INTERVIEW WITH AN ARTIST: JOHNNY COOPER
One of the greatest things about the Texas/Red Dirt music scene is the variety of music that comes out of it.
Johnny Cooper is definitely one of those types of artists that set himself apart in the style of music he plays, but this Wichita Falls native has proven that his style of music is exactly what the Texas/Red Dirt music scene is all about.
Recently, Johnny sat down to answer some questions in order for you, the fans, to get to know him a little bit better.
ME: How did you get started in music?
Johnny Cooper: I’ve always been gravitated to music. I come from a family that is very musically talented. My father is a great pianist and keyboardist. He played in several different bands while I was growing up. My mom was a dance choreographer and had a dance studio forever so I was raised around band people or dance people as long as I can remember.
I remember being 15 and wanting to play the drums. Still one of my favorite things and one of the things that brought me to music was wanting to play the drums. I made a deal with my dad that if I got straight A’s in school, they would buy me a drum kit. Well I got all A’s except for one class, which I got a B in. My dad said “You didn’t work up to your end of the deal so you’re not getting the drum kit.” I was furious, but somehow my mom, being the sucker she is and knowing how much I wanted to play the drums, went out and bought me the drum kit anyways.
So I started taking drum lessons from a guy that was local from Wichita Falls named Woody Hodges and he heard me sing one day and he said “I want you to come open for this band.” I dabbled around a little with a guitar at that time. I knew the basic three chords and he said “Well if you think you can do it and can learn about 10 songs and come play I’d really like for you to do it.”
It was like a test.
I wanted to see if I could do it and learn that much music. I had three weeks to learn the music before the gig. Come to find out I was opening up for a band called The Great Divide and I had no idea who they were at the time.
I played that first gig and after that I started just trying to play as much as I could to anyone that would listen. I remember turning 16 and my dad telling me “You are doing very well picking up these songs. I think you could write your own songs.” When he said that it was like a light bulb went off in my head. From that point on, all I wanted to do was write my own music. That’s how I got started. Just being around a lot of different creative people.
ME: What’s your favorite thing about traveling and playing compared to when you first started?
Johnny Cooper: Well in the beginning it was all new. Everything was brand new as far as playing gigs and going to new places. Not saying it’s not exciting now, but back then I was having to deal with school and traveling to play gigs.
That’s what I like about when I was first starting out…how naive I was about a lot of things about the music business.
Now what I like about it is that I’ve formed a group of guys that I am comfortable playing music with and I didn’t necessarily have that ability when I was younger because I didn’t have the knowledge of it or at least the ability to find the people that I really wanted to be around me.
As you grow and get older, your music changes and you try to grow up and try to bring different aspects of your music. What I really love now is the group of guys I have around me because we are kind of like a family. We roll with about eight people. I have endless amounts of inside jokes and stories and stuff now. I think a lot of it prior to when I was younger, I was hanging out with a lot of older guys who had already been doing this for a long time. Now I’m hanging out with guys that are closer to my age that we all are experiencing these things together now that are new. So I’m liking that now more than anything because it’s a different vibe than it was when I was 16.
ME: What can the fans expect to see from you in 2011?
Johnny Cooper: We have a lot of stuff on the calendar for this year. We just recorded a live album. We got a lot on our plate. It’s going to be a good year. Last year was a weird year for every musician. It was kind of different. So I’m excited about this year.
ME: What’s your favorite thing to do when you are in your down time or when you get away from music?
Johnny Cooper: I’m a sucker for video games. I can sit there with the X Box for hours. I love sports games. We also like to go out and play Frisbee Golf or play pickup games of basketball between the band.
We also have little challenges we do amongst the five of us in the band to see who is better at certain little things. But to be honest with you, more than anything I sit at home and relax. I’m a sucker for TV shows. I just got started on “Lost.” I know there are like six seasons, so I’ve been watching those. I also do a lot of sleeping more than anything else.
ME: What would you say is the biggest difference between the Texas/Red Dirt scene compared to the Nashville scene?
Johnny Cooper: There are a lot more people down here who are playing music for the music instead of trying to be famous. I think the main difference is a lot of Nashville stuff has gone to “What can we do to make money?” One thing about music is if you think back to the olden days when people first started playing blues or country; nobody did it to make money. They did it because it made them feel good and it made other people feel good. I think that’s going on down here (Texas/Red Dirt scene) more than anything.
Asleep At The Wheel has their Texas Music Scene (tv program) and they are trying to go national with that. I think that will change a lot of things because the rest of the country is going to be exposed to music that you normally won’t hear on your local country music radio station.
Not dogging the people in Nashville. They are all very talented people. It’s just a different scene. My opinion, they all need to work together instead of butt heads because there’s nothing good that can come out of that.
The more you work together; there are more things you can achieve. But I definitely see the Texas Red/Dirt scene taking off very soon especially amongst the United States.
ME: You said you were a sucker for video games and I remember seeing on your twitter that you failed on the video game “Rock Band” while playing your own song. How do you fail playing your own song on a video game?
Johnny Cooper: Ha ha ha. It’s different when you play the song and then you get handed this little mini guitar with little buttons and it’s got another button on the bottom that is suppose to be where the strings are. I don’t know, man. It’s a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. I just think it’s cool we got a song on a video game. That’s one of those things, to me, that’s as cool as it gets.