At just 22-years-old, Kolby Cooper is making a name for himself in country music. But, he hasn’t gone through his entire musical journey on his own.
Growing up in East Texas, the real-as-it-gets singer/songwriter sparked an interest in playing music. He also knew he wanted to marry the girl he met in third grade.
This year, Cooper can reflect on those accomplishments, having celebrated his third wedding anniversary with his childhood sweetheart turned wife, Jillian Cooper, on July 17, 2021, and having signed his first recording contract with BBR Music Group/Wheelhouse Records in partnership with Combustion Music a month earlier.
Now, Cooper has more to be proud of, as he just released his label debut EP entitled Boy From Anderson County.
The six-track project, produced by Phillip Mosley, is the follow up to Cooper’s 2019 independent full-length album, Good Ones Never Last. The songs on the project, all co-written by Cooper, reflect who he is as an artist and demonstrates his knack for songwriting, as he’s able to draw inspiration from his life and the life of his friends and family.
“I’m more proud of this project than anything I’ve ever released,” Cooper shared in a recent press release. “Listen front to back, then listen one more time. This EP has been a long time coming, and I can’t wait for y’all to hear it. I hope you love it as much as I do.”
Cooper caught up with Country Now to discuss his path to making a music career, his brand new EP, and what lies ahead.
Read on to find out more about Kolby Cooper in this exclusive Q&A below…
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Tell me about your background and what led you to want to pursue a career in country music?
I was born in Palestine, Texas but raised in a little town called Bradford, which is about fifteen minutes outside of Palestine. Bradford is a farming community of about 30 to 40 people. So, I grew up around a lot of ranches and cowboys. I grew up with a lot of family and friends and everything. I went to this school called Cayuga, and I met my wife there when I was in third grade. In fourth grade, we became best friends and were best friends pretty much up until our senior year. Then, we started dating, and after graduation, we both went to the same community college in Athens, Texas. Then we were expecting a baby, and I released our first record around the same time we found out she was pregnant.
At the time, I released my record as more of a, ‘Hey, guys! I did this,’ sort of thing because I was in college and had planned on becoming a nurse. Then, in April of that next year, my mom sat me down, and said, ‘Hey, I can tell you don’t want to do college right now. You should take a year off from school and play music full time. If in that year, you feel like there’s something there, just do that. If you feel like it isn’t for you, go back to school.’ So, I ended up putting college on hold. Fast forward to July 17, which is when my wife and I got married. Now we’ve celebrated our third year married! July 20 is also the third anniversary that we started touring with the band. And, my daughter also turns three years old at the end of the month, so it’s been a big month!
Wow! That’s so many celebrations all at once! Congratulations! So you previously said you met your wife in third grade? Would you consider her to be your biggest supporter?
Absolutely! I mean, ever since we were in middle school, everyone at our school knew that I sang, and she knew that I wanted to pursue that. So, she’s been preparing for it for a very long time. She has been one of my biggest supporters and one of the biggest inspirations, for me, at the same time. But, when I was a freshman in high school, my dad passed away. I was super close to him. We bonded over music. He wasn’t super musical or anything, but we were always listening to music together and showing each other new songs. And I started playing about a year before he passed away. So, he knew that. He was always telling me how great I was at it. So, he was also super supportive. And that made me want to make music a priority, not try to f*** around and work hard, you know?
Who would you consider to be your biggest musical inspiration?
Well, my musical taste is always evolving. I’m always listening to new stuff that either I used to not like, or it grew on me or something. But, I mean, Waylon Jennings has always been my favorite. He’s always been one of my biggest inspirations. Nirvana, Blink 182, Modest Mouse, Chris LeDoux, Alan Jackson, and a lot of the old country guys and rock guys have also been big-time inspirations for me.
You recently signed onto BBR Music Group/Wheelhouse Records. Can you talk about that experience?
It was a long process because we’d been talking for about a year or so before it happened. And, a lot of the talks were happening over the Zoom app, so I’m sure it was a different kind of experience than it would have been without that. We did have a couple of dinners. Then, when things started to ease up, we had more in-person meetings. But it was a long process. But, they have been so awesome through all of it. I am glad we finally got it all done! I am so pumped!
