Music producer Peter CottonTale talks about working with Google

  • On Wednesday, Google released its Year in Search campaign featuring an original song by music producer Peter CottonTale. This is the first time Google has ever ordered an original song for its Year in Search campaign, the company confirmed to Business Insider.
  • The song features Chance the Rapper, singer and actress Cynthia Erivo and the Chicago Children’s Choir.
  • The 29-year-old CottonTale told Insider that the song’s goal was both to highlight black commercials and the narrative of loss through the perspective of the black community, which has been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
  • CottonTale says over 80 black artists, engineers, producers and executives met to create the song.
  • Google donates $ 35,000 to the Chicago Children’s Choir and $ 15,000 to the Merit School of Music. By 2020, only 3.7% of Google employees were black, up from 2.4% in 2014, as reported by Fortune.
  • Visit the Business Insider website for more stories.

This summer, Google sent an email to music producer Peter CottonTale. The tech giant wanted to know if the Grammy-winning artist, best known for his work on Chance the Rapper, could create a song that described the final year of his Year in Search.

The year of the search shows moments and top trends from the past year based on the words or questions that people were constantly searching for. For example, this year’s top trends included Juneteenth, Black Lives Matter, and Murder Hornets. This is the first time Google has ever had an original song in Year in Search, the company confirmed to Insider.

“Trying to make a sound that culminates in 2020 … was honestly way too sad,” CottonTale told Insider. “Because too many people [the year 2020] sounded like loss, or it sounded like many challenges in their personal lives. ”

Instead, CottonTale decided to “write the optimistic view of how we want to do it to 2021” through the perspective of black people – a society that has been hit disproportionately hard by the pandemic.

Over 40% of black businesses have closed too well during the pandemic compared to 17% of white-owned businesses, CNBC reported in June; unemployment for black people reached 14.6% in July compared to 9.2% for white people; and black people became infected with COVID at speeds three times higher than white people, according to the National Urban League.

CottonTale spent two months covering several lockdowns and a COVID-19 scare that worked remotely with the Google team and over 80 black artists, engineers, producers and executives to create the song “Together” for Google. He released it independently and has retained all rights attached to the song.

The song features actress Cynthia Erivo and Chance rapper, as well as the Chicago Children’s Choir, and premiered on Google’s website Wednesday along with a short film.

At the request of Cottondale and his manager, Binta Niambi Brown, Google is donating $ 50,000 to the Chicago Children’s Choir and Merit School of Music. The technology company’s diversity initiatives contrast with the fact that by 2020, only 3.7% of all Google employees were black. This figure has risen from 2.4% in 2014, as reported by Fortune.

“All the stars are adapted for this collaboration with Peter CottonTale,” Google Production Manager Patrick Marzullo told Insider. “The tone and story he wanted to tell through music fit perfectly with our vision for the film, so from there it was easy to give him time and space to do what he does best.”

Peter CottontTale

Regards Peter CottonTale

CottonTale continued to work through COVID-19 shutdowns and tight rules

With the release of the song, CottonTale (born Peter Wilkins) wraps up a year that, as it has been for most entrepreneurs, has been a bit bumpy.

He was able to release his debut album earlier this year, but his Chicago-based recording studio, which he opened just a year and a half ago, was affected by lockdowns in the midst of the pandemic. When he recorded the song for Google, he also juggled how to keep his studio staff and how to keep the recording studios extremely clean.

Then in the middle of the mix of the song, his engineer captured COVID-19, and CottonTale had to isolate himself for five days before he could be tested. His engineer had to lock himself inside a room while he finished the demo tapes.

“As a business owner, I have never had to deal with a pandemic in the workplace,” he said. “I never thought it was going to get right into my workplace.”

“We had to close the studio for a week,” Brown recalled. “We would find ways to do what we could.”

For example, a 50-member orchestra used on the track could not enter the studio to record due to COVID-19 rules. “They had to record in three days,” Brown said. “Which made it take longer.”

CottonTale said he knew he was competing with other creative ideas that Google had hovered around in Year in Search, which made him work even harder.

A major focus for CottonTale was finding a way to center the perspective on black women, a group he said he felt had been “most affected by this year.”

“We knew we wanted a female voice,” said Binta Niambi Brown, CottonTales manager, Insider, and Cynthia Erivo was an obvious choice. “We felt the vocalist should be someone who actually exudes the best of being a diva, and that’s Cynthia.”

Cynthia Erivo

Cynthia Erivo is an Emmy-winning, Grammy-nominated actress and singer.

Tommaso Boddi / Stringer / Getty Images

In addition to bringing Erivo and his longtime collaborator Chance the Rapper into CottonTale singer Jamila Woods, the all-black Matt Jones re-collective orchestra, and got teen poet Kofi Dadzie to give a speech to the song that accompanied the film.

In what CottonTale said was a nice coincidence, all these black artists also have black leaders. “I can not take credit for that,” he said. “But I’m glad it went.”

It was incredibly important for CottonTale to allow black advertisers to participate in this project

So often, CottonTale said that black people are kept away from the opportunities that would help them grow. For example, he said it was important to expose the children in the Chicago Children’s Choir to as many opportunities as possible.

Brown said it was important to her and CottonTale that the children’s choir be compensated for her work on the song, and chose the Merit School of Music because “part of its purpose is to ensure that children of all backgrounds come together through music. “

Chicago Children's Choir

The Chicago Children’s Choir will perform under the Recording Academy Chicago Chapter Nominee Receptione and Membership Celebration, at the Chicago Athletic Association on January 24, 2017 in Chicago.

Barry Brecheisen / Stringer / Getty Images

CottonTale said he used prayer to get through the last few months. That, and he made sure to save money in all the rainy days. Brown said she will never forget the phone call that took place with Google’s PR one day and talked about all the black talent that was brought to this project.

“From our first call, it was clear that he was inspired and knew exactly what he wanted to do,” Marzullo said. “We provided the search data, and it only took him a few days to show us the first signs of his magic in a demo.”

CottonTale said he used to get scared when big companies published ads about black people. “I’m like, ‘Oh my God, hope a black person is in the author’s room,'” he said. “The importance of employing variety is such a necessity to promote our culture.”

This time it was there.