Brenda Lee Cottrell is a Canadian singer/songwriter and lifelong musician originally from Melville who will bring her one-woman tribute show to the legendary ladies of the decades that includes iconic singers from multiple eras — '50s to present day — at the Mae Wilson on May 6.
The show is called Brenda & The Legends and will feature Cottrell channelling the voice, attitude, and nostalgia of some of the most unforgettable singers ever, backed up by the full band sound of the music she tributes.
“I’ve been at the Mae Wilson four times, I think, so this could be a fifth performance there for me,” Cottrell said. “But this year, we’re doing something a little different. We thought it might be a good idea to bring something new to followers of the show.
“So, it will be myself on stage with lots of costumes and a much larger repertoire than we’ve brought before.”
Her show includes the greatest hits from legends such as Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, Brenda Lee, Connie Francis, Lesley Gore, Sonny & Cher, Mary Travers, Petula Clark, Karen Carpenter, Donna Summer, Etta James, Aretha Franklin, and even Celine Dion and Whitney Houston.
“I’ve broadened the areas I’m tributing,” she explained, “without leaving out everyone’s favourites from before. … I’m very pleased that we’re able to consistently and creatively change up the show so that we expand our genres and eras.”
Cottrell has been a musician for her entire life, growing up in a music-filled home and learning the keyboard as her first instrument. She was the pipe organist at her church in Melville for 20 years and continues to play keyboard instruments.
Her education as a vocalist includes the University of Regina Conservatory of Performing Arts, where she studied under Wilma Bell Wessell. While at the Conservatory she was awarded the Mae Riome Memorial Vocal Scholarship for demonstrating a diverse vocal range in front of judges. She sang operatic classics in English, French, Italian, and German.
Cottrell’s shows are performed in partnership with her husband Brian, a former television producer. There is no I in team, she pointed out.
“(Brian) is the reason I can do what I do. I know I have a lot of spiritual help at every show, but when I’m on stage, he is… I want to find the right words (for) his importance in my shows,” Cottrell said. “He’s my producer, he’s my manager … He does so much, and during the show itself he pulls it all together technically so that when I get on stage, I don’t have to worry about anything, I can just lose myself in the music.”
In 2019, Cottrell released an album of original, inspirational songs in a collection called Love Will Shine On You.
“As soon as you say, ‘I’ve written inspirational music,’ some people think that it’s a very direct Christian message,” Cottrell said. “All of my songs have a message of hope and inspiration … But it’s subtle. It’s not praise music, it’s just music that has messages of hope and love and guidance.”
Cottrell said creating the album was an exciting collaboration and learning experience whose result she is very proud of.
Tickets for Brenda Lee Cottrell’s show at the Mae Wilson on Saturday, May 6 go on sale soon, but a special pre-sale price is available from Jan. 24 to 31 by clicking here and entering the promo code “LEGENDS” (all in caps, without the quotes).
“Every lady that we bring on stage during the show was different,” Cottrell added. “How they dressed, how they sang … There are some singers I don’t have in the show because I just don’t know if I can bring their nuances.
“I have to get into their heads and they have to get into mine, and then I can lose myself in their songs. So, it isn’t just the song, it’s about the lady on the song. … It’s collectively quite diverse, so whoever comes to the show, there will be something for them.”