The journey one takes to becoming a successful artist is anything but easy. Before you get to selling out stadiums and arenas and having successful chart-topping singles and albums, there is a lot of work that goes into it.
Performing to empty parts, busking on the streets, handing out CDs on the streets doing what you must do, JP Cooper is no stranger to the realities of what it takes to be a successful musician. While he is very much still on his musical journey having only just released his debut album Raised Under Grey Skies 2 years ago, he has very much been creating and doing music for a while now.
The first time most people may have come across Cooper may have been as a feature on the 2016 summer anthem ‘Perfect Strangers’ by Jonas Blue. The song which peaked at number 2 on the UK charts, and if that wasn’t anything, ‘September Song’ peaked at number 7 on the UK charts which made JP one to watch.
Since then, he has been on a roll as he has continuously released song after song working with a variety of different artists showing him as not only a soulful musician who plays the guitar well but also who can collaborate and work with a variety of different genres and types of music. His 2019 releases have continued this trend with JP having collaborated with Astrid S and Gabrielle Aplin earlier this year, and now his most recent release ‘The Reason Why’ which has seen him collaborate with Stefflon Don for what might be his most vibrant song yet.
At Soho’s 68 and Boston, we sat down with JP to talk about everything from the single, his journey so far, collaborating, lessons he has learned, his upcoming tour and more.
Congrats on the new release ‘The Reason Why’ what can you tell us about the song, how it came about, the vibe and what is it about?
The song initially was just me, Banx & Ranx who got together. I wanted something kind of summery and I just felt that it was one of those romantic songs about somebody that means a lot to you. We sat with the song for a long time, we wrote it a year ago and it just didn’t quite feel right; it was great but it felt like it was missing something. Then, one of my friends at the label suggested Stefflon Don. So we got in touch and lucky for us, she obliged and she jumped on it. I feel like my approach is a bit more romantic and hers is a bit hard and in your face, and I feel like the juxtaposition between the two merged perfectly in the track.
You have collaborated with many artists before including Jonas Blue on ‘Perfect Strangers’, in fact your last couple of singles have been collaborations. So, what is that process like for you?
For me, it’s always a very freeing experience, because you are bringing different worlds together and that means that I get a chance to explore different worlds. To step outside of my usual process and explore other people’s and just mixing all these different ingredients and just seeing what happens. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, luckily I’ve had more that do work than don’t and the ones that have worked I’ve been super grateful for. I’ve built some amazing relationships with a lot of different people and I’ve had a chance to experience different musical worlds. So, I’m always happy to say yes when you get to go to different places and be in different cultures; it’s all just an eye-opener, and I love it.
Since you first started releasing music back in 2012 your life has changed quite a bit, what has been the biggest lesson you have learned?
I think for me the biggest thing has been community and the people you are working with is more important than what you yourself have. So, finding the right people to surround yourself with, the right people to create with and just do life with is so important. One thing I’ve observed being part of the music industry and how it operates is that it is not normal in terms of the nature of the business, so to surround yourself with people that you can connect with on a personal level is important. I feel like anybody that I meet coming into the industry that is one thing I always say is to surround yourself with good people. There are a lot of great people in the industry, but the lifestyle is intense and it will stretch you and it will pull you away from your loved ones because you’re working here, there and everywhere. I feel like I have spent the last few years trying to get that together and I feel like I’m finally in a place where I’ve got that right; I love the people that I have in my personal life, the people I have in my work life.
How do you feel you have grown and changed since your first single as an artist and in your music?
Funnily enough, I have recently listened back to some of my early stuff, the very early things I did and I was so creative back then. There were a lot of sketches and broad strokes of ideas and I think one of the things I’ve grown is my editing and standards in terms of when something is finished. As well as the way that I would look at an idea and break that down, but at the same time, that’s also a bit of a curse because you are constantly judging yourself so harshly that it can stop the creativity. So, it is this strange thing of trying to find a balance between editing yourself and allowing yourself to be creative and not put the brakes on an idea. For me it’s understanding yourself, finding myself in this pop mainstream world was never my agenda and I’ve had to navigate and figure it out and so I’ve had a few years to do that now. I would say the biggest change since the last album has been knowing what to expect because at first I didn’t know what to expect and was just rolling with the punches so now I have a bit more of a gameplan.
