"They say the legends of the past are rolling over in their graves," Lenny Cooper drops on the opening track of his forthcoming album, The Grind (Aug. 26), "Now, that's not what I see. Let's agree to disagree." Cooper, with two previous full-lengths to his credit, is ready to try some new things. That's why, when listening to his new album, you can hear more eclectic influences, enveloped in his signature hip-hop sensibilities. Admittedly, he says that the current diversity at mainstream country radio just might help his new album breakthrough. "Florida Georgia Line is already doing it, and they’re getting played," he says in an exclusive interview with NashvilleGab. "That’s helping us to get one step closer to getting played too. They’re proving it can be done."
"You have Blake Shelton and Jason Aldean, too," he adds. "There are a bunch of artists that are now getting into that same category and trying it and it being successful. It’s opening up doors for us to get in there even faster."
Dubbed the Muddigger King, Cooper says it has been difficult to keep each track fresh for his fans. "It is very hard not to write something that you haven’t already written," he says. "A bunch of artists always have that happen to them. They’re writing a song and, ‘man this sounds like something I wrote already’ or ‘it sounds like so and so’s song.’ It’s hard to pinpoint on what exactly you want to do with a song. Once you have a good topic and idea, it is so easy to write."
For The Grind, Cooper moved away from simple solo writes to enlisting some of Nashville's finest songwriters, including Noah Gordon and Mark Harnett. "This is the first album I’ve written with other songwriters. They say ‘two heads are better than one.’ I had a lot more fun writing with someone else than just me by myself. You get more creative and think of different things I wouldn’t on my own. It really freed me up," he says.
"I got to have fun with this album and not worry about if fans will like. With my first two albums, that let me know what they like and what they want…and if they want something new."
You'll find another rather recognizable name on the record: Bucky Covington. "Noah and I had written ['Redneck Country Song']–it was completely done. I told the label I wanted to have one big name on their, somebody I could just walk down the street and ask 10 people and seven know who it is," Cooper recalls. "We started with people like John Anderson and Craig Morgan. We were also thinking about Luke Bryan. We had a whole list, but everybody was so busy. It came to the point of…we’re almost done with this album, we needed someone to jump on here. It happened to be that Bucky came along. We got in touch with him, and he was all for it. It couldn’t have been better. His vocals are just perfect on the song. It fits well with his style. It’s one of those songs I think everyone should hear. It’s that good."
"He actually wrote a few lines of it, too. If radio doesn’t play it, there’s something wrong. It’s just country right there," he says.
"Redneck Country Song" is a polar opposite to the album's lead-in, though–the guitar-laden hook-fused "Lights On." Cooper details exactly how the groove came together in the studio: "We were actually sitting here in the studio in Nashville, we started thinking, ‘what could we do?’ I told them I wanted to do a bar-scene song. I’m a big fan of ‘Rehab’ and that kind of stuff. I didn’t want to do something similar to that, but I wanted something that talked about being in a bar and having a good time on the weekend. Then you have that one bartender who wants to shut the place down. ‘Hey, I’m turning the lights on, last call, ya’ll gotta get out of here.’ When you are having a good time in a bar, you don’t wanna do that. You want to stay for one more beer, one more song. That’s where I edged the song around, adding a little bit of comedy to it on the second verse, where I was acting like I was rapping drunk." Fans can expect the video to drop any day now.
As far as the rest of the album: "This one is a lot different [than my previous ones], but at the same time, it’s not so different where it’ll confuse fans. I wanted to not focus on mud as I did on the first two. I wanted to show the fans I am growing. I want them to know I’m capable of doing more stuff than talking about mud. Plus, this album has a lot more ‘live’ sounding songs. A lot of the songs are played with live instruments. I’m really excited about that, to let fans hear something new that I haven’t done before. Even on ‘Lights On,’ that’s more live than before. I want to show I’m capable of doing different things."
Being an outsider to country radio, Cooper has found that he doesn't need it to find an audience. "We’ve proved that we don’t need it. We can do it on our own," he says. "[It’s] the beauty of internet. [So many] people now don’t listen to the radio in their car. They’re mainly playing CDs, or their iPod through their radio. Or using Pandora, that’s a huge thing. This month I’ve got 2.2 million plays on there. I would never have expected that in a million years. Would I love to be played on the radio? Absolutely. Who wouldn’t. That’s why with this album, I wanted more of a live sound."
In addition to the new record, Average Joes will also release a second issue of The Average Joes comic. "I thought it was pretty funny at first," he says of the animated project. "I didn’t think it’d work, but people are enjoying it. The first issue came out and I just got an email from the CEO of the label saying this is a comment from a little girl who read the comic. She says she’s worried about my character, because something happened at the end. She commented and asked if Lenny is going to be OK. That right there are fans out there that are getting a kick out of it. That made me feel good about it. Plus, who wouldn’t want to be a comic book superhero?"
But more importantly, what is his superhero power? "I can melt down into mud and go under doors. I usually wear sunglasses when I perform, so that’s how they recognize me. My sunglasses also shoot these beams, too. It’s pretty cool."
Pre-order a copy of The Grind on iTunes now!
Photos courtesy of Lenny Cooper Facebook / Average Joes Entertainment
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