From ‘Safe Spaces’ To ‘Brave Places’

From the new book,

 “Unleashing Your Creativity: Lessons From A Reluctant Creative”. 

I had written and performed a song titled ‘One More Mile’ for a local TV show featuring Texas songwriters. I was (and still am) a nobody in the ‘Live Music Capitol of The World’. In a town that has housed legends like Willie Nelson, Townes Van Zant, Charlie Sexton, Janis Joplin, Jimmie Vaughan, Patti Griffin, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, I was in way over my head.

After taping, I was packing up and talking with a woman named Lee. “I really liked your song, Tom.” she said.

“Thanks,” I replied, “Um.. you’re very kind…”

“No, I’m not.” she laughed. “Anyone who knows me will tell you just how blunt I am. But this song is really well done… you should come check out our songwriters group next Tuesday night. You’d fit right in. It’s a very safe place.”

“That sounds great!”, I responded.

Total lie. It didn’t sound great. In fact, nothing could sound worse.  Continue reading “From ‘Safe Spaces’ To ‘Brave Places’”

An Angel in Yoga Pants?

Inspiration can be an elusive thing. Some days it’s hard to find. Some days, it smacks you in the face. But sometimes, when you’re worn out and frustrated like I was, it shows up as a strange angel with jangly bracelets and yoga pants.

One spring night I was at an open house for Six String Ranch, an amazing recording studio tucked down in the heart of Austin,Texas. I’d done some recording projects there before, but tonight it was an open house, packed with crazy-talented people I’d begun to cross paths with. Artists. Producers. Musicians. Writers. Guitarists. Singers. Pianists. Drummers. Designers.

Tonight it was like a clubhouse for creativity and talent.

I was nervously making the rounds trying to meet as many people as I could, trying to figure out how in the heck I’d gotten an invite to this ‘exclusive’ hideout, when a woman stopped me at the coffee bar.

“Hey there, my friend!”, she stuck out her hand. “How are you?!?”

She was dressed in yoga pants and a long, multicolored paisley blouse that flowed to her knees. She must’ve wore a hundred randomly-selected bangle bracelets that jingled with every gesture. Her large hoop earrings were gold and hung down all the way to her collar. Her lips were blindingly pink. She was shorter average, but BIG on personality. Her enthusiasm caught me off guard. Like…WAY off guard.

“Um… hey. I’m good. How are you?”

“Outstanding!” She gleamed. “Isn’t this great?!?”

Sheepishly I replied,”Oh. Yeah. Yeah. It’s really great. Tons of great people… really nice. And [the owners] are wonderful….”

I hesitated.

“I’m sorry… have we met??”

“Oh, I don’t think so…. I haven’t really gotten to know everyone yet, so I just started calling everybody ‘friend’. I figure it saves time trying to guess if we’re going to end up friends or not. I’m gonna just assume you and I are gonna end up as pals, and I might as well just start from there.”

Her enthusiasm was a little overwhelming.. but her proposition to this whole thing was genius. I decided I’d just go with it as well.

“Well, friend… what brings you here?” I asked. “Are you a musician?”

“Oh, no.” She replied. “I can’t play a lick. Can’t sing either. I’m more of a muse…”. She leaned in towards me, grinning mysteriously.

Ding! Ding! Ding!  The crazy train had officially arrived. I wasn’t sure if she was crazy, or high, or just plain eccentric, but I got busy looking for an exit strategy. Surely there’s someone else around here I should be talking to. I’ve got too much crazy in my life as it is. I didn’t need to add one more burned out hippie to my bag of nuts.

“What I mean is I teach creativity…”, she continued. “Especially to people who are blocked. You know…frustrated. But they don’t know why they’re blocked. Sometimes they’re blocked business executives who are having trouble in their company. Sometimes they’re blocked housewives who feel they’re in a rut and what they do doesn’t really matter. Sometimes it’s musicians and writers and artists and such….so I figured I’d just show up and see if I could find a lonely songwriter to help out …”

Are you friggin’ kidding me?”, I thought to myself.

“…So what are you doing here?” she asked.

I. Was. Speechless. Here I was, struggling and frustrated, and the Universe had opened up and sent me a paisley, jangly, bedazzled angel. Why am I not surprised?

“You’re gonna laugh.” I answered. “I have no idea why I’m here. Not really. I’m a frustrated songwriter…looking for inspiration.”

She smiled.

Not just an ordinary smile either. You know that ginormous Christmas tree in New York each year? You know, the one at Rockefeller Plaza that’s about a thousand feet tall and lit up every year with about a gazillion twinkly lights? She smiled a smile like that. Literally, all I could see was her teeth and her eyes, bright as Christmas morning.

I began to spill my guts. Everything. All of it. Some of which are in the pages that follow. At the time of this writing, I still don’t know her name. I don’t know where she lives or what she drives. Maybe she was a literal angel. I believe it’s possible, you know. Or maybe not the literal, metaphysical kind, but at the least the metaphorical kind. The kind of angel that listened and questioned and prodded…and confirmed what was already in me. (Here’s a hint: its the same thing that’s already in YOU, too.)

