Johnny Cooper
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Johnny Cooper

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"Johnny Cooper Interview"

LA MUSIC BLOG by Kristin Houser
Category: Blogging


Johnny Cooper Interview

by: Kristin Houser | category: Article, Review

Don’t you just love it when you have high expectations for someone and they actually meet them? With all the buzz I’d been hearing about artist Johnny Cooper, I thought for sure at least a little of it must have been the LA hype machine at work. Not so. This 21-year-old’s performance at the Key Club’s Plush Lounge proved why his unique blend of rock, soul, and funk is worth talking about.

The young Texan kicked off the set with “Don’t Feel Like That Anymore,” a funktastic track that sounds like Maroon Five with bigger cojones. As Cooper says in this song, he’s “got a little swagger in [his] brand new step” and for good reason.

The song is the opener off his third album. That’s right. This 21 year old is already releasing his third album. The very next song of the performance, “Somewhere In-Between,” begins with the line “I wonder if I’m too young for this,” and if Cooper is referencing his music career, he should just quit wondering. He commands the stage like a seasoned performer, joking with the LA crowd for complaining about the two days of bad weather (“We get ice storms in ....Wichita..... Ice storms.”), and he reveals a level-headed maturity in his lyrics that will do him well in this crazy business.

A few songs later Cooper played “Follow,” the title track off his new album, and by this point, I was 100% with him. The Justin Timberlake-smooth voice, the sweet guitar chops, that soft Texan drawl that could convince a coyote to quit howling…this kid could lead me anywhere and I would be right behind him. His destination of choice was to the land of funk, closing the set with “Yes, My Love!” Cooper begins the song with a little Kanye before showing us what he can bring to the dance floor. This sexy, catchy track complete with hand claps (oh, how I love hand claps!) made me want to get up and move and allowed the artist to leave the audience with a little more of that swagger he mentioned at the beginning of the set.

Check out the new album for yourself and see what all the fuss is about.

Before his performance, Cooper answered a few questions for LA Music Blog’s readers about the new album, visiting LA for the first time, and why he’s not still sitting behind a drumset.

Where and how did you get your start in music?

It’s kind of funny actually, because I was fifteen years old and I was taking drum lessons from a guy in ....Wichita Falls.., ..Texas.... where I lived. He heard me sing one day, and he said “Do you think you’d like to open for this band? I’m booking some gigs at this pizza place.” And I said, “Well I really don’t know how to play anything on guitar.” He said, “Well do you think that you could learn about 10-12 songs and make it happen?” So I said that I could try.

I sat down with my dad, who’s a pianist, plays very well, and is good with notes. We sat down with my busted, first acoustic guitar that I had, and I learned about twelve songs in two and a half weeks. I played that gig, and played nothing but cover songs that were easy songs that were in G, C, D. Ever since that gig I’ve been playing music. I still remember the day that my dad looked at me, which was a month or two after we played that first gig, and he said, “You know, you could write your own songs.” I’ll never forget that day because it finally clicked in my head that I could just do it. From that point on all I wanted to do was write my own songs.

You mentioned that you actually started off with just drums. What made you stay with guitar?

I think it was that it was difficult for me to drum and sing at the time. Also, I think that it was more of a frontman thing, and I wanted to play that role a little bit more. It felt more natural when I picked up a guitar with singing and playing.

Is this your first time playing in LA?

It is our first gig in LA and actually the first time I’ve been in LA. It’s been an exciting past three days. We fly out tomorrow and have a gig in my hometown of ....Wichita Falls.., ..Texas..... We’re playing gig there in my hometown at a radio station’s big birthday party there.

You titled your newest album “Follow.” Why did you choose that title for the name of the album?

Mainly because our “Ignition” album, which is our second studio album, and this album are quite different. I recorded Ignition when I was 16 years old and going in to record “Follow,” I just turned 20 years old. I felt that I was writing some different kinds of music and experimenting with different things. The whole main reason of choosing “Follow” was number one, there’s a song on there titled “Follow”, and number two, it was saying follow us to our next step in our musical experiment.

You had a chance to work with Glenn Rosenstein and Dexter Green, who has worked with pretty much everyone, on this album. What was that experience like as opposed to what it was like working on your first album?

Dex and Glenn let me be a huge part of everything that was going on with the record. When I made “Ignition” with a guy named Mike McClure, I kind of let him do most of it because I was so young and really didn’t know much. This go round I had a better idea of what was going to happen and how things were going to go down, so I got to play a bigger role in this record, which was a lot of fun for me. Also, Dex is one of those guys that, for some reason, we’re suppose to get together and make records. There’s something that happens when me and him get together, write songs and record stuff, that to me is just amazing. Same with Glenn. Glenn’s that guy I feel that was perfect for this record. He kept me and Dex, without putting us in a box, from getting too out there. Because you put two musicians together like me and Dex, and we can get weird on you, man, so it was good to have Glenn. With Glenn’s structure and knowledge of all the people that he’s worked with and all the hits songs he’s been a part of, it was good to have his two cents and his guidelines of everything that was going on. It was like having a good roll of duct tape. He held everything together.

You sold 25,000 copies of your last record. Now working with these producers and growing up, what can people expect from this album?

I think finally for the first time in my life I have some songs and have put out a record that I feel is totally where I’m at in my life right now. The lyrics are a little bit different. Some of the lyrics in the last record, to me, sound like a 16 year old kid, and this record, to me, doesn’t sound like that any more. I think that’s the biggest thing that you’ll notice more than anything.

Was the recording process any different working with the two producers you worked with opposed to the original album.

