FARGO – When Becca Kotte takes the mic Thursday night with Kathie Brekke and the 42nd Street Jazz Band at Delta Hotels by Marriott Fargo, it will be a different experience for her. For one thing, she’ll be singing Christmas carols instead of supporting Rod Stewart and his classic rock hits.
For five years, the native of Fargo has been touring with “Rod the Mod” as a backing vocalist. The gig took her across the world, something she owes to her Fargo roots, especially Brekke.
“We’re going back a long way,” Kotte said. “Apparently when I was 13 I walked up to her at church and said, ‘I want you to teach me jazz, piano and voice.'”
Brekke did a good job. After working in high school and Trollwood Performing Arts School productions, Kotte studied music and eventually got a role in a “Rock of Ages” production.
Deciding to quit this stable job, she heard that there was a backing position in Stewart’s group. She auditioned with her musical director and another singer, who was filmed and sent to Stewart. A few days later, he was offered the job.
“It was really cool to have a front row seat, to be with someone who’s had the life they have,” she says from her home in Los Angeles. “I never thought I’d have dinner with Rod Stewart, hear about life in the 1970s, hang out with the Rolling Stones and Elton John. I often feel like I was born in the wrong decade.
Of course, the shows ended in March 2020 when the coronavirus interrupted the live performances. And not just bigger shows like Stewart’s, but also smaller ones that Kotte was picking up next – even the wedding celebrations she was booked to perform in are gone.
“Even the side concert to the side concert was canceled,” she says. “It was terrifying to have that taken away.”
In the summer of 2020, she realized things weren’t opening, so the 2005 Fargo South High School graduate came home and set up a camp in the family lake.
To add insult to injury from 2020, her blind audition on “The Voice”, performing “American Woman” from The Guess Who, failed to overthrow the judges. They later praised her voice, but when she revealed she was from Fargo, Blake Shelton was moved to ask her if she was in the polka scene.
Things were looking better this year. Some jobs have resumed and Kotte returned to the area this summer to teach at Trollwood Performing Arts School.
In October, she was right behind Stewart when he returned to the stage in Reno, followed by a three-week run in Las Vegas. The following month, the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer released their 32nd studio album, “Tears of Hercules,” and Kotte and his team went on a promotional tour of television shows.
“It’s been a busy two months,” she says. “Emotions were flying. It was a roller coaster of emotions. Getting back on stage is electrifying. Nothing can replace live music and theater. It was crazy.”
While shutting down COVID has been financially difficult for Kotte, it was a different pressure for Stewart.
“It was hard for him,” she said. “This man has so much energy and creativity flowing through his veins. He started at such a young age, he really doesn’t know anything else. He has more energy than me. It’s inspiring to see him always wanting to be creative. He could very well call her, take the paycheck, and run away, but he doesn’t. He keeps changing the show.
And for someone who turns 77 on January 10, it shows no signs of slowing down.
“He’s great. He’s got a new knee. A new ankle. He’s ready to go,” she said.
Kotte gets the chance to show what she can do on stage when they do a duet on “It Takes Two”, a song that Stewart and Tina Turner had success with in 1990. Yet she enjoys singing back-up on his classic tunes. Singing “Every Picture Tells a Story” at the Santa Barbara Bowl was a highlight, as was “I’m Losing You” and “Ooh La La” from The Faces, a song she sang in the car with her dad. that was growing.
Yet her favorite moment is often when she’s not on stage. Backing vocals are not needed for “Maggie May” so she often stands at the side of the stage and watches the show, listening to the crowd singing.
“It’s arguably one of the greatest songs of all time and I can sit and watch and listen and understand. That’s when it’s real,” she says. “I sometimes forget who he is. She’s a rock star.
So what is it like to party like a rock star when you’re around 70?
“It’s an ice cold bottle of chardonnay,” she laughs. “We keep him pretty tame on the road, but we’re having fun. “
She knows she has been fortunate enough to make a living as an artist for over a decade.
“I realize that I am very lucky. It’s the dream, isn’t it? Being a full-time musician is a blessing, ”she says.
She will soon be increasing her workload by offering online singing lessons to students, inspired by the artistic education she received while growing up.
“I am so proud to be from Fargo. It’s the city that gave me the basics to do what I do, ”she says. “We were exposed to the arts at such a young age, it was normal for us to go on and on. Everyone I know who has worked in the arts still does. We have that Midwestern work ethic and I think we’re nice and people want to work with nice people. Fargo is a cool little community.
What: Kathie Brekke & 42nd Street Jazz Band with Becca Kotte
When: 7 pm-10pm Thursday 23 December
Or: Delta Hotels by Marriott Fargo, 1635 42nd St. SW