By Mark Weber For the Independent
Southern rock/country singer/songwriter Devin Cooper heads to Stettler’s Entertainment in the Park Aug. 12th.
Of course, it’s been a challenging season with the COVID-19 pandemic, but Cooper has used the quieter months to do some reflecting, he explained during a recent chat.
“I think that you take a step back. Over the past year, I had more than 210 shows all across Canada, so when you are going like that you don’t really have time to look at a lot of things that are happening in your music, in your writing and in the business side of things. You also don’t get the chance to really dive into songwriting,” he added.
“This break, and everything that is happening, has allowed us to step back and look where we are at, what it is we would like to accomplish and to figure out some goals – what the next steps are going to be.
“And also, how we are going to navigate a music career in this industry,” he said, referring to the impact of the ongoing pandemic.
In the meantime, Cooper just released his latest single Last Time Last on July 31st – the latest powerful tune in a string of first-rate singles he’s released over the past couple of years. He’s also been tapping into the opportunities afforded by social media platforms to better connect with fans and see how, for example, a new tune is being received by his fan base.
“I think being able to utilize social media to post content gives you a chance to gauge the songs that you are writing – what people think of them, and how they feel about them,” he explained. “I’ve been asking people what they dig, what they do not dig,” he added with a laugh. “Obviously, not every song that you write is going to be a good one.
“Criticism doesn’t get easier as you go along, but I think you just learn how to handle it better. If someone doesn’t like a song, it doesn’t mean they don’t like you or don’t like what you are doing – there is probably a valid reason why they don’t like it,” he said, adding it’s vital to have people in your circle who will be straight with you when a song just isn’t cutting it.
“There are a lot of times when you need to hear that criticism and that kind of feedback so that you can do better,” he said.
“You can then kind of take a step back again and look at what you are doing, and think about the things you could change.”
As for Last Time Last, Cooper penned the tune in Nashville this past February with Chris Yurchuck and Drew Smith.
“We wrote this song about a relationship that I had been in, and how it had ended,” he said. “But at the time we wrote it, we didn’t know what was going to happen in the world (with the pandemic). So I think the song has taken on a whole lot more meaning now after everything we have gone through. The song talks about reminiscing and not taking things for granted,” he said. “It kind of became a little too real when everything shut down and we went into quarantine,” he said. “So I think the song speaks to so much more than just the relationship.”
As to the song’s sound, Cooper said his style has grown more solidly country over the past few years.
“But it still has that southern rock, gritty edge to it which is where my roots are planted.
“Rather than putting labels on it and trying to explain what it is, I think, at the end of the day, it’s just a whole bunch of my influences from my growing up years including rock, blues and country – everything that I have listened to coming together.”
Originally from Innisfail and now Calgary-based, Cooper recalls growing up in a house full of music although no one was a musician per se.
He is the son of a motorcycle shop owner and custom car builder, and he recalled listening to all kinds of music during those days while his father worked.
He announced to his folks that he wanted a guitar when he was about five years old. They felt he may change his mind in a few week’s time, so they encouraged him to start saving money from Christmas and birthday gifts to put towards his own guitar, and that’s exactly what he did.
Years of lessons followed while he was also carving out his own exemplary niche in the music world. Influences also ran the gamut from the artists he grew up listening to in his dad’s shop such as Johnny Cash, Stevie Ray Vaughan and ZZ Top.
During his junior and high school years, he played in a few bands and continued to hone his guitar style as well as his increasingly powerful and expressive voice.
At 16, he recorded and released his own solo project.
From the start, it’s been quite an organic thing. And Cooper has virtually always felt at home on stage.
“I can be having the worst day in the world and not want to play a show at all,” he explained. “But it’s like the instant I step on that stage – and I hope I never lose this – everything else in the world doesn’t matter. You are in the moment, and it’s like everything else just disappears. It’s unbelievable.”
Next up on the Entertainment in the Park stage are the Genuine Cowgirls on Aug. 19th.