It was a lot different, mainly because we recorded everything in Dexter’s basement. It was cool because it was a lot different environment. It was relaxed. We pretty much started around 11 each morning and would go until about 11 each night. We took it pretty much at our own pace. Before, we had a studio and there’s only so many hours that you could be in that studio, so you felt more cramped to get a bunch of stuff done. Where with this go round, we had a lot more time and felt more relaxed. It comes across especially in the music. You can tell that we were having fun, everybody was relaxed, just chilled, and you can hear that when you listen to it.

It sounds like a mix of what you would consider red dirt music, ....Texas.... country, blues, and rock and roll. Who would you say are some of your influences, and where do they show up in your songwriting?

Sly and the Family Stone, Stevie Wonder, John Mayer, and Justin Timberlake. I look up to those guys because they do something different than other people do. Sly and the Family Stone and Stevie Wonder were doing it 30 years ago, and you’re starting to see some of that funk, rock, and a combination of bunch of things put together. Overall what we’re going for more than anything, and they were going for as well, is we just want to move you. They just want you to get up and start moving. Even if you don’t want to, you just do it. I think that’s what we’re going for more than anything. Music that makes you feel good.

Tell us about your songwriting process.

It changes every day. Sometimes it starts out with a few chords and chord progressions on guitar. Some days it might start off with a lyric or something that gets stuck in my head. A lyric passage that keeps going over, and over, and over in my head, until I find the right words to fit in there. Overall if you go back and listen to my songs, I tell everyone that I hope to be a 70-year-old man some day, and you’ll be able to go back and see my whole life on CDs, but you’d get to listen to them. I think that’s something that I write my songs about more than anything. Everyday things that happen to me and everyday life experiences. I feel that when you write songs that are more like that, someone like you that’s a hundred miles away will have that much better chance of relating to it. More than anything, that’s what I go for when I write songs.

What have been some highlights this past year for you?

I got to put out a third record. If you would’ve asked me when I was 16 years old if I’d get to do that, I’d tell you that you were crazy, so I’m excited about that. We’re getting to play in LA, and we’re getting a bunch of shows in North and ....South Carolina..... We’re starting to branch out of our comfort zone, and our comfort zone is ....Texas..... It’s nice to have that opportunity to even have a chance to branch out. That’s the highlight more than anything. We’re getting to have some cool opportunities, and it’s been really fun to play for a whole different crowd.

I noticed that you’ve played about 800 shows, and that averages out to be about 200 a year. That’s absolutely ridiculous.

We’re on the road constantly. We fly out to ....Wichita Falls.... tomorrow [a Wednesday] and have a gig there tomorrow night. Then we play Thurs., Fri, and Sat. night as well.

What would you like to say to your fans?

I just hope that everyone enjoys our music. We’re here for one reason and that’s to play music and try to make sure that our listeners have a good time. I can guarantee that if you come out to our concerts, you’ll leave that night with a smile on your face and glad that you came out.

- LA Music Blog

"Go, Johnny, Go!"

San Angelo News by Becca Nelson Sankey
Current mood:ready to do this
Category: Blogging

Go, Johnny, go!
Johnny Cooper is busy and loving his life on the road
Becca Nelson Sankey
Special to the Standard-Times
Posted September 17, 2009 at 4:46 p.m.

Cooper says: “My best friends are all the guys that are in my band,” adding that his father is his road manager and his mother “has been there since Day 1.”

Glance at Johnny Cooper’s performance schedule the past few months and it’s clear the Texas native is not your typical 21-year-old. Cooper’s performance at Saturday’s Lonestar Music Fest follows a string of weekly and sometimes back-to-back concerts in Texas and Oklahoma. If the success of his third album “Follow” is any indication, it’s not a schedule that’s likely to slow anytime soon.

Since its release last month, “Follow” has hit No. 22 on Billboard’s Heatseekers Album chart and No. 2 on the Heatseekers Regional chart for South Central, which covers Texas. The Billboard Heatseekers chart ranks the week’s top-selling albums by new or developing musicians, according to a news release from Mitch Schneider Organization, which represents Cooper.

Cody Baker, owner of Lonestar Music Productions, which organizes the Lonestar Music Fest in San Angelo, said he selects the daylong concert’s performance lineup based on the musicians’ popularity and self-promotion. “I know everyone who follows Texas country music loves his music,” Baker said of Cooper. “He plays a lot of the big festivals around the state and has very good draws just about everywhere he plays. He’s a great fit for our festival this year.”

According to MSO’s release, Cooper’s latest album maintains the “red dirt” style — a hybrid of soul, blues, rock and pop — for which he’s become known. Cooper said being a generation of the iPod has helped inspire his style.

“At our fingertips we (can) listen to a Hank Williams song and a T-Pain song right after,” he said. “That’s what we’re used to — we like to listen to it all.”

“Follow,” like his 2007 album “Ignition,” is a compilation of songs mostly written by Cooper about his life. The songs “are a feeling or just an explanation of something that has happened to me,” Cooper said. “I look forward to the opportunity to be 60 or 70 years old and have a record collection of my life.”

Chronicling his life’s journey and performing those songs in venues across Texas, Oklahoma and eventually, Cooper hopes, the world, is something he said he’s known he was meant to do since he was 15. “My dad was a keyboard player; my mom is a choreographer, and she had a dance school,” Cooper said. “There’s definitely an artistic gene in the family.”

Cooper said that, like most kids his age, he played sports in junior high and high school, but eventually became more intrigued with music. “It’s the one thing I’ve felt in my life that I can do that comes more naturally,” he said. “For some reason, I’ve always been able to remember songs and remember music.”