You’ve had some success over the last couple of years and your first album had a big impact. As you work on your next album, do you feel there is extra pressure?
I felt so much pressure on the first album, with it being the first and that feeling of however well it does will set up the rest of your career, and I do understand it for this next one there are a lot of people working on the project, people from the label, people who the success of the album matters so much, but I just try not to get myself too engaged with it. All I can do is speak my truth and try and find my DNA in everything that I do and just enjoy the process. I remind myself how lucky I am to be in this situation and be grateful for it rather than think about what could go wrong and the pressure, ’cause it can be overwhelming that pressure but you just have to remember what it is about and whatever will be will be.
Your recent releases have been all been different from each other, and so for this album what can we expect with the different sounds and music?
As far as the last couple of songs I have put out, I do like to keep people guessing. However, I do think I’ve always been a bit of a genre blender especially sound-wise. I would say there are a lot more electronic moments, but then it’s always important for me to have those stripped-back moments as well. I think what normally ties it all together is the lyrical content and the emotion in the delivery. So, for me, I didn’t sit down and think about what I wanted this album to sound like specifically, although I do feel like I will probably lead that way in the future. This album has been a lot more searching for those special songs and at the minute I can’t even say because we’ve got 30/40 songs and we still need to narrow it down to about 16 songs. At this point, there are so many different flavours so it’s carefully deciding what it’s going to be.
You just finished your first tour and have just announced dates for next year, how you feel about the upcoming tour?
I’ve never been a huge fan of touring surprisingly; I get quite anxious with it and I don’t live for being on stage. I find that I expect very high standards of myself but this last tour that I did, I enjoyed. We did smaller venues; we approached it in an intimate kind of way and I didn’t put any pressure on myself. For the first time in a long time, I’m looking forward to this next tour. The beautiful thing is we’ve got a lot of time now to start preparing for it early, we’ve already started thinking about the idea of it and what kind of experience you want to give people. It’s a bigger tour than the last one it’s going to be the biggest headline in London I’ve done. I’m feeling positive about it and I think it’s going to be the best tour that I’ve done to date.
What sort of vibes can we expect from your shows?
The important part is about people having a human experience, an actual connection. I don’t want to go out there just to be some kind of superstar performer; I’m a person who writes songs and I like people to make connections with those songs. I love watching people and seeing their relationships and how they respond. If somebody might propose to someone in the crowd or just the way that a couple looks at each other or friends look at each other. A lot of people might have seen quite a lot of my live stuff stripped back but actually, the band is raging and it’s more of a real kind of show that people are going to dance and move to, cry to; there is a bit of everything. For the first time for this next tour, it is how we direct people through all the different emotions and bring people on a journey.
Stepping aside from music for a bit. I know you have another creative avenue that you enjoy which is making things out of leather. What is this and how did you start doing this?
I like to keep myself busy with things like that. There’s a lot of downtime and if I’m at home I’m not good at doing nothing so I try and find myself things to learn and little hobbies. I like to be creative with my hands in a way that I can see and touch things, you know with music you can see and you can’t touch it whereas with anything like the things I make I get excited because I can actually create something functional that I can actually use, whereas music is a more emotional and spiritual thing. It’s good to make something that is functional. So that’s something I’ve been exploring in a few different mediums. I was around a lot of visual artists, my family members are visual artists so I think it’s creating that I have to do; it’s just a bit of fun.
How do you find dealing with the mental and physical strains of music?
I feel like one of the good things for me has been physical exercise. I think it’s so important just to have a release. I’ve recently started trying to meditate more. I’ve always felt like I’m not good at it, but I think anything that focuses my brain or stills my brain helps. In a way, making things helps with this because my focus is only the task. I have been trying to be still and allow myself to switch off so that’s what I’m trying to practice.
What are you looking forward to in the next phase of your journey and everything we can expect?
I am excited about this next cycle, the new album and how I approach it. I’m looking forward to doing my best to enjoy the process. Now that I have a better understanding of what it might be like, I can be a lot more prepared and I just want to suck the most experience out of it as I feel the last time my head was so cloudy. I’m looking forward to getting out to more places n the world, I’m taking my loved ones with me and just seeing what doors open in music and other areas of my life as well. I’m just super grateful, I’m in a real positive mindset about moving forward and I’m looking forward to the journey.
For more on JP Cooper, visit www.jpcoopermusic.com