In 1990, he moved to Nashville, Tennessee to study at Belmont University.
After graduating in 1992 with a degree in music, Cottrell dedicated time to songwriting.
That same year, he wrote Larnelle Harris' song "It's Only Thunder".
He then worked with Kathie Hill on a musical titled Waiters: A Youth Musical About Waiting on the Lord.
Cottrell then continued writing and working as an editor at a music publishing company.
In 1994, the church Cottrell attended - Two Rivers Baptist Church - lost its minister of worship and, at the church's request, Cottrell spent the next year and a half as worship leader for the church.
Cottrell has said: "The opportunity of leading worship at Two Rivers Baptist Church that Dr. Jerry Sutton gave me was a blessing."
Since then, Cottrell has also collaborated with his vocals to several praise and worship albums, led by Don Moen.
He has also led worship at Beth Moore's conferences titled Living Proof Live since 1998.
Since 2002, he has also released several solo albums of praise and worship, earning several nominations for Dove Awards.
He has also continued to write songs and provide background vocals for other artists like Amy Grant, Alan Jackson, and Garth Brooks.