A professional musician for about five years, Cooper spends much of his time away from his hometown of Wichita Falls, but he doesn’t feel he’s missed out on the things commonly experienced by other young men his age. “My best friends are all the guys that are in my band,” Cooper said, adding that his father is his road manager and his mother “has been there since Day 1.”

“I’m hanging out with all the people who mean more than anything to me. We’re been working and striving to put out an album. I’m kind of going to college, but in a different way.”

The lifestyle he’s created for himself is more fun that anything, Cooper said.

“The fact that I get to live off playing music is the one thing I’ve strived (for) and wanted to do since I was 15,” he said. “It’s also the one thing in my life that I felt like I was supposed to do. ... I got the honor to figure that out at such a young age.

“I just love to play music. If I end up going broke from wanting to play music, at least I’ll go broke in my own style.”

- San Angela News

"Johnny Cooper @ Billy Bobs Texas"

Must-see shows by Texas artists: Sept. 18-24
10:30 AM CDT on Friday, September 18, 2009
By Mario Tarradell / Music Critic

Johnny Cooper sure sounds mighty soulful on his second CD, Follow . The record is a confident blend of R&B, blues, rock and pop. The songs are sturdy, the hooks are hearty and the general vibe is robust. That's especially impressive considering Cooper is only 21 years old.

Also Online

Event details: Johnny Cooper at Billy Bob's Texas

But it should come as no surprise. This Wichita Falls musician averages 200 concert dates a year; he's already a veteran of more than 800 shows. His fan base is growing, particularly in his home state of Texas as well as neighboring Oklahoma.

While Cooper is still largely a newcomer, he's developing his creative talents the right way. The tunes on Follow, he says on his Web site, are personal snapshots. "Every song is a short snippet of all the things I have encountered in the past few years, good times ... bad times ... and everything in between. I believe the music has evolved because I have evolved ... the older you get the less and less you are scared to try new things, branch out and test your limits."

The guy is mature beyond his years.

- Dallas Morning News -

"Johnny Cooper New Album 'Follow" Debuted at #22 on Heatseekers Album Chart"

Press Release 9/10/09
Category: Blogging











JOHNNY COOPER has just witnessed the highest-selling debut week in his five-year career. The young singer/songwriter/guitarist’s new album FOLLOW landed at #22 on Billboard’s Heatseekers Album chart--and #2 on the Heatseekers Regional chart for the South Central (which covers his home state of Texas ). The Billboard Heatseekers chart is for the week ' s top-selling albums by new or developing acts. COOPER’s MySpace page has also received a significant increase in total plays, now reaching over 2.3 million.

The new album--released August 11 on Tenacity Records--has received positive marks from the media including AOL Music that feel COOPER “…cements his rising star status with his second album of blues, country and soul.” The album’s first single is the powerful “Bring Me Down,” and over the song’s deep groove and buzzing guitars, COOPER lays down the law with lyrics celebrating his fierce independence.

Although new to some, 20-year-old COOPER has been performing since he was 15, averaging about 200 shows per year. He has garnered a large following in his home state of Texas and neighboring Oklahoma winning several awards and recognitions. 2007’s IGNITION resulted in four songs (“Texas To You,” “Let It Ago,” “Devil Woman” and “Nothing At All”) climbing the Texas Music Charts.

In other news, The Weather Channel recently launched marking the popular weather company ' s first foray into the digital music scene. Two original COOPER tracks--“Don ' t Feel Like That Anymore” and “Bring Me Down”--have been selected for the “Rock the World” compilation, a guitar lover ' s dream as it rips through some potent rock and roll music. Listeners can rock on with the great Carlos Santana, Toto ' s Steve Lukather, Steely Dan ' s Larry Carlton and others. will feature music currently being played on The Weather Channel network from some of today ' s most popular artists and independent musicians.

“I'm really excited about being included in the launch of,” says COOPER. “This will be a great online destination and will introduce my music to a whole new group of fans.”

COOPER has a lot to look forward to these days, including a huge milestone birthday. The musician will celebrate his 21st birthday on September 11, finally making it legal to get into the clubs he’s been playing the last five years.

- Todays Country Magazine

"Red Dirt Wonderkind Branches Out"

PHUMES.NET Interview
Category: Blogging


Red Dirt Wunderkind Branches Out
Pilgrimage to Gilley's
John Zendejas and I headed down to the world famous Gilley's to interview the youngest reigning crown prince of the Red Dirt genre, Johnny Cooper. It didn't occur to me until later that I'd actually lived in Dallas for more years than Johnny Cooper had been alive when he started touring, and I'd never even set foot in the place in all that time. Some Texan I am.

Images of Urban Cowboy ran through my head, complete with the infamous mechanical bull (and yes, they still have it). While we were interviewing Johnny back in the green room, there was this line dance class being held out on the dance floor. This was very much a ....Texas.... establishment. No Blue Moon on tap (or in bottles) here, as this was the home of Bud Long Necks.

While the aficionados of the genre will probably argue that Oklahoma is the "real" home of the Red Dirt scene (and the color of the native soil around the Stillwater area gives it it's namesake), the old school Texans can point to Willie, Waylon and the boys as having quite a fair bit to do with the evolution of the whole thing.

As we meet Johnny Cooper, I'm struck by two things:

He doesn't look like what one could expect. In fact, his hat struck me as something you'd quite easily find in Jackie Greene's wardrobe.

Second, he's so damn YOUNG. Here's a kid who started touring at 15, had cut two albums by 17, and at the age of 20 had his 3rd album in the can with 5 years of touring under his belt. Impressive, to say the least.

John had told me about Johnny's legendary shows, and after seeing one for myself, I was really struck by the huge diversity of his fanbase. There were men and women and children of all ages, of all walks of life. While I was expecting a fair bit of cowboy hats and boots, I most certainly wasn't expecting what I witnessed that night.

