titles on them. When we realized what we had discovered we couldn’t believe it. Like if your cat returns one day after being gone for years. You’re happy and amazed.
3. As with too many, the album ended up being shelved by the label. What was the dispute about that ultimately led to them deciding to shelve the album rather than release it?
Elektra never heard the record. I was actually dropped when I wouldn’t do a Penthouse photoshoot for their publicity department. But my producer and I had written all these songs, so we just started recording them. I’ve kept possession of all my masters since Elektra “freed me from their roster” so to speak. It’s always a good idea to hold on to your publishing and your masters.
4. What eventually made you decide to move on from releasing the album initially?
What made me decide to abandon this record was the thought of going back to how things were for me at Elektra. The single greatest thing that ever happened to me on a creative level was being dropped by my label. But this record we’re talking about is the last vestige of that time in the 8O’s when things were more innocent. It’s just been in a cave.
5. But here we are today, and the album is now being released. Why do you feel that right now is the perfect time for an album like Everything Is Oh Yeah?
Haha - I don’t know if it’s the perfect time. It might be the worst time. But it happened and it’s here now. It can’t disappear under the sand now without anyone knowing it existed. You make music so people can hear it so I’m happy for that.
6. You explore with many different styles and influences on the album including: 60s rock-n-roll, some surf rock flare, rock-a-billy, etc. In what ways do you feel that the album goes way outside the normal box, but also how these different styles come together to be uniquely Josie Cotton?
Gosh ...I love and identify strongly with so many genres of music. It always sounds like Frankenstein to me, you know? An arm from this body, the torso from another etc. I wish I could’ve been more purist for my fans but It’s just not in me.
7. You include covers of “The Night Before” and “Here Comes My Baby” on the album. What made you choose these songs to cover and in what ways did you make them your own, while still honoring the originals?
When I heard what we had recorded on "The Night Before" I became really excited about this record. I can’t remember whose idea it was now, but it sounds completely different as a rockabilly song, almost unrecognizable, and Brian is just amazing on it. But I realize it’s fairly audacious to cover a Beatles song! "Here Comes My Baby" was a song written by Cat Stevens that I had always loved but we did a kind of old school Motown meets Wanda Jackson version of it with Mariachi horns. Like I said... Frankenstein!
8. What is your personal favorite song from the album and why?
That’s tuff. They all have their own little K dramas embedded in them ... in the writing and recording with all the different people and relationships. But I’ll just say the title track “Everything Is Oh Yeah” because I think it’s true.
9. We’re all about helping the next generation at allageszine.com, so we always end all our Q&A’s with this question. What one piece of advice would you give to someone who is just starting out with their first band today?
Surround yourself with smart, sane people who have your back.