Caroline Cotter. Photo by Katherine Emery

The songs for Caroline Cotter’s next album were recorded and ready to go in March 2020, but the pandemic put a pin in them.

Earlier this year, the Rhode Island-born and Ellsworth-based singer-songwriter realized the time was right to put them out into the world, beyond playing them at her shows, and launched a fundraising campaign to make the album.

“Gently As I Go” was released on Aug. 18, and Cotter is celebrating its arrival with an Oct. 6 performance at One Longfellow Square.

Copies of the album in both CD and vinyl format are available at her live shows and at

Cotter should take great pride in knowing that its songs have been worth the wait, though many of them she’s been playing live for years. With bright vocals, an easy delivery and a penchant for capturing slices of life in song form, Cotter had made an album that is one part tender, one part hopeful, one part self-reflective and all parts poignant.

At the Portland show, Cotter will be joined by Ben Cosgrove (piano, accordion), Joe Bennati (drums), Ryan Blotnick (guitar) and Jonathan Henderson (bass).


Cotter grew up with a piano and record player in her living room, both of which she spent a ton of time in front of. She also sang in her school’s chorus and played trumpet in band. In middle school, Cotter’s brother Damon, who is four years older, started playing guitar and, impressed with what he was doing, she followed in his footsteps. “He was teaching himself and I was watching him, just trying to keep up,” Cotter said during an interview.

She more than kept up. A spark turned to flame and while in high school, Cotter bought her first acoustic guitar. She played it for 16 years until finally upgrading a couple of years ago.

It was in her early 20s that Cotter wrote the first song that, as she put it, “stuck.”

But there was another calling that Cotter answered before music became her full-time job. She worked in international education for nine years and taught in Spain, Portugal and Thailand.

Back on American soil, Cotter called Portland home from 2011 to 2015, though never had an actual apartment because she lived on the road, touring full time. Her debut album, “Dreaming As I Do,” was released in 2015, and “Home on the River” followed three years later.

The songs for “Gently As I Go” were recorded in March 2020, just as the pandemic was starting to take hold. When the world shut down soon after, so did Cotter’s desire to put out the album.


Cotter was, in fact, out on tour when the pandemic hit and needed a safe place to stay to ride it out. The Acadia region offered the sanctuary needed when touring wasn’t an option. Ellsworth became home.

As soon as it was safe, Cotter hit the road again and knew that eventually “Gently As I Go” would see the light of day; it was just a question of when.

Once Cotter knew it was time, she pulled the trigger on raising the money. It’s a pricey endeavor to release an album, so Cotter used the crowd-funding platform Kickstarter to solicit donations. It was her third time going through this process, and her uneasiness about it remains. “It’s a continuous ask, and it’s uncomfortable to ask for help for a creative project,” Cotter said. “So moving through that discomfort on the other side of it is this incredible reminder that people care and they want to help.”

Within eight days, Cotter reached, then exceeded, her goal. “It was incredible and was not something I anticipated, and I was so grateful.”

Without the funding, the album was at risk of staying shelved. “But here, in all of my doubt, I went for it and felt extraordinarily supported, and it sealed the deal for me,” Cotter said.

Cover of Caroline Cotter’s “Gently As I Go” album cover. Image courtesy of the artist

We delved into a few of its tracks.


Cotter wrote “The Year of the Wrecking Ball” as a way to look back on the loss of her childhood home and the sadness attached to that time of her life. Her parents divorced when she was 20 and sold the family home.

“I was sort of in the middle of where I might be letting go of that idea of home, but it was a tad too early for me, and I felt like the rug was yanked out from beneath me,” she said. For years, Cotter told herself it wasn’t a big deal. The song has helped her wrap her head around it. “I think it’s been a healing song for me and one that has allowed me to recognize the significance of that experience in my life.”

Lyrics include these lines.

“Open the door to the old brick house, I feel the floorboards smile/Carpets worn thin from secrets stuffed in, there’s only so much you can hide.”

Both of Cotter’s parents have heard some songs. “I think it’s allowed some conversations that I might have needed to have with my family.”

I told Cotter that I thought her song “Do You Love Me” sounded desperate, but in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way.


Lyrics include “I’ll floss my teeth for you/I’ll strip my sheets for you/I’ll rock and roll for you/I’ll bare my soul for you/Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me?”

“I think it’s just me laughing at that feeling of desperation and anxiety, recognizing that feeling and then laughing at it,” said Cotter, adding that it feels campy when she sings it. At under two minutes, it’s a whimsical, almost daydream of a song from the point of view of someone pining for someone in those choppy waters of not knowing where things are headed.

When I asked about “Antonia,” one heck of a backstory followed.

Cotter wrote it during a European tour in 2017. She was playing in a little café in Prague and right up front was a woman enthusiastically humming along, clearly quite happy to be there. “I just loved her presence,” Cotter said.

After she show, the woman asked Cotter to chat about songwriting, as she has never written a song herself, but played guitar and sang. Cotter told her that she writes about her life and asked the woman to share some details about hers. The woman’s daughter, Antonia, was 14 at the time and was growing away from her mother in a way that was both understandable and painful from her mother’s perspective. By the end of their time together that night, Cotter gave her a first draft of the song and continued working on it.

Two years later, in 2019, Cotter was back in Prague and was staying with the same host, and the same person gave her a ride to the venue. That person told her that his cousin was excited to see Cotter again. That cousin’s name was Lilly, Antonia’s mother. They were both in the audience that night and got to hear the final version of the song. It was a magical experience for all involved.

Caroline Cotter
8 p.m. Oct. 6. One Longfellow Square, 181 State St., Portland, $20 in advance, $25 day of show.

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