Before the show, John and I sat down with Johnny and talked about his shows, breaking out a much expanded band, recording his new album "Follow", and growing as an artist. I walked away very impressed with his energy, sincerity, and his sense of direction.

Going Big Live

JZ : I’ve noticed something different from past gigs is tonight you’ve got a twelve piece band with you.

JC: Yeah, man!

JZ: How many times have you done that?

JC: This will be the second time that we’ve had all twelve people up on the stage and we’re now starting to package it as we can do a five man show, or we can do a twelve man show.

ML: Your traditional line-up is what, four?

JC: Five, we just added a keyboard player about three months ago.

ML: So what’s your twelve-piece?

JC: Bass, drums, two guitars, and then we have two backup singers, we have a DJ that comes in, and then we have three horn players and a percussionist.

JZ: Some of the stuff that I’ve heard on the new CD, the production is so much bigger than “Ignition” that I could see where that would kick ass on stage.

JC: Yeah, man, I tell you what. It’s hard to play a show like this and go back to not having all that stuff there… like tomorrow night we’re gonna have to play a show in Tulsa and not have the full band there. But, it’s all good; it’s all about working up to the point where you can travel around with twelve people all the time.

JZ: Right.
ML: Is it harder to rehearse a twelve piece than your normal line-up?

JC: Really, not so much man, and a lot of that is a credit to the musicians. The three horn players we bring in are all cats from ....Denton.... and UNT. It’s a big music school and the guys we use for the horn players are all from that school and they’re all trained musicians that can sight read.

ML: You just hand them charts and they’re good.

JC: You just hand them charts and they’re good to go. As long as those charts are correct, then there’s no worry at all. The percussionist guy – he’s just a groove machine, man, so you know we just let him go to town. He just gets it; he hasn’t listened to a lot of the stuff but maybe a couple of times, but when you’re groove based, as long as you can lock that groove then you’re good to go. Same with the DJ, we’ve worked with two different DJ’s and they both do a great job of just adding a different effect. I know for a fact that a lot of the fans that come out to the shows on regular basis are like- “Holy crap!” when that DJ comes out.

ML: It’s kind of a cultural shock-

JC: Yeah, and it’s really cool though ‘cause it’s something totally left field that we kinda throw at you, which I feel like we’re kinda left field in our genre anyway, so…

JZ: So it’s the second time that you’re doing this and you’re gonna have people out here that go to the Hank shows in McKinney that have seen the five piece band, or maybe the four piece band, but it’s gonna be the first time that they’ve seen the “production”…

JC: Exactly- and we pull out all the stops, man. From song one to the last song there’s something going on.

JZ: You still dropping covers in the set?

JC: We only play two cover songs and it’s a Robert Palmer song and a Michael Jackson song. Actually three songs, we do a song called “If Loving You Is Wrong”.

JZ: Then doing a lot more of the Johnny Cooper stuff-

JC: Oh yeah; the stuff we pick for covers are fun songs that we play for everybody because there may be people out there that may have not heard us and sometimes a good cover song can win those people over.

JZ: Absolutely… I’ve got a lot of friends who see the live show quite regularly and they always rave about how you’ll pull out a Thin Lizzy tune or a Timberlake song; so how do you pick the cover that’s gonna work?

JC: Man, ya know, I don’t know what’s ever gonna work…
[Everyone laughing]

JC: We kinda just go for it, man… and sometimes, dude, we’ve had people boo us ‘cause I’m up onstage beatboxing. But you know what, it’s what I love to do and that’s the way I write music. Sometimes it may be a rap song or a hip hop song and sometimes it’s a country rock song. I have no control of that really; it just comes out when it comes out.

ML: Do you think that it’s to some extent like a perception of the folks that are into the genre they’re used to? Like in the bluegrass arena, right, it’s a very regimented audience and they’re used to a certain format and then when you do something that’s like outside the edges of that you’re kind of pushing their ability to dig it, right?

JC: Yeah, it’s funny ‘cause I’ve seen that expression on people’s faces…

ML: What the hell is this?

JC: Yeah like “What in the world? - But I kinda like it…”
[Everyone laughing]

JC: Ya know, it’s cool when we’re playing a moderately hip hop type kinda song and there’s people out there two-steppin’ and it’s just cool to see that, more than anything. My main goal, I can speak for me and all the guys in the band, we just write and make music for everybody- for someone all the way across the world. We want one of our songs, at least, for them to be able to relate to no matter if it’s a guitar solo or one line that I sing. If I can help somebody relate one song to what’s going on in their life then that’s all I want.

ML: That’s cool and it’s to your credit that you’re willing to take chances in the genre because a lot of folks won’t do that. They’re like they know their audience and they don’t want to take a chance on alienating them or whatnot and so they stay within those artistic constraints that are imposed by the genre itself. To grab the sack and go out there and say no we’re going to go outside of that is a cool thing.

JC: Yeah, it’s interesting and it’s more fun than it is anything for me seeing the expressions on people’s faces when you pull something out that they may have not ever seen before and it’s just fun to feel that reaction. You can feel everybody and you can feel the vibes just floating around.
Getting Horny in the Studio
JZ: “Blue” is one of those songs that comes across as kind of outside of the red dirt thing- it’s different. Did you play that in the first twelve piece band show and how did it go over?

JC: Yes- it went great! When we were recording that song we were hearing horns and kinda like a Motown feel. It’s just great to be able to take all that right now traveling with the record on the road. It’s really cool because I haven’t always been able to do that. And now we get to have it where exactly what you hear on the record gets to be presented live, which is so much fun.

