For Ross Cooper, it is his Texas roots that give him the grit and soul to tell compelling stories from the heart that appeal to a diverse audience. As he prepares for the March 18th release of his highly anticipated albumGive It Time, he ponders on exactly how much change has motivated him and made him the man (and artist) he is now.
The album's title track, in particular, speaks to the human condition and how we fare in troubled times. "Painted red, but singing blues," he sings on the first verse. It's most certainly a heart-ripping, emotional song, but there is far more to explore on the entire 11-track record than this one composition indicates. Recorded at Mount Vernon Studios in Lubbock, Texas, and produced along with Jon Taylor, Cooper's sound in unapologetically Americana, precisely dusted with tradition and an ounce of folk.
In an exclusive interview with NashvilleGab, the emerging singer-songwriter opens up about the album, as well his rodeo upbringing, his family and more!
How does this album relate to your move to Nashville?
I finished the album right before I made the move to Nashville. In a way, it kind of symbolizes an end and a beginning. I got to create this record in Texas with some of my best friends and now I get to show it to Nashville and beyond. It's a pretty great feeling.
Would you say "change" is a big theme on the record?
Absolutely, or it is for me. It's not exactly a concept album, and I didn't intend on 'change' being a theme. It wasn't until awhile after the album was done that I decided 'Give It Time' would be the title track, but afterwards it all just made sense. In a lot of ways, the song 'Give It Time' is about change. It wasn't until we gave the record the title that I realized how much of a theme 'change' was.
Did any other changes in your life find their way onto this record?
Yes and no. I think with this project, it all became a little more serious. It kind of hit me like, 'Man, this is a business.' So, I started treating it that way a little more. I think more focus went into creating this record.
Were there any albums or artists that directly influenced this record? If so, what were they?
Not specifically, but I have a ton of influences. The only one that I can really pinpoint is a song called, 'Witches.' It's an eerie track that features a lapsteel. [It's] very Hank Williams-esque as far as the music is concerned.
Is there a through-line in this record that connects all the songs together?
Stories. There are a lot of stories on this record, and honestly, it happened that way accidentally…I didn't plan it that way. It just so happened that the songs that made the record fit the best with one another.
"Give It Time" is such a groovy song that has a powerful message. What does that song say about your life?
Well I wrote it when I was pretty down in the dumps to be honest. We've all heard, 'What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger.' But sometimes it feels like, 'What doesn't kill you, just might with some time.' The takeaway from the song is that it'll all pass. When you feel like you're at your worst, it'll pass. Things will look up, just give it some time.
What do you hope fans learn about you (or about life) after listening to the entire record?
Each song is very different on this album. I wanted to create some mood with these songs. The best thing I can hope for is that someone else feels something after hearing these songs. Be it sad or happy. That's why I love music. My favorites evoke some kind of emotion.
What was life like growing up as part of the rodeo?
Pretty amazing, truthfully. I started riding bucking horses at a pretty early age. It's how my parents met. My brother rodeo'd, too. I wouldn't have traded it for anything else. Rodeo was our sport — lots of blood, sweat and tears.
When did you first ride?
Of course you get on calves and steers when you're really young, but I got on my first saddle bronc when I was 13 or 14 and probably didn't get on my first bareback horse until I was 15 or 16.
Were you ever injured?
Hahaha…yeah. Stitches, staples, broken bones, surgeries. You name it.
Are any other family members musical?
My mom is a heck of a pianist. Of course, she'd never admit it, but she's amazing. My dad doesn't play any instruments, but has a pretty decent voice if you can ever catch him singing. And my brother…I love him to death, but he can't carry a tune in a bucket.
Now, you're from Texas, were you involved in the Texas music scene? If so, how is it different and similar to Nashville?
I played/play a lot of those Texas music venues. It's quite a bit different from Nashville. If you start playing music in Texas, eventually you start a band and gig around. Here, it seems like there are more people pursuing careers as writers. Honestly, both Texas and TN are great places for different reasons. I'll tell you though, Texas music breeds some pretty die hard fans.
Was the decision to pursue music over rodeo hard for you?
Probably the hardest decision of my life so far. I stopped rodeoing the day I moved to Nashville basically. It's hard to up and walk away from something you love. But I didn't want to do two things and do them both half way.
What is the biggest hurdle you've had to jump in your career up to this point?
Well I'm not going to lie; I'm pretty blessed. The biggest hurdle I've had to clear was not in just making the decision to uproot and move to Nashville but in surviving once I got here. They say if you can make it through the first couple of months, then you'll be alright. Once I got passed that, some pretty great things started happening.
I hear you recently filmed a music video in Nashville. Is that for "Give It Time"? If so, what's the treatment? And did you have full control over it?
Yeah we did. And yes, for 'Give It Time.' We shot it down at Bobby's Idle Hour Tavern on Music Row. [We] couldn't have picked a better place. [It's] the best dive in Nashville. It reminds me a lot of the places I cut teeth in. [There was] a great turnout. Some good friends and musicians from TX are in it, as well as some of the good people I've got to know up here. Jon Taylor (who produced my record) directed and produced the video. It'll be out soon. It was a blast to make.
You wrote your first song with your mother when you were 10, is that right? Can you touch upon that a bit? What's the name of the song?
That's right. I kind of remember how it went, but I don't remember if it had a title. It was a gospel song. A simple few note melody that I'd poked out on the piano, then mom made it sound better.
What did she teach you about songwriting?
Well she doesn't really write too much. I'm sure she probably did when she was younger. She's always encouraged creativity though. She has a creative mind and can pretty much do anything; play piano, sing, stain glass, paint, design, etc. etc. I think more than anything, she taught me to not be afraid to write a song: to create without reservation.
Grab a copy of Cooper's current single "Give It Time" on iTunes now!
Don't forget to pre-order his upcoming album Give It Time, which hits stores on Tuesday, March 18!