With a down-home EP ranked among the best of 2012 and a burgeoning reputation as one of Nashville’s sharpest up-and-coming songwriters, Brent Cobb might be just the guy to bring some rural reality back to country radio. As a writer of standout album tracks like “Rockaway (The Rockin’ Chair Song)” for Kellie Pickler and “Tailgate Blues” for Luke Bryan, the 26-year-old from Georgia seems poised for a big breakout radio hit or two sometime in the near future.
Regardless of what fortunes might await him as a songwriter, Cobb’s self-titled EP will make you hope that he always finds a way to continue putting out music under his own name as well. Good, distinctive country voices are rare enough.
We caught up with the singer-songwriter for a quick round of questions.
People just hearing about you with this new EP might be surprised to learn that you made a full album with Dave Cobb and Shooter Jennings out in Los Angeles years ago. What was that experience like?
I think surprises are a good thing. It was like I was William Miller, the kid journalist in the movie Almost Famous. I met Dave at his grandmother’s – my great aunt Christine’s – funeral. My Grandma gave him a 6 song acoustic demo. He and Shooter called my folks’ house phone two days later, which changed my life. The first time I ever flew on a plane was to L.A. to record that record. It was something straight out of a movie.
Since signing your Nashville publishing deal in 2009, you’ve had major cuts with Luke Bryan, Kellie Pickler, David Nail, the Eli Young Band, and Little Big Town. Lots of young writers can only dream of that track record. How do you account for so much early success?
None of this would be happening the way it has without first recording No Place Left To Leave with Dave and Shooter. I wouldn’t have had it for Luke Bryan to hear when we first met. After he became a fan of that record, he stayed in contact and consistently urged me to come to Nashville. Once I finally did, I stayed a week with him. In that week, he introduced me to every side of the town there is: major labels, publishers, booking agents, managers, et cetera. I even had my first official co-write with him and a guy named Jay Knowles. After that week I made the move to California, but stayed in touch with people Luke introduced me to in Nashville. So, after I decided L.A wasn’t necessarily the place for me, I moved to Nashville with a handful of friends and contacts who knew I hadn’t quit working. One of the booking agents, Aaron Tannenbaum, introduced me to Carnival [Music] and that’s where I’ve been since. Its like family. They’re really good at what they do. It wouldn’t have happened as “quickly” without the initial work.
For all your accomplishments as a songwriter for mainstream artists, your Brent Cobb EP sounds quite a bit rootsier than anything that would actually get played on country radio outside of Texas. Wouldn’t adding some Bon Jovi riffs and sha-na-na-na-nas make your life considerably easier?
My dad has been a regional singer/songwriter/performer for 35 years. He has seen a lot of bands come onto the scene, get all the gigs, get the crowds right out of the gate. They last a while then just burn out. He says the key to longevity is to move like a slow-rolling train. Not full steam.
To have those riffs may make it easier, but it wouldn’t be fulfilling for me.
It seems like about half the people on the country charts right now are from Georgia, which is very upsetting to those of us who aren’t. What can be done to stop the flow of Georgians across the state line?
Georgia’s musical history is rich. I don’t think it can be stopped.
Any recent song holds we should know about? Particular songs you’ve written that you’d like to see placed with particular artists?
There are some things happening. I don’t want to jinx it.
You got off a little too easily with those last questions, so we’ll throw in a bonus. Ten favorite songwriters, living or dead. Go.
My dad, my uncle Brian, Roger Miller, Hayes Carll, Charlie Pate, Aaron Raitiere, Eminem, Kurt Cobain, Delbert McClinton & Glen Clark – I have to include them as one because they, together, wrote every song on the Delbert & Glen Sessions and that’s some badass songwriting – and Ronnie Van Zant.
Keep up with him at www.brentcobb.net.