ML: That’s really cool…

JC: Because every day that the horns aren’t there I’m hearing them in my head. We go into a certain part and when they’re supposed to be there I hear them so it’s just fun to actually have them there.

ML: Now when you were starting out on the studio side of this album were you knowing at that time that you were going to have the band on the road, as well? Or was it something that came up later?

JC: You know I said to myself whenever we started making the record that I wanted to branch out and find different sounds, different things instead of just guitars, bass, drums. We would just start kinda experimenting and start throwing things over to a guy named John Painter who actually played all the horns himself, all three parts on every song…

JZ: Live horns?

JC: Yeah he did it all himself. He’d cut one part then go back in there and stack it and, man, he did a great job. He also went back and transcribed everything for us, charted everything for us so we could take it to the guys and let them play it (live).
When we were recording everything I just wanted to push the envelope a little bit and see what all we could get away with and make it sound good. We started adding horns, keyboards and all kinds of stuff and it was a lot of fun. Through the whole record there’s not really many parts where there’s or never a feeling where it’s like somebody going “Look at me, look at me while I play this guitar solo…” or “Look at me while I play this horn part”. Everybody has their one little section and everybody gets highlighted. The keyboards will have a part where they get highlighted. Then the horns will get highlighted. Then the guitar will get highlighted; the same with the bass. Everybody gets a turn to almost take like a solo throughout the record. It’s really cool to hear they keys do their thing then the guitar play off that and the horns play off that.
It’s just fun- how much the record sounds like a real band. The guys that we recorded with; our drummer, a guy named Tommy, is from ....Finland.... and he came down and did all the drums. I played rhythm guitar and my bass player Cody played all the bass parts. We had a guy come in and play all the keyboard parts that’s a friend of ours that plays out with the B52’s right now. His name is Paul and he used to play with Prince and all kinds of cool cats. We all just got together and it really felt like we’d been playing together for thirty years or something…

JZ: It’s got a very live feel to it.

JC: Yeah, it’s really funny, but there was something that happened that first week. We were all just on the same page. I can’t give you an answer of why we were… I sang some stuff on the scratch vocal takes that we ended up using because I sang some of the lines better that first week of recording than when I did when I went back in to do a final vocal take. There was just that feeling going on. Ya know, you can take the best musicians in the world and chart out everything on that record and tell them to go play it and it won’t sound the same.

JZ: Right.
ML: In the studio did you do the backing tracks- guitar, bass, drums, and then overdub the rest of the instrumentation?

JC: Yeah- we did drums and bass first. We all played together and just made sure that we had all the drums and bass that we needed and from there I would go do guitar parts. Add on and add on.

ML: So it’s pretty much a layering process vs. a live take kinda thing…

JC: Yeah, it is. It’s a layering process for sure. But it depends- some songs you do the whole live thing. A lot of the songs on the record you’re listening to the first to the fourth take of drums and bass. We only tracked everything about three or four times. I hear all these horror stories of people going into the vocal booth and they’re on take a thousand five hundred… on one song.

[Everyone laughing]

JC: My thing is, if you can’t sing it right by the fourth or fifth time then it’s not gonna get any better. If you can’t make it happen in the first five takes…

ML: And you kind of lose that cohesive feel that there’s a band there when you do that much overdubbing and you do that much single person in the booth with the cans. There’s some of the feel that gets lost.

JC: Yeah, a lot of that comes down to producers, too. If you have good producers that are doing what they’re supposed to do then everything runs smoothly.

ML: Who’d you use for this one?

JC: We had two guys – Glen Rosenstein and Dexter Green. Dex also played a lot on the record as well as produced. He played a lot of the lead guitar stuff. He’s an awesome musician- the dude can play guitar better than most people I know, he can play drums better than most people I know, he can play keyboards better than most people I know and then on top of that his ears are just amazing.

ML: So he’s a Rick Parker type…

JC: Yeah, man, it’s ridiculous. Sometimes makes me sick just how good he is…
[Everyone laughing]

JC: And it’s funny because, ya know, he sits at home in his basement and records all the time and he may see sunlight, like, every four days…

ML: Definitely a Rick Parker type.
JZ: Is that where you recorded the new cd, at Dexter’s place?

JC: Yeah, we recorded everything in his basement in ....Nashville..... We went up there and I hung out at Dexter’s house and we tracked some acoustic stuff when we were writing some songs. He and I wrote a few tunes for this record and, man, we got to talking and just felt like there was no reason to go spend a bunch of money on a studio when we can do it here and make it sound just as good.

ML: Now did you do the mix there?

JC: Yeah, we did all the mix there, too- a buddy of ours Joe came in and mixed it all down. He’s done a lot of stuff with Ben Folds mixing down a lot of his records… so Joe came in and he’s just another one of those guys that’s just amazing when he gets… I found out with this process, the key ingredients to making a good record is:
Number 1) Have good musicians; if you have good musicians, that’s a big chunk out of it.
Number 2) Have somebody that knows how to record stuff well, as far as mic placement goes and stuff like that…

ML: Especially on drums, phasing errors on drums are the shits to get out once they’re in there.

JC: Oh yeah… other than that you need a good engineer that’s back there hitting record and doing all the stuff and that’s all you need, man. You don’t need a freakin’ million dollar studio to make it happen. You really don’t. As long as you have good musicians and people that know how to capture your sound. That’s all that matters…

JZ: You guys using ProTools?

JC: Oh yeah, ProTools. ProTools all the way. Everything on this record is all straight up somebody played it.

