Why Courtney Cotter King Is Inspired by Fiona Apple and WALL-E

Courtney Cotter King
Nicki Escudero
Mesa-based pianist and singer-songwriter Courtney Cotter King is, among other things, the Valley's version of Zooey Deschanel. Not only is she a dead ringer for the new girl, Cotter King also achieves maximum quirk.

Describing one of her songs, "White Rhino," she says, "I started writing the piano to it, and it sounded like a rhino -- like stampeding. I started, like, thinking about rhinoceroses and this conversation I had with my sister about how we have to start saying no to things, because you can't be walked on. I don't know, maybe we're pushovers a little bit. I related that to rhinoceroses, because rhinoceroses don't take crap from anyone."

Each track's explanation goes similarly afield, from her trying to connect families and the blood in their hearts to citing getting past "what do you call it, hazards, you know" as one of her inspirations. The album art for her latest album, Rooftops, features multiple shots of Cotter King surrounded by cartoon animals in a park; conversations with her are cutely childlike.

Her endearingly eccentric persona is strikingly different from the mature songwriting talent she boasts; she taught herself piano at age 3 and already is on her third self-funded album. Her vocals -- which have drawn comparisons to The Cranberries' Dolores O'Riordan, Frou Frou, and Regina Spektor -- are set against jazz-infused piano pop she says is more inspired by Fiona Apple, Tori Amos, and Stevie Wonder.

She featured more than 20 musicians, including a string section, on Rooftops, which was produced by Bryan Kuban of local band Mogollon and released by local label Fervor Records. A 2014 tour is in the works, proving she's serious about the music career she's now devoted to -- something that's evident to her label.

"Rare is the 21-year-old with the ability to articulate musically and lyrically in a profound way," Fervor co-owner Jeff Freundlich says. Adds Fervor Records CEO David Hilker, "Musically, she is a triple threat: an excellent pianist, exceptional vocalist, and extraordinary songwriter. She commands a deep understanding of how to emote via all three."

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