B-Sides: Peter CottonTale

Words by Jake Krzeczowski
Photos by Jake Krzeczowski

Peter CottonTale is a name most wouldn’t immediately associate with hip-hop. But, one Chicagoan has taken the moniker and made it his own, creating some timeless records in the process. Since emerging in 2011 with wide-ranging production ability that set the tone for much of what was to come from his hometown, CottonTale has established himself as one of the important up and coming minds in music today.

Having served as Music Director for Chance The Rapper since 2013 he, along with longtime friends in the Social Experiment collective, has crafted the majority of the sounds that made Chance the first independent artist to win a Grammy in 2016 for Coloring Book. More than that, Peter, Nico Segal, Greg Landfair and Nate Fox have built a language with their work that truly manifested itself on 2015’s SURF, a collaborative album that spoke directly to the early days of the group’s working relationships. CottonTale is the type of leader that doesn’t necessitate being referred to as one. Deeply thoughtful in his actions and speech, his disposition has allowed him to fluidly fit into a multitude of dynamics which in turn results in trust between himself and the artist. That trust in the studio has led to him working alongside the likes of SZA, J. Cole and Kanye West and has opened doors he could have never imagined.

The thing is, he did imagine it. Whether stated explicitly or not, it was always readily obvious to those close to Peter that he’d be doing exactly this at this time. With his debut album on the cusp of dropping, I caught up with him at his new studio in Chicago’s Logan Square to talk about the journey thus far, the new music and where it all goes from here.


Jake Krez: So tell me a bit about what the world’s been like since the Grammys, the new album etc?

Peter CottonTale: The Grammys, since Coloring Book dropped. Lets see that was 2016. I don’t know man I’ve been making a lot of music, I’ve been Music Directing a few other shows like SZA on SNL over the past couple of years, did Towkio on late night, Taylor and I have been able to help some other acts and participate in other musical things. I’ve been working on my album for a couple of years now, it feels like forever. I feel like every time I say that I’m going to grow a beard. And of course touring with Chance, we made The Big Day in between then.


Krez: Your solo project has been awhile in the making. With Kanye pushing gospel-laden music with jesus Is King, it seems like the timing is just right.

CottonTale: It’s actually funny because God has a way of timing things correctly, his timing is always perfect. I feel like for me to be like ‘oh yeah, I feel like I’m coming into my own as an artist right now’ would be so crazy for me to say. Because like if I felt that way and I was just dropping a project, then maybe I should rethink dropping a project. Because it’s been a couple of years of writing and trying to find a path. I felt like that awhile ago, I felt like I was coming into my own artistry and then I dipped down into not even liking it and then I dipped back up into ok I should write for some choirs and then I’d be like ‘what’re you doing bro?’ You know what I’m saying? I went through some waves and then this is what the waves came out to look like. It felt crazy then it didn’t feel crazy, then it felt crazy then I felt like I finally got to a place where it felt stable. Because I’ve been writing on songs and writing vocal parts or writing a lot of choir stuff, I just kinda decided to focus.


Krez: What’s the plan moving forward? You just opened a studio in Chicago, is that still home?

CottonTale: Chicago is my favorite spot. Yo, Chicago is awesome bro, I’m gonna keep it one hundred with you. We got the cheapest rent and the best areas. We got a good balance between the two. I also love Seattle though, I make the best music in Seattle – not the best, but I make really good music in Seattle and it’s come out and become really good.


Krez: How do you expect listeners to react to the new music?

CottonTale: As far as the introduction of new music, I’ve been trying to roll out more stuff that I’ve done over the past two years. Hopefully it won’t be too big of a jump, as far as the introduction of me goes. Hopefully people pick up on some of the story, my friend’s story, the story of community vibes and pay attention to Chicago and will already feel as though I’m familiar through music. I want people to believe in something and talk about it and to not be afraid to encourage the people around them.


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