JZ: Awesome…

JC: There’s a few things on there that you might think was a drum machine or something like that, but that’s just because our drummer was that good!
[Everyone laughing]

Branching Out At 20

JZ: You spend a lot of time on the road, doing a lot of shows a year and you’ve been doing the “Ignition” thing for a while… at what point did you go “it’s time to make a new record”?

JC: It was just time. I recorded “Ignition” when I was 17 years old. I’m 20 now and we got a long life out of that cd. We recorded the cd, put it out and it really didn’t start catching any wind beneath it’s wings until about a year after it was out. So it was like we had this record out for a year and now people are finally getting it and its brand new to a whole bunch of people who thought it came out two weeks ago or something. So we just tried to milk that record as much as we could and we got four songs radio play on the Texas – Oklahoma market that are playing all the Texas music stuff.
You know, I was going through some different changes with the band and getting everything figured out. I had a bunch of songs together and it just got to the point where I was ready. I’m 20, it’s time to go do another record.

JZ: I saw a live acoustic video of you in a radio station studio on youtube doing “Try” (that ended up on the new album) and I thought, man, what a really great performance and it’s very cool how it fleshed out on the cd…

JC: Yeah, It’s like night and day, man…

JZ: But, it’s a great song like it was and you just took it and blew it up bigger.

JC: That’s one of the more difficult songs that we do, man, is that one. It’s a real groove oriented song and if that groove isn’t there, it just doesn’t sound right. It’s a tough song to play and we battled for months in the rehearsal studio with the live band just locking it down. The cool thing about the new record is that there are so many little things; there’s so many cool little parts that make a song have its own identity. You have to be really on top of all the little parts that go into that. It’s just tough ‘cause everybody has to be at the top of their game and making sure all the little stuff is there…

JZ: The devil’s in the details…

JC: There ya go, exactly man and I’m a huge detail oriented person. So, I feel bad for the rest of the dudes in the band, like my bass player is the same way, but if you mess up- I’m gonna hear it. I am gonna hear it and I’m not gonna yell at you or something like that, but I’m just gonna let you know that you messed up, man. That way it doesn’t happen again.

JZ: So, once you got it rolling, did the songs come in a short period of time or are they songs that you wrote over a long period of time and took into the studio to flesh them out?

JC: Some of them were and some of them weren’t. We had a few songs that we wrote, you know, the week that we were there recording. The majority of the stuff, I’d say about eight out of the ten songs I’ve been, you know, messing around with, playing with for about four or five months.

ML: So ideas from the road type of thing?

JC: Yeah, yeah a lot these songs what you hear now on the record is…

ML: The evolution of something you wrote in a hotel…

JC: Yeah, you can youtube videos that you can see the evolution, man, where you can go watch these videos and see how this song got started. And there are a lot of things that are different. Some of the songs we have a different guitar part that was there. Now that guitar parts not there anymore, but it’s replaced with something different. Man, it’s just funny… I was just on youtube the other day looking at some of our stuff that’s on there watching some of these videos from four or five months ago and just going “yeah, that’s how we used to play that ha ha ha ha.”
[Everyone laughing]

ML: How much time did you spend in the studio on this one?

JC: We were there for about a total of a month and a half, but it was real weird ‘cause we played every weekend. So I’d play Thursday, Friday, Saturday, hop on a plane Sunday morning, get to Nashville Sunday night. We would record Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and then I’d fly back to where ever our gig was on Thursday. I did that for about a month and a half of just constantly going back and forth, back and forth, just to get everything squared away.

ML: So was it a challenge doing the gear switch between the live and the studio side?

JC: Man, it was really kind of refreshing, in a way. Cause when you’re in the studio you are, like, focused on one thing for twelve hours. So it was nice to spend a week recording and then come play live ‘cause you can kind of get rid of things. Now where it was confusing on some parts was for a good while, while were recording some of the songs we were playing live were a little bit different. We had some different, um, some of the songs weren’t structured as they are now…

ML: Minor differences in arrangements…

JC: Yeah, the arrangements on songs were different while we were recording. So that would be a little weird, ‘cause we’d go record and that’s how it would be for the cd, but then we’d come back and play live and some things were a little bit different. There may be one song that has a turnaround that was two times instead of one, so I always had to shut my mind off and remember that when we started playing live, some things are different. ‘Cause for the week before that I was cutting the song in a whole different way. It was just weird having to bounce back and forth having to remember that there was supposed to be something here until we got to the point where we got everything recorded and everybody in the band could sit down and listen to it and go, alright this is the way the arrangements are going to be from now on.
It’s cool now ‘cause we got everything on a click track and we can play our whole set live and you can actually take our cd and if you were to videotape us playing live you can take our cd and it matches up perfectly. Like, my words, you could videotape me singing that song and take the actual song off the cd and put them together and it matches up perfectly… That’s kinda cool, in a way.

ML: A lot of times there tempo variances- speed up, slow down, that sort of thing.

JC: We always make our drummer play with a click track, so that way there’s no finger to blame on anybody- if you rush it, it’s your own damned fault ‘cause you’ve got CLICK CLICK CLICK going on in your head…
[Everyone laughing]

JZ: On the road, you’ve stayed on the Texas-OK circuit for a while… I’ve noticed you’ve got a date coming up in ..N. Carolina.., have you got plans at getting this cd out on the road to places you haven’t played before?

JC: Oh definitely, that’s my main goal… I want to be playing anywhere and everywhere that we can. I think this new record is a good step to getting that direction. Number one, you got to have something that’s marketable to the general public, man. If you don’t have that, then you’re never going to be able to reach that goal. So a lot of writing this record, like I was saying earlier, was writing songs for somebody a million miles away that they can still jam to. That’s what we tried to do with this record. I can’t tell you if it worked or not. Maybe when I’m 60 or something, I’ll let you know if it worked. Right now I just enjoy getting to do it, more than anything. I get to wake up every day, hang out with my best friends, and play music. The fact that we’re getting a chance to play in N Carolina and ....Washington.. ..D.C..... and some of these other places is just really cool ‘cause that’s what we want to be doing…

ML: So you done any festival gigs?

