Appearances can be deceiving – consider Cota, a big guy with an even bigger beard, prominent tattoos and a physically imposing presence. The impression changes when he begins to sing with a smooth angelic vocal tone that is reminiscent of the R&B greats who have influenced his artistry.
The singer, songwriter and guitarist has opened shows for both classic soul artists and hard-edged hip-hop creators like The Game and Tyga. Once audiences get over their initial surprise, they invariably appreciate the purity of his approach. “They don’t expect this voice to come out of me,” laughs Cota. “It freaks them out.”
He comes by this sound naturally. Both his grandfather and his father were musicians in his hometown of Moorpark, CA. “As a little boy I was drawn to the guitar,” Cota remembers. “My grandpa started teaching me traditional Mexican songs. I don’t speak the best Spanish, but those songs stuck with me.”
He remembers Sunday mornings at home, when his dad would listen to the radio. “I’d wake up hearing oldies, my mom cooking and cleaning, ironing getting ready for church.” He sang in the choir for services, and also at school. “Music was everything,” he says.
In addition to being musicians, his family has a long lineage as barbers. Married, with four kids, Cota cultivated his own tonsorial skills. “I was raised if you have kids you’ve got to take care of them. I became a barber, perfected my craft and made good money,” he says.
With the passing of his grandfather and his father, Cota was inspired to devote more time to his music. He began posting on social media, guesting with other artists, and performing at bigger shows. When he opened for the legendary Baby Bash, the two linked up and Bash affiliated him with the Silent Giant Entertainment family through his label, BashTown Recordings. They also collaborated on a track titled “Show Off,” that Cota describes as “A high confidence song.”
While audiences now know him for his music, he is also sometimes recognized with shouts of “Cota the Barber!” He says it’s almost like an alias, as he notes the similarities between his two endeavors. “I get the same feeling when I record, or when people enjoy my music when I’m performing, as I do when I show someone the mirror after their haircut. They smile, and the vibe is crazy.”