Social Soundtrack
Published in

Social Soundtrack

The Rebirth of Peter Coxx

How the Barbadian artist, singer/songwriter overcame tribulations and returned to his first love.

Photograph from Peter Coxx.

When a singer shares their soul full of life’s ups and downs, you can feel it. It is a pure sound that cannot be manufactured in the boardrooms of the music industry nor faked in a studio. At that level of authenticity, music, the most intangible of arts, somehow touches our souls. We wish that we could bottle up these good ephemeral feelings and consume them like water, but we cannot. Although the voices capable of making us feel that way are rare, Peter Coxx is the latest addition to that rarity.

A Child Prodigy with Promise

At the age of 9, Coxx entered a poetry competition in his elementary school in Barbados. His talent for writing was so admired that he was asked to be part of the opening ceremony of the Sir Garfield Sobers Complex, a massive sports facility named after a legendary cricket player and Barbadian icon. By 14, he signed up to be in the Richard Stoute Teen Talent Contest, an annual island-wide competition for promising artists from ages 12 to 20 that has been going on for 43 years. Most of the famous Barbadian calypsonians of the last 30 years came through that competition, which is also a program to groom young talents into emerging artists. Coxx participated as part of a five member group called Infinity.

“I was the youngest of the group,” he recalls. “The rest of them were 16 or 17 years old, and that year we came in second place.” That same year, and in the years to follow, Coxx won first prize in a couple other high school talent competitions. He had a long track record of winning competitions, from elementary school right up into high school. Then things started to get serious, from a professional perspective.

“As a musician in Barbados, there is no 1–2–3 step to becoming a professional artist,” explains Coxx, now 36. When he was a teenage prodigy, he remembers that there was not the same level of guidance as there is now, which could have helped him avoid what looked like a youthful mistake.

“When I was 17, I did a showcase with Sony, BMG, Vista, and Capitol here in Barbados. It was just me on guitar, a percussionist, and a bass guitarist. When I got off the stage, a couple artists and repertoire (A&R) reps came up to me. They wanted to sign me right away.” This might have seemed like a dream come through for any emerging artist, but the tight-knit community that is the Barbadian music industry played a role in how Coxx responded to their offer.

“At the time, I was already signed to someone here in Barbados named Anthony Lowhar, who was my manager. I knew nothing about contracts, and I wanted to be loyal. I said to this woman who wanted to sign me, that I’m already signed. She then said that she didn’t want my manager, she wanted me. I said no.” It seems like a perplexing response now, but one which Coxx believes has worked out for the best. Sometimes it is just not the right time, and the best thing to do is wait for that right time to come.

“I was young and that was an opportunity that just slipped through my fingers. But it’s okay, because I have grown as a person, and my songs have more depth because of my life experiences.”

Photograph from Peter Coxx.

Life is Never a Straight Road

Even though Coxx continued to make songs and singles, he didn’t pursue music professionally in his early adulthood. Instead, like so many people with dreams, life took over. He got married, had kids, stopped singing for a little while, and then got divorced. As he continued to raise his two daughters, now ages 12 and 14, music became like a distant love affair that was almost, but not quite forgotten. Five years ago, a tragic incident changed his life and returned him to his love for music.

“My mother passed away of cancer, but while I was visiting her in the hospital in the later stages of her life when she couldn’t breathe, she took off her mask and told me, “you know Peter, you got to start playing your guitar again.” It was undoubtedly an emotional moment, but one that Coxx felt compelled to listen to. After she passed, playing his guitar and singing at home underneath his breadfruit tree became a way for him to heal. When he began chronicling this healing process on Instagram, people from around the world would send him direct messages saying how cool it was, and how they could feel his energy. “Then I realized that I was not only healing myself,” explains Coxx, “I was healing other people as well.”

What really pushed him even further back to his love of music, was losing his cell phone. Not just for the reasons that most people fear losing their cell phone, but for sentimental reasons.

“That cell phone had messages from my mother and voice notes. Conversations that we had that I recorded. I lost all the audio of her voice, and it crushed me,” says Coxx. “Now, I think of my two daughters, and can’t wait to finish this album just so that they have a record and representation of where I am. That way they can always hear my voice no matter what happens.”

Despite many of the early years of his life devoted to music, Coxx has never made an album, until now. It is a big deal for him, because it is personal. “The album is called The Original Copy, because I feel like I’m now returning to the original version of myself.” The album will feature ten songs, in his joyous style, which fans describe “as feel good Caribbean-neo soul with a slight reggae influence.” Recently, Coxx has been writing morning starters, under his breadfruit tree of course. He calls it music to start your morning to keep you going throughout the day.

“I get a lot of vibes under my breadfruit tree. I tend to write a lot of songs there. There’s an energy there. I write from real life situations, conversations that I hear, and my feelings,” explains Coxx. Sometimes his inspiration starts with words and poetry, but other times he begins with a chord progression on his guitar that matches a melody that he’s feeling. Every song is different.

“Then I realized that I was not only healing myself, I was healing other people as well.”

Photograph from Peter Coxx.

The Next Chapter and Re-opening Act

Peter Coxx is a new artist who has been courting stardom for most of his life. When he turned down that opportunity at 17, he actually made the best decision for himself. It takes a person of strong character to recognize when the timing is not right, and to appreciate those who were with you in earlier days. Remember the manager that he wanted to be loyal to, Anthony Lowhar? He currently handles the mixing and mastering of the songs for his new album. “I’m at my stage in life where my music is ready,” declares Coxx. “I’ve had so many starts and stops, and I feel like I have stopped most of the times because of myself. Of course, I would love to become a superstar, but that’s not my end goal. I just want to share my music with the world, and be as original as possible.”

Maintaining your originality is a challenging endeavor in the music industry, especially when pressures are put on you to change your image. With all the life experiences that Coxx has overcome, you would think that an artist with such authenticity should be easy to market as is. Apparently, authenticity is not seen as a positive trait for some people. When asked what he is resisting as an artist, Coxx responds: “They (music executives in Barbados) want me to cut my beard off. They say it’s coming across as too rough, as too Black. But I don’t want to cut it off.” An appropriate response, and one that is aligned with the character that has brought him along so far.

In April of this year in Barbados, there was a special television program to thank healthcare professionals treating Covid-19 patients on the island, featuring many Barbadian musical artists, both young and old. Coxx was one of those voices, giving the nation the feel-good music that was needed at the time, and is still needed now.

“Both professionally and personally, I’ve taken a few losses,” admits Coxx. “I want to create good music that makes people happy. No matter what you’ve been through, if you’re alive today, it’s a brand new day. Get up and go again.”

***

Listen to two singles from Peter Coxx’s debut album, The Original Copy, which is expected to drop in November 2020. The video of “A Brand New Day” was shot in Barbados, with beautiful shots of the island.

Correction: Barry Knight was the manager for Peter Coxx when he was 17. The day of the showcase with the A&R reps, Anthony Lowhar was the sound engineer, and he also happens to be mixing and mastering The Original Copy. Though Barry Knight no longer manages Peter Coxx, he continues to provide mentorship and the two talk regularly.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store