JC: Oh yeah. Summertime, always, always… I mean, this week already, yesterday and the day before that we played two outdoor festivals. So during the summertime every weekend we’re outside doing something.

ML: It has its pros and cons in this weather…

JC: Oh yeah, it sure does, man, but it’s good for ya.

JZ: You’ve got a great reputation as a live act. You really want a band to come off live better than they do on record…

JC: We’re just going with what feels right. We’re a bunch of dudes that, I like to say, we play music for a good reason. And the reason why I say that is ‘cause I know a lot of bands that play music for the wrong reasons. More than anything, music always comes first for us. Don’t get me wrong. We have an awesome job filled with all kinds of perks of being in a band. But, if you can’t make the music come first every day then you’re never gonna be able to succeed at what you want to do. For us, that’s the one thing that I’ve always felt blessed for. It’s that everybody in our group, no matter what, they just want to make sure the music is good. And if that’s good then everything else is kosher. We could be having to sit out in the heat for 12 hours in our van, but as long as we sounded good that night- it don’t matter. That’s why we’re here. It’s the only thing we love to do- play music.

ML: So for the folks that are gonna read this and have never heard you or heard of you, how would you describe the introduction of what you do?

JC: You know, what I’d say more than anything is with us you’re gonna get a little bit of everything. You’re gonna get some funk. You’re gonna get some rock. You’re gonna get some jazz. You’re gonna get some blues. You’re gonna get some country. You’re gonna get some hip hop. We’re gonna give you a little bit of everything. And what I always tell anybody that’s never listened to any of our music is, if you don’t like the song we’re playing right now, wait a couple minutes for the next one. I just try to ask everybody to do that. We just have fun. Our main live goal is for you to come out and forget about everything that you had to deal with that week. For the hour and a half that you spend with us, no matter where we are, we’re gonna take you out of your every day normal life. That way if you had a bad week at work or whatever, Friday night we’ll make sure that you don’t think about it one bit. And we’ll make sure that every time you come out to one of our shows, you leave with a smile and feeling glad that you got to come hang out. We’re gonna make sure you have a good time.


"Red Dirt Report"

Red Dirt Report by Andrew W. Griffin
Category: Blogging

Red Dirt Report Click Here

By Andrew W. Griffin

Red Dirt Report, editor

Posted: August 23, 2009

LAWTON, Okla. – In a building adjacent to the athletic field at Cameron University, singer-songwriter-guitarist Johnny Cooper grabs a Coke out of the refrigerator in the largely empty room and sits down and smiles.

It was two years earlier, when your Red Dirt Reporter was writing for the Texas Music Times, that Cooper, then 18, sat down in a similar way in and talked about how he started out as a drummer in his early teens and then switched to playing guitar and singing.

With a love of music coursing through his veins, Cooper was determined to make it in the world of Texas/Red Dirt music. His tenacity (which is also the name of the record label that released his new album, Follow), musical abilities and natural charm began to pay off in those early years.

And then the moment came. It was in 2004, opening up for Oklahoma Red Dirt band The Great Divide, that the young Wichita Falls, Texas resident started really getting heard, particularly after releasing a live disc called Live at The Pub. With help from his father Jimmy, his mother Cindy Saillant and the backing of A.A. Bottom, later known as the Johnny Cooper Band, the young musician was getting gigs left and right, averaging several hundred a year.

And this, while still in high school.

Five years after that golden opportunity, here at a gig at Cameron University, opening up for Canadian country group Emerson Drive, Cooper smiles and talks about Follow, his follow-up to Ignition, which sold 25,000 copies and spawned the regional hit “Texas To You.”

Cooper played some songs from Follow during his opening set.

“I like the fans to make that judgement,” Cooper said. “Rock, Red Dirt, blues, funk, pop … whatever you feel bent to call it, go with it.”

Cooper said he spent a month in Nashville recording Follow with Dexter Green and Glenn Rosenstein and came away with 10 new songs, including the single “Bring Me Down,” which is currently in the twenties on the Texas Music Chart. Follow was released August 11.

“We had 1,375 (record) sales in the first week,” Cooper said excitedly.

While Red Dirt Report has yet to hear the new recording, other than the guitar-and-organ propelled radio-friendly rocker “Don’t Feel Like That Anymore,” some of the new songs were played during the opening set.

While he gets compared to pop star John Mayer a lot, Cooper is definitely his own man. Asked what he is listening to these days, he says “Kings of Leon,” without hesitating.

“They are phenomenal,” he said, noting he plans to catch their Oklahoma City show in October. “I try to do what they do every day as a musician.”

Asked about tonight’s opening gig for an internationally-recognized group like Emerson Drive (covered here at RDR), Cooper grins and references the fact that his merchandise stand was teeming with fans, looking for a T-shirt, CD or autograph. And it was true. Cooper had to postpone this interview because of the long line at his merchandise table. Emerson Drive may have been the headliner but it was Johnny Cooper who appeared to be the more popular performer if merchandise table lines can be used as a measure.

But that, he said, is because he has played Lawton a lot and worked on several film projects with students at Cameron. One was on Red Dirt music and the other was about dirt track racing. It was here in Lawton, at a club called Duvallz, that your Red Dirt Reporter first interviewed Cooper. This is clearly his backyard and he loves performing here.

