ABOVE: JP COOPER
It’s been 15 years since the dreadlocked JP Cooper first started sharing his gift with the world, and it’s been a slow burner for the Manchester-hailing singer. But where (an abundance of) talent, perseverance, and a bit of luck collide, the fire of success has no choice but to ignite. Having inked a deal with Island Records earlier this year, followed up by the release of the supremely well-received Keep The Quiet Out EP last month, JP Cooper seems to be fast on the road to combustion.
Enjoy this exclusive premiere of the JP Cooper track “Satellite,” and read our interview with him below.
ALYA MOORO: Was there a particular moment where you realized music is what you wanted to do?
JP COOPER: It came towards the end of high school. Initially I wanted to be in sports; I was always a stubborn person, I never wanted to do things by halves—I wanted to be an Olympian. Then music kind of got its claws into me. I was just playing around with friends, but even at that point, I used to moan at the guys if they turned up late or if the drummer hadn’t been rehearsing. They were like, “We’re 15… we’re not exactly going to be the next Green Day,” or something like that, and I was like, “Who says that?!” Even then, I had the attitude that nothing was too big a dream.
MOORO: Your latest EP is very different from your previous offerings. How do you think your sound has developed?
COOPER: It was kind of a conscious idea to do that. My rough plan was to do three EPs and then hopefully by that point have enough money to do the album. We didn’t, so at that point I started to record another one and I purposefully thought, “Okay, because it’s not of the three, I’m going to experiment a little bit. And maybe people won’t just put me in that box of like, ‘JP is this very traditional songwriter who works with live instrumentation and strings…'” It’s [still] the heart of me, but I’m interested in a lot of things; I wanted to run with it and show people another side of me.
MOORO: Which part of the creative process do you enjoy most?
COOPER: The thing about being in the studio and writing is that when I’m finished something, it’s like a physical thing, whereas with a gig, you’re in it, then it’s gone. You have these little flashes of moments of memory, but you can’t really remember what happens. I love the studio because I can sit back and orchestrate things and I can make it perfect, but I love live [too], that’s the kind of payday where you get to share it with people.
MOORO: What kinds of things inspire you?
COOPER: Everything comes out the way I’m feeling at that moment, or it might be a hindsight kind of thing or a conversation I have with a friend or something that I’ve heard in a bar. I used to work in a bar, and sometimes I’d write little things down and try and go into that, elaborate on that a little more or make up my own stories behind the idea. A lot of it is quite personal; it’s like a diary to me. Particularly now [as] I’m trying to write a lot more, I like to think of little ideas rather than it all having to be pulling my heart out every time, because that gets a bit heavy.
MOORO: Is music quite a release for you?
COOPER: Yeah, there’s something about sitting in a room as four friends—particularly as adults, a lot of the time you don’t do that [anymore] unless you’re drinking—and thinking about ideas and creating together. I don’t think that’s something that many people do and I think it’s an amazing thing for your mind; it’s a very beautiful thing.
MOORO: Other than great songs, what do you think is one thing that all great artists need?
COOPER: Patience and persistence. I started this journey 15 years ago, and I never saw any commercial success, and I’ve seen so many relationships fall apart and I’ve lost so many jobs and I’ve been broke for so long. A lot of my friends did music and then they stop because life is challenging, life asks a lot of you and sometimes music doesn’t really have the answers to everything. Luckily I’ve been stubborn enough to push on through and I’ve got an opportunity now to make something work.
MOORO: What is it that keeps you motivated?
COOPER: I’ve always seen progression and growth, so I’ve always wanted to continue; I never felt like it got to a point where I was kind of plateaued. You do something you’ve never done before, or you write a song and think, “That’s so much stronger than anything I’ve done before…” That inspires me. I’ve gone this far; it could just be round the next corner. I wouldn’t want to quit at the last hurdle. I’m not here for the lifestyle; I want this.
MOORO: You’ve had some pretty awesome moments, too! What was it like touring with Angie Stone? Anything in particular you picked up from watching her?
COOPER: That was really special for me. The band was fantastic and the show was really beautifully put together, but one thing that I really picked up from her is the way that she cared so much about the show. I remember at one point she’d gone overtime at this venue and the stage manager was telling her, “You need to finish!” and she came to the side of the stage and she was genuinely really pissed off with him, not in a diva kind of way but like, “You’re messing my show up! I’m trying to give here!” There was a real sort of honesty that after all these years that she still really wants to give.
MOORO: What’s one thing you’ve learned over the last 15 years?
COOPER: The power of writing in general. When I started out I thought that if I was a great singer or if the band had the right look or the right attitude, if we had this cool sound, that was the way to do it. The older I get, the more I realize the importance of great songs and of honesty; being honest in the way that we share.