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Alice Cotton – ‘Sleeping Dogs’

Words by Steve Kelk | Images by Jean-Eddy Moutou/Supplied

Darwin indie-folk artist Alice Cotton released her soulful single ‘Sleeping Dogs‘ earlier this month, and tomorrow night she launches it at the iconic Happy Yess.

Four months in the making and in collaboration with a host of music industry professionals as far away as Scotland, Alice has made the most of the recent COVID-19 live performance hiatus to produce this most excellent of debut singles.

 “I was reflecting on the end of my first queer relationship, the tenderness and mess that comes with that” 

Sleeping Dogs‘ is, as the titles suggests, about not pushing things after a relationship has ended; the frustration of longing but with the reserve of giving space, not sure exactly what to call the thing that remains once the light goes out, and the fear of being burned by trying to reconnect – best to let sleeping dogs lie, lest they bite.

Of the inspiration for this song, Alice says: “After a relationship ends there’s a period where you really want to reach out and reconnect. I was trying to figure out if I should do that, or respect their boundaries and just let sleeping dogs lie. There was this disbelief that the relationship had shifted to a place where it is best to have zero contact. I was reflecting on the end of my first queer relationship, the tenderness and mess that comes with that” 

The mixed emotions that Alice Cotton invokes in her lyrics are made flesh by her vocals. There is a reserved sweetness to her voice such that she could be telling a happy story to a close friend over a quiet campfire late at night, reminiscing of times past – in effect she is doing just that. It is the ending of that story that she is not quite ready to come to terms with, but she knowns she must. There is no hatred and it is not quite resignation – the process of acceptance while trying to keep her head on her shoulders but wanting to stamp her feet at the same time.

I was lucky to work with stellar musos and felt I could trust their judgement and that it would take the track in an unusual direction

Personal tragedy has shaped Alice’s views and approach to life, and studying music therapy as a way of dealing with loss taught her the value of creative expression – and thus her artistic career was born. Classical music training mixed with a nuanced way of viewing the world has clearly produced an artist and performer of rare qualities which are best appreciated by listening to her music, rather than trying to describe it.

Alice Cotton performing at the (virtual) Nightcliff Seabreeze Festival @ Home 2020 (image Jean-Eddy Moutou)

The process of getting this track from her head to release is quite a story in itself.  ‘Sleeping Dogs’ is a collaboration with recording engineer Matt Cunliffe (Yothu Yindi) and features guest performances from Holly Thomas (Quivers), Gormie (Angie McMahon) and Pepi Emmerichs (Oh Pep!).

The track was recorded and mixed over four months, a sprawling partnership between seven musicians and three sound engineers across the Northern Territory, Melbourne, Castlemaine and Scotland. Says Alice: “It was a completely different process to how I had initially envisioned it – live recordings with the full band in a cosy recording studio, after days of rehearsals. I decided to embrace the sprawl and I left a lot of creative decisions up to each musician. I was lucky to work with stellar musos and felt I could trust their judgement and that it would take the track in an unusual direction.” 

Musically, the track is sweetly wistful, much like the message – a gentle indie-folk meander for the duration, letting the lyrics do the heavy lifting. A melodic sprinkling of this here and an opposing pinch of that there over a calm rhythm section provide depth and texture. Alice’s approach is insightful.

Sleeping Dogs‘ has already garnered national interest, with a premiere on triple j’s Roots n’ All, and Alice has put in the work at the back-end with promotion and merch for her launch. And what better place for a community-minded artist to launch her debut single than the community arts-space that is the Yess.

 The ‘Sleeping Dogs’ initiative has also included other Northern Territory multi-disciplinary artists with a soon-to-be-released music video with track artwork and hand-made merchandise, and has been supported through funding from ArtsNT and the Regional Arts Fund.

‘Sleeping Dogs’ is out now on the usual streaming platforms – have a listen here:

Alice Cotton launches ‘Sleeping Dogs‘ at the Happy Yess Darwin with support by Mandy Garling on February 20th 2021 – tickets are $15.00 + bf and are available here:

Alice Cotton would like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners and Elders past, present and future of Larrakia country, where sovereignty has never been ceded. 

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