Noting the different kinds of T-shirts he offers for sale, Cooper says, “(Merchandising) is a big part of it. You have to know to think stuff like that. John Mayer and Justin Timberlake, they have to come up with good marketing ploys.”

And if that crowd at his merch table was any indication, Cooper is a shrewd businessman to boot.

Supporting Cooper is his band, which includes: bassist Cody Shaw, guitarist Ben Shaw, drummer Randy Burch and keyboardist Nick Ghanbari. During the show, they run through covers like Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love” and portions of Steve Miller Band’s “Fly Like An Eagle.” And the originals, many from Follow, have a groovy, bluesy, and even poppy jamband feel. That is the think about the Johnny Cooper Band – they are well-rehearsed and very much in sync with one another when performing.

And as for Cooper himself, he is easygoing, confident and has a Joe Cocker-esque performing style that comes across as authentic and interesting.

As for the new music, it sounds, well, less Red Dirt-oriented. Country music it’s not. It’s definitely more blues and pop oriented than his previous material. For this critic, this is evidence of growth and a move to seek sounds beyond the confines that Texas/Red Dirt music offers.

Cooper knows he has his critics. His hometown paper,the Wichita Falls Times Record News has given him positive write-ups, although the criticism leveled at Cooper by that paper’s album reviewer is pretty strong, “wondering how many old fans he will lose” heading in this new direction.

Regardless, Cooper is comfortable with his musical path and is already looking ahead, with Follow out only a couple of weeks.

“I’m so glad to have the album out,” Cooper said, adding, “And later this fall we will begin work on the next album. In the meantime I’m just glad that everybody is coming out and giving us their support.”

Always a humble guy, Cooper emphasizes how he wants everyone to know how much he appreciates the support of his growing numbers of fans.

“I want to always let the fans know that I’ll stay at the merchandise booth and talk to everybody and be nice to everybody.”

And hearing him say it, you know he means it.

For more information on Johnny Cooper, visit

Copyright 2009 West Marie Media

- Red Dirt Report


"FOLLOW" released 2009:
"Bring Me Down"
released to radio 6/22/09
climbed to 7 on the Texas Music Chart (17 weeks)
"Crazy" released 10/19/09

“IGNITION” released 2006:
“Texas To You”
climbed to 5 on Texas Music Chart (15 weeks)
“Let It All Go”
climbed to 4 on Texas Music Chart (17 weeks)
"Devil Woman"
climbed to 6 on Texas Music Chart (18 weeks)
"Nothing At All"
climbed to 14 on the Texas Music Chart (19 weeks)

“LIVE at the Pub” released 2005
voted “Best Live CD of 2006” Payne County Line



At age 21, Texas singer, songwriter and guitarist JOHNNY COOPER is already a well-traveled musician, having released two albums--with 2007’s IGNITION selling over 25,000 copies--and performed over 800 shows, averaging 200 a year.

His new album FOLLOW (Tenacity Records) is an evocative blend of soul, blues, rock and pop that’s exemplified by the first single “Bring Me Down.” Over the song’s deep groove and buzzing guitars, COOPER lays down the law:

“You say my music’s got too much edge
Well hell yeah, that’s how I was taught
Screaming guitars and people up on the bars
That’s the way we like to rock
For some reason you’ll always look at me
Just like I’m a kid
Why you creeping around out back
Watching every little thing I did”

The disc expands on the style for which COOPER became known--“red dirt,” a Texas and Oklahoma southern rock, country and blues hybrid--and was produced by Glenn Rosenstein and Dexter Green. Rosenstein has either produced or co- produced such artists as Ziggy Marley, Jill Sobule and Michelle Shocked and engineered songs by James Brown, Talking Heads and Sting. Green’s credits include co-writing and producing the Collective Soul 2004 hit “Better Now.”

“Well, it still is ‘red dirt,’ it still is rock, it still is funk, pop, Texas country, R&B, it is still more than anything, me,” explains COOPER about FOLLOW.

Gifted with a rich emotive voice that illuminates his lyrics, COOPER says the disc “is another chapter of my life, every song is a short snippet of all the things I have encountered in the past few years, good times...bad times...and everything in between. I believe the music has evolved because I have evolved...the older you get the less and less you are scared to try new things, branch out and test your limits. Most importantly this record was a team effort. The producers and musicians had a huge role, something just clicked when we all were together. The talent of everyone who played on the record naturally made the music come alive.”

The blues-influenced pop-rock blend on “Bring Me Down,” the album’s first single, was written by COOPER “about some folks who forgot the reason why you play music,” he says. “It’s a musical sucker-punch to people who don’t do things for the right reason.” Other album stand-outs include “Crazy,” “Take Your Number” and the soul-powered opening track, “Don’t Feel Like That Anymore.”

In his five years as a professional musician, COOPER has garnered a large following in his home state of Texas and neighboring Oklahoma. His first album, LIVE AT THE PUB, was voted “Best Live CD in 2006” and Texas Entertainer of the Year (2006 & 2007) in the Payne County Line Oklahoma Music Awards; 2007’s IGNITION sold over 25,000 copies and resulted in four songs (“Texas To You,” “Let It Ago,” “Devil Woman” and “Nothing At All”) climbing the Texas Music Charts. His MySpace page has over two million plays and a million views.

COOPER is proud of the new record and sound. “I believe what people hear on the album they also want to hear live. The cool part about our live show is it is always evolving. We played the majority of these songs live for a couple of months before we recorded them and that’s when you really work out all the kinks and develop the song to what you hear now on the album…the building process is the most fun.”

COOPER has practically grown up on-stage and that’s where he will remain throughout the rest of the year because that’s what he truly loves.

“Our goal is to make you forget about everything else and just cut loose for a couple hours.”