After you got your deal, did you move to Nashville, or do you still live in Texas?
I still live in Texas. I don’t think I’ll ever move out of Texas. I love it too much. I’ve lived in Bradford my entire life up until this year, and the only reason we moved – we moved to Tyler, Texas, which is only 45-minutes away. But, the only reason we moved is that I was flying to Nashville a few times a month, and I’d have to get someone to take me each time to drop me off at the airport. Now, I’m five minutes down the road from an airport, which is a lot easier.
Congratulations on your new EP! So, you co-wrote all the songs on the project, where did you draw inspiration from when it came to writing the songs on this EP?
As far as the break-up songs and the screw-you songs, I love my wife. We’re doing great. But, I’m 22-years-old, so most of my friends who are my age aren’t married with kids. They’re out running around, partying, and getting their hearts broken, which is, in a way, great for me because I can listen to their stories, and take that inspiration and turn it into a song. But any song about my family, wife, and kids are all 100% real stuff that’s happened.
How would you sum up the EP as a whole in just a few words?
This project, pretty much, if I’m telling somebody what it is, it’s me giving everyone a view of what’s going on in my life, and what’s gone on in my friends lives and stuff like that. It’s me being me and doing exactly what I’ve wanted to do as far as music goes. One of the songs on there is called “Boy From Anderson County.” And, that was one of those songs that I really wanted people to get a grasp of what this project was about. My last record was called, Good Ones Never Last, and it was about my dad passing away. It was a lot sadder. So, I just wanted to show people that I’m happy and that this is where I’m at in life. So, I needed to get this out there.
One of the songs on the EP is called “Good For You.” Can you tell me the inspiration behind that song?
Yes! “Good For You” is a song that I wrote with Brent Anderson and Jameson Rodgers. So, one of their buddies had a girlfriend that broke up with him. Then, she moved a few states away, which, I guess, is not typical. So, he was extra-heartbroken because he did not get to see her. They were twelve hours away from each other. So, that is, kind of, the idea. It’s a break-up that happened, and one person is better off and happier because they were able to get out of whatever was holding them down. That is the overall idea of “Good For You,” and it’s one of my favorites on the EP.
Speaking of that song being one of your favorites, is there one that is your absolute favorite on this EP?
“Way To Go.” I wrote it with Mike Walker and Josh Jenkins. It’s tough to say this because I love all of the songs so much. I guess this is the first time I got to make a record too, where I like every song just as much as the last one. There’s none, where I’m like, ‘Ugh, I don’t want to put that one out.’ But “Way To Go” always jumps up to my favorite! I listen to it the most, probably because I love rock music, and I love that we got to put so much of my rock influence into it.
Are there any other projects in the works that you can share with us at this time?
I mean, there’s a ton more songs that we’ve recorded. So, the plan is this will be EP one. Then, hopefully, we’ll have a full length, or second part to that, at some point either this year or next year. So, it will technically be two parts, but it will be six more songs. I can’t talk about it all yet because we’re not 100% sure about it, but there are plans for a collaboration.
What’s been the biggest highlight for you this year so far with things opening back up?
I think the biggest highlight for me is getting to go back out and tour. In 2020, we planned to hit all the state markets that we hadn’t gotten to hit yet. So, we had to wait for that for a full year. I guess we hadn’t been touring for two full years because [the events of the past 18 months]. We had a whole year where it’s just been this big blackout – nothing happened. So, we’re picking up on year three or year four. But, we got to hit a bunch of markets these past few months that we’ve never had. The one we played in Iowa was an at-capacity show. Just getting up on that stage and knowing that I was so far from Texas was mind-blowing to me. Then, we played Montana a few times over the past month in the same way. We hit Missouri, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Colorado. Getting to finally go to these out-of-state places and seeing people show up has been the biggest highlight for sure!
Fans can keep up with Kolby Cooper on Instagram.