listen to Cort's music here:
Since first picking up the saxophone in fifth grade to learning to play all sorts of instruments like piano, drums and bass, Cort Dingam has developed himself as an artist. Born in Kansas and raised in Minnesota, 18-year-old Cort has almost 475,000 followers on TikTok, more than 20,000 thousand monthly listeners on Spotify and more than 35,000 followers on Instagram. Inspired by bands like Hippo Campus, he releases music that most closely resembles indie pop, with some influence of jazz, funk and R&B.
“Ever since I started playing, which was around when I was 10 or 11, it just felt like something I needed to be doing. As I started to get more into it and find inspirations like bands and the world around me it became a lot bigger part of myself,” Cort said. “The art I create now I’d say is one of the most valuable things to me, at least in my self-worth.”
The rest of this story is a transcript of our conversation with Cort, edited for clarity and length.
How did you get into music?
The first instrument I picked up was saxophone, I was just playing in my fifth grade band at school and at that time music just seemed like a cool thing. … About a year later I started taking piano lessons. I did that for about a year and towards the end of it, I started to learn how chords worked and around that same time I started to get into the band Twenty One Pilots.
I would learn all of their songs on piano, then shortly after that I picked up drums and learned all of their songs on drums, ukulele, and bass. Around tenth grade, I started to get into some other bands; Hippo Campus was one of the big ones for me, they were the band that got me into the guitar. I started to listen to more and more bands and just practiced every day and now I am here.
How has music helped you?
Especially in this past year to year and a half, music has helped me grow as a person in that I have become more insightful in the world and taking in other peoples art. … It has always been something that I can fall back on when I am going through a tough time. … It’s something that is always a constant in my life, it always makes sense to me when other things don't.
What do you wish people knew about your music or about you?
I have color synesthesia and that's definitely played a role in the music I make. So basically ever since I started making music I have corresponded different colors to each note, like C is blue, A is red, F is purple, G is Green. When I write the chord progressions to my songs I base the chords off of the colors of the mood I am trying to give off.
Beyond just color, the notes I am playing and chords I am playing also put out some texture. Say I was playing a guitar chord and just gave it a quick strum it would be like a slash of color but if I were to do a soft picking pattern it would be like little raindrops.
If you had to describe your music or some specific songs in color what would they be?
“Solo” is in the key of C and the first chord is a D minor 7 so that’s like a darkish seafoam green and then there is a G chord and that’s like a lighter shade of green and then a C major 7 so that's blue. All together like throughout the rest of the song I would say blue, green and gold … “Sunshine” is a vibrant green, a lavender … and also blue and green. And “Sapphire” is kinda like dark blue and a rustic brown color and an orangish-yellow gold and then a pinkish dark red.
Who are some of your biggest supporters?
I would say I have some really close friends that are really supportive of my music. Honestly, all of my friends are. When I went to Belmont [University] in Nashville, everyone there is a musician and everyone supports each other which is really cool.
Pretty much all of my family is supporting me as well. It’s been cool because like two years ago I hadn't really even been releasing music so some of my family members didn't even know that this was what I was going to be doing now but they all think it's really cool. I also have to give credit to my early TikTok followers and those people that were like ‘keep posting, you are going to make it one day.’
If someone is looking to grow their musical skills what advice would you give them?
I would say look up to the artists you look up to as much as you can. Let them inspire you, watch videos of them playing live, read and analyze their lyrics. One thing I did when I started playing the guitar was learning every Hippo Campus song and continue playing them until I got them perfect even if they sounded not very good at first. Having those songs you really like, when you really want to know how to play it exactly how it's played, you will take the time to achieve that.
What are some goals you have for the future?
A music-related goal like once I release this album I would really like to start playing shows; going on tour would be a dream. I would love to open for a band too. … I would love to see if I could open for [Hippo Campus] on their next tour. … That would actually be a dream come true.