Her best advice? “Keep going. That’s what you do when you’re going through the desert. You don’t stop in the middle of it. You keep on going.” So whether you’re frustrated and burned out, or you just want to infuse your creative juices with something new, you’re in the right place! In the pages that follow, I’ll spill my guts about my creative journey. I’ll share what’s worked and what’s helped me build my creative muscle, as well as how to unleash the creativity inside you. 

It’s in there. Are you ready? Let’s get started!

excerpt from ‘Unleashing Your Creativity: Lessons From A Reluctant Creative’, available on Amazon. 

Our Mission: “On The Inside”

***Did you know 22 veterans take their own lives every day?

It was the kind of phone call you never want to receive…


It was one of Tom’s childhood friends who served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. A tough Marine who ‘only bleeds on the inside’, yet was crying on the other end of the line. The demon of post-traumatic stress was taking it’s toll.
Sleepless nights, anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, alcohol and prescription drug abuse were wreaking havoc. His personal life and marriage were in crisis.

As he poured out his heart, the two of them cried, talked, and prayed into the night.

Sadly, it was only the first conversation Tom had with one of these men.

His newest single, “On The Inside” not only brings the soldier’s struggles to light, but is also raising money to help prevent veteran suicide.

Our commitment is simple. We will always give this song to veterans and their families for free.

PLUS, a portion of the proceeds (songs, downloads, merchandise sales, etc.) will always go to worthy veterans groups and services.


All of us in the Tom Cottar Music Tribe are honored to give back to those who have sacrificed so much. We thank you for your service and your commitment. We are forever in your debt.


Now Available EVERYWHERE !

Our new single, “On The Inside” is now available everywhere you buy music!

AND we’re giving it away to veterans and their spouses…

AND we’re giving 20% of all proceeds (music and merch) to to help stop veteran suicide…

YOU can help make a difference.


What Is A House Concert?

What is a House Concert? 

A house concert is exactly what the name says: a concert in someone’s house. But it could also be in a backyard or community center. It is a concert outside of a traditional music venue.

Key elements about house concerts:

• There is no charge for tickets. We ask for donations only.

• It is not a party with a background musician, but a true listening event meant to support the artist – both with attention and income/expenses.

• It does not require a large fancy home or complex event planning; just a willingness to support live music by providing both a location and inviting people to attend.

  • It does not cost much (or anything) to put on. Some hosts provide snacks and drinks.
  • It is a unique, amazing, fun, and simple event.

How it works: 

A host opens their home to an artist as a performance venue (and possibly a place to spend the night if the artist is traveling). The host and friends promote the show by inviting family, friends, and others passionate about music. The artist typically will promote their show as well.

An artist like myself will perform for an hour plus – often two sets with a short break for mingling and merchandise. During the break, the artist might talk with attendees about his or her music and be able to sell CD’s, t-shirts, or other merchandise. The host will typically act as the MC for the night by asking attendees for a donation for the artist. Hint: As the artist, I might ask for donations but I would rather focus on my performance and let the host ask for donations. It sounds less needy. 😉

Why donations?

It is simpler. Donations ensure the “party” is not viewed as a business. This protects the host as charging a ticket price could run you afoul of commerce laws. Typically, the donation system works well. The host can collect donations by reservation prior to the event or at the door. The host includes on the invite and announces during the show, something like, “Hey everyone. Tom is working hard and giving us great entertainment value. We are asking for a donation of $20 per person – more if you can, less if you can’t.” It’s simple, direct, and low-pressure.


Typically, I work with my hosts closely to help them with things like invitations and RSVPs (Evites and Facebook events work really well!) Other than that, a few electrical outlets and space for people to sit or stand is all you need. A small living room can pretty easily house 20 people. Guest can also bring folding chairs. When the weather is nice, a backyard works GREAT!


This info is simply a guideline… I’d love to help you plan a house concert that is both easy on you and is a night your friends will remember!

If you’re interested in hosting, email me at and let’s chat. No obligation…but I bet we can create a great experience for you and your friends!

See you soon!


Thank You!

2016 Texas Songwriter Association Awards

I was pretty blown away a few weeks ago. In December, I submitted 11 songs to the Texas Songwriter Association (aka Austin Songwriters Group) song contest. The week before the awards ceremony, I got word that TEN of them made the finals in various categories. You can imagine how BLOWN AWAY I was to receive SIX awards last Wednesday night…it’s an honor to be involved in a community of such talent and creativity. Thanks to everyone for your support!

The songs were:
1. The Devil I Know (1st Place, Pop/Rock Category)
2. The Devil I Know (2nd Place, Angels & Outlaws Category)
3. The Devil I Know (3rd Place, Blues/Jazz Category)
4. Beautiful (Honorable Mention, Love Songs Category)
5. Beautiful (Honorable Mention, Family Songs)
6. Lacrimosa (Honorable Mention, Inspirational Songs Category)

There are also some things in the works with some new songs (“How The Light Gets In” and “On the Inside”), some co-writing and collaborating over the next few weeks with Kathy Gordon, Mark Lambert, and one of my new friends, Melissa Marks!

Here’s to the blessings and opportunities of a new year!

See you soon,