Praise and worship with Travis Cottrell
by Sherrie Norris
He's traveled from coast to coast and abroad lifting up the name of Jesus, but one thing he's never done is to forget his Watauga County roots.
Cottrell's hometown is so special to him that, more times than one, he has referred to Boone as "the place where God gets his mail."
And, with every new milestone he reaches, a large number of Cottrell's family members and friends are back home in the High Country cheering him on.
Notoriety has not changed Cottrell. If anything, it has made him appreciate his humble beginnings even more.
That's saying a lot for a man from Boone who has won two Dove Awards from 16 nominations, shared the stage with stars such as Amy Grant, Garth Brooks, Melinda Doolittle and CeCe Winans, in addition to performing at Carnegie Hall and recording at Abbey Road Studio.
Cottrell's resume is looking even better these days with the addition of the Encore Award that he received from Belmont University on Sept. 12.
According to the school, the award was created to honor a Belmont University School of Music alumnus for achievement in the field of classical music.
According to Cottrell, he has been able to embrace the rich traditional hymns of his childhood with today's modern music, "a blending of style," he said, to help lead people from all generations and backgrounds into worship - and yes, all while drawing upon his training and skill in classical music.
Cottrell graduated from Belmont University with honors and with a degree in church music in 1992.
He currently serves as worship pastor at Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson, Tenn., and has been described by his peers as "a prolific writer of Christian songs and a singer much in demand for concerts, Christian conferences and recording projects."
Cottrell admits to being "a typical kid" while growing up in Boone with varied interests, stretching from basketball to wondering what piloting a plane might be like, to standing in his front yard, air-directing a marching band.
And at one point, when he was 7, he even thought about being a NASCAR driver.
By his teenage years, Cottrell's love for music was firmly established.
He knew clearly that the Lord was calling him to the ministry.
"It's been a crazy, wild, wonderful adventure ever since, " Cottrell said, "proof positive that God is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine."
It's happened "time and time, again," he said.
For the last 15 years, Contrell has served as worship leader at Beth Moore's Living Proof Live conferences, grateful, he said, to have already ministered to millions of people in all 50 states and several other countries, too.
He's produced several albums for Living Proof and counts his involvement with Moore's ministry as one of the greatest joys of his life.
As if that's not enough, Cottrell has found time to record several solo projects, including "Found," "Ring the Bells," "When The Stars Burn Down" and the Dove award-winning "Jesus Saves Live."
He released his first book, "Surprised By Worship: Discovering the Presence of God Where You Least Expect It" in 2010, and a journal version of the same book with a new title: "He Knows Your Name," released earlier this year.
The youngest child of Glen and the late Jean Cottrell of Boone, Cottrell said that music has been his lifetime passion.
During his childhood, he developed a deep love for the rich traditional hymns sung in his home church at Perkinsville Baptist, in the shadows of his parents and siblings who loved to sing.
A 1988 graduate of Watauga High School, Cottrell attended ASU for two years prior to transferring to Belmont University, with sights set "on a vocal performance degree, an exciting career in the music industry, and being rich and famous in three years or less," he said.
While the music industry in Nashville beckoned him, Cottrell said many of his opportunities were about "image and sound," and "not about the Lord," for which he was unwilling to compromise.
He did begin to find his niche, however, and eventually entered into partnership with Integrity Music, "a label that didn't try to change me," he said.
Soon after college, Cottrell began writing songs; his first, "It's Only Thunder," was recorded by Larnelle Harris; his next published work, "Waiters," a youth musical about waiting on the Lord, became the year's best-selling youth musical.
He continued to write and was working as an editor at a music publishing company when offered the worship leader's role at Nashville's Two Rivers Baptist Church, which has more than 6,000 members and where he spent the following 18 months.
Cottrell then led worship for various student events, including those for Fellowship of Christian Athletes, camps, back-to-school rallies, etc.
He also worked as a background studio singer, which led him to sing with various Christian artists.
He was also a background singer for the house band of the show "Prime Time Country" in the late 1990s, before launching into full-time ministry.
Cottrell and his wife, Angela, who has also joined him on stage and in composing, have been married for 19 years; their three children are Jack, 16, Lily Kate, 13, and Levi, 10.
"I don't think worship can be defined by a musical style," he said. "I believe that it's such a matter of the heart. If God has gifted you to sing, then do it as unto the Lord - and that's worship."
There's little doubt in anyone's mind about Travis Cottrell - God gave him the gift to sing and he's doing it as unto the Lord.
Cottrell will be appearing in a worldwide simulcast with Beth Moore on Saturday, Sept. 14, hosted locally at Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Boone