Planetary Group took some time to get to know Justin Stewart Cotta…
Planetary Group: Tell us about your latest release. What inspired its creation?
Justin: Little Things… where’d it come from? It’s such a strange time, isn’t it? You’ve got celebrities slapping each other on stage. You’ve got an invasion of an entire nation, 4 million refugees in Ukraine. A part of the Antarctic shelf the size of Brooklyn has fallen into the sea…
And where does music sit in that? Where do I sit in that? Where do we sit in that? Sometimes you feel like a bit of an imposter, when you’re sitting at your guitar or piano or writing. I love music as an escape, but at some point it’s either running parallel to what’s going on, or it’s a part of what’s going on. Or it’s pure escapism.
For me, with everything going on, that focus on human connection just felt and feels at its most important. One of the final frontiers for us [as human beings] is actually connection and enlightenment (I’ve not found it so there’s no delusions of grandeur on my end!). The song itself [shows] that ultimate complexity lies in the ultimate simplicity; human connection and those seemingly tiny, infinitesimal moments end up becoming what you hold on to.
PG: Share a bit about your musical journey, from when you first started making music until now.
Justin: I was the guitarist in Vast, did some keys and backing vocals in Vast as well. They happened to be my favorite band at the time, and I was lucky enough to find myself in an audition for them. I was also the singer in Memento. We were a little heavier, more hard rock. [People] tried to pigeonhole us as new metal, but we just weren’t. Nonetheless, here we are today, and I’m just playing the kind of music and listening to the kind of music that I’ve always loved.
PG: Let’s talk about the music that you love. Pick one album for each category below & tell us a bit about it!
- An album you grew up listening to:
Justin: Growing up, anything Bowie, anything Eurythmics. I was obsessed with Kate Bush and Annie Lennox. Janis Joplin was played a lot in the household too! My mother had an incredible vinyl collection, and she was obsessed with David Byrne and Talking Heads. So all those beautiful pop songs, with soul and with grit and really interesting arrangements.
- An album that inspires you as an artist (I’m sure there are many, but pick one of your choosing):
Justin: It’s no secret to my friends (or anyone that knows a teeny bit about me) that Auchtung Baby and Joshua Tree [by U2] are really inspiring. Anything by Radiohead and Thom Yorke, as well as Talking Heads are a huge influence too.
- The album you currently have on repeat:
Justin: In terms of what I’m listening to at the moment, I would have to admit to you that I’ve become quite addicted to the new cycle – I’m particularly heartbroken with what’s happening in Ukraine. 4 million refugees, a country that is on its knees essentially.
And I’ve decided that any income, any cent, any dollar that comes in for the song Little Things has been and will continue to be donated directly to the World Central Kitchen (wck.org). They’re providing hot, healthy meals for Ukrainian refugees. They’re stationed along the border, particularly the border of Poland and Ukraine, but some of these brave individuals are in Ukraine and they’re providing meals within Ukraine itself.
It feels a little benign offering money, but when people are risking their lives it does make a difference. It really, really does. So I would encourage you, whether it’s through the song or independently, to check out wck.org. They’re doing beautiful work and they’re helping some beautiful people.
Thank you for having me! Stay safe, love to you all, and I appreciate you having a listen.