By: Amanda Epstein
Who is Ben Cote?
By: Amanda Epstein
Ben Cote is the frontman of the Ben Cote Band. I had the pleasure of speaking with him and learning about his musical journey.
It all started for him when he was just 12 years old and found his father’s Van Halen album. That began his love for the guitar. Like many parents, his believed that his love of playing the guitar was a phase and wouldn’t last. Boy, were they wrong. By 14 years old he was in guitar lessons and honing his skills; and at 16 he was in his first band. The early influences of musicians from the 70’s and 80’s gave Ben a love of guitar music. Though he started playing young, he didn’t always have the ambition to be a musician. At one point he wanted to be a basketball star.
After high school, he had the dream of setting off on the road and making a name for himself in the music world. His parents did not agree on this plan for the future. He wasn’t ready to give up on his dream of playing music, so he applied to college to study music.
He only considered 2 schools; Berklee and the Music Institute. He got early acceptance into the Music Institute and decided to head out to California to attend. After one year he learned that the lifestyle out in California was not for him, and came back to the east coast and transferred to Berklee. When he started at the school, he was already at a disadvantage because he lacked the ability to read sheet music. That could be quite the hindrance when attending a music school. He overcame that challenge though.
When it came to picking a major, the more unconventional option was appealing. He did not want to be a performance major and be the “hired gun”, but rather the one doing the hiring. To make that happen he chose the Pro Music major, where he could dabble in a bit of everything and choose his own curriculum. In 2018 he graduated summa cum laude. By the time he graduated, his band, the Ben Cote Band, also had almost 2 albums recorded. Being in a band afforded him the opportunity to gain practical experience with the things he was learning in school. The school was so enamored by him, that they asked him to teach in the summer program. After 2 years of teaching, he has become the coordinator of the guitar department at Berklee.
One of the biggest pieces of advice Ben offered, was to be open to opportunities that come. Endorsements are some of the opportunities that have come for him. Sea Glass Guitars is one of the many endorsements he has gained. That is a guitar company based in Massachusetts. They work together to create the Ben Cote Signature Series, with the new BC3 model coming out soon. An LA company called Anatomy of Sound also endorses Ben, having him use their 3D guitar picks. These are just a few of the array of endorsements he has had the opportunity to have.
I asked Ben about his writing process. He said he is a guitarist before anything, so the guitar riff usually comes first. Once that is present, the music and lyrics came in to round it all out.
If you have never heard his music, he suggests checking out the song “Get Your Licks In”. He is most proud of this song and feels like it represents the band well. This song was nominated for, and won, the video of the year award in 2018 from WooTube. Fun fact about this song: it was added towards the end of the recording process, yet became the title of the album. This track highlights all of the instruments while seamlessly blending them into a full-body sound. Of course, it wouldn’t be complete without the killer guitar solo in the middle.
We talked a bit about what it is to be a musician. A good collaboration can be something special. His dream collaboration would be with Cherie Currie. She “has a knack for good songs and personifies rock & roll”. There are upsides and downsides to every career choice, and a career in music is no different. According to Ben, the best things about a career as a musician are the places he’s gotten to travel to, people he’s met as well as the friends and connections he’s made. The flip side, however, is one of the hardest things to deal with in the industry; the lack of payoff for hard work. While rewarding, working in the music business can be a humbling experience.
His one major piece of advice is to be "aware". Aware of your surroundings, aware of yourself and others, aware of the way you carry and present yourself. Professionalism goes a long way in an industry built on networking.
So what's next for this musician?
The Ben Cote Band just released a single called "Do You Want to Be My Psycho?" and are planning for an album that he has promised will drop sometime in 2020. With the current global pandemic, touring and live gigs are all up in the air right now. Ben did say that as a musician it is important to keep creating and putting music out there. He has been able to connect with fans more than ever, and on deeper levels, because of all the streaming taking place. He is working on designing some new, and unique, merch for the band. Did someone say pillows?
He's writing, singing, recording, producing and engineering for the band. The goal is to keep things "as independently as I can".
As far as the future goes; he's hoping this pandemic will create a renewed love of, and need for, live music. With everyone being cooped up and not allowed to see live performances, they may just start to miss something that was being taken for granted. We can only hope that this will be the case.