With his excellent falsetto, tender lyrics jammed full of personal experiences, JP Cooper is a natural wordsmith. His soulful hit single 'September Song' perfectly captures those bittersweet summer memories that we all know so well.
Now back with his latest single 'Passport Home', the singer/songwriter lets us know what the inspiration was behind a song that's more than just about reaching a physical destination & why he's not an artist that will ever get too 'big for his boots'.
What was your first thought this morning?
I have been trying to have a bit of a ritual in the mornings, every day seems like I am in a different place and I am trying to have a bit of time for myself. Where I am not thinking about everything that is going on, so most mornings I sit up and this sounds a bit out there, but I try and settle into where I am for a minute and not think about the day.
You grew up in Manchester, right?
Do you have any words or thoughts about the Manchester bombing, being from there?
I mean obviously, for me and every Mancunian it was a massive shock and it was heartbreaking, I think the main thing that has changed for me is, is the incredible unity that was shown for Manchester. We've all gotten together and not looked back in anger. And I think that the main thing that we can do is respond with love, hope and strength, and I think that seeing Manchester come together and do that has made me even more proud to be from such a place.
So let's go back to the start what was it like growing up in Manchester?
Well, I grew up in a very small town called Middleton that was just outside of Manchester and it was very white, very working class, surrounded by cotton mills that were mostly not used anymore.
When Manchester came into play for me was the 90's, my teen years, it was absolutely amazing, the kind of music that was coming out of there was Oasis and bands like that were all over the world and they were such a huge influence at the time.
They were great as well cause they came from Manchester and it made it seem achievable, like these guys are doing it, and as a result of that a lot of young teenagers bought a crappy cheap guitar from the local music shop and they'd learn a few chords, and that was really the catalyst for discovering my love for music.
I came from creative family, a family of artists but music wasn't really a thing so Manchester in a way was definitely the catalyst for me finding that love, and with it being just a multicultural place I was able to draw from and kind of marinade in so many different things.
During that time you also taught yourself music, tells us more about that.
Well, it really began with just singing and writing, I didn't really play the guitar, all of my friends played guitars and I was never really the studious type. For me to sit down with a guitar, that part of my brain, the mathematical part of my brain that has to learn like serious things, I don't think it works as well as the play part of my brain, so I had to learn music like it was a toy.
For me, the beginning of it was more songs, words, lyrics and I would work with the players, so that came into play very quickly, so for me, it was more about how things felt rather than the theoretical side of things.
Even now, although I do play guitar, and I sometimes write on the piano, I have no idea theoretically what I am doing, which allows me to keep it in that 'play' world. It's like when they say, when we look at the stars we cannot know what they are but when we look at it through a child's eyes it's completely magical a completely different thing. So I try as much as I can to keep my music like that.
So not following any rules has allowed you more creative freedom?
Definitely! Cause music is similar to math's it is based on rules, so obviously there are certain things that don't sound good and will never sound good.
But rather than me learning the rules of it, and saying I want to make a song, and I know that this chord goes with that chord, it was more a case of my brain would almost steer where it wants to go and I'd have to find it with my hands rather than, just knowing 'oh, that is c sharp or that can go with this chord'.
It was more I'd hear it and sometimes, I'd make a mistake and it would be better than my initial idea, so there's an element of you know, your mistakes being allowed to happen and as a result of that you learn from them, you learn strange and different ways of doing things, I think there's a greater freedom in that.
Tell us about your latest single passport home?
So I wrote it in February while I was in LA and the whole time I was there it rained, thought I was going to get a beautiful week of sunshine.
I went out for a meal one night with friends, and I got a car home and, and as I stepped out of the Uber, I heard a splash but it was really raining really heavy, and the gutters were like rivers, so I checked my pockets, and I was like I have got my wallet, my phone, my hotel room key, went to bed and then woke up the next day. Put my jeans back on and I was like 'Oh shit, where is my passport,' so basically I had lost my passport!
The day that I was in the studio I was calling up the hotel, calling the Uber, calling up the restaurant from the night before and during all of this I was thinking, about the idea of what a passport is, and how it is obviously the thing that allows people to get to their destination, and I got thinking about how there a lot of people who are alive that allow us to get to a certain destination. So the passport became more of a metaphor really, for the people or the situation, or somebody who encourages you or has allowed you to get to a certain destination in your life.
As the song passport home is about finding it hard to get home, what would you do for the refugees if you were prime minister?
I just think that it's such a huge, huge injustice in the world that the countries are broken up in the way they are and people, aren't able to move around. Of course, there are security issues and things like that, but we have lost the humanity to really see these people as human beings. I know that there is space in this country for them there are so many unused buildings that have been bought by the rich, that are sat there with no one living in them, there is to many innocent people, who are being shut out and not helped. It is heartbreaking, I have no idea what I would do if I was the prime minister.
And of course talking about the refugees is one thing but another thing is coming from Manchester I also see every time that I go back there are people from the UK, living on the streets. So I think anybody who hasn't got a home, it shows that a country has real problems and it is failing its people.
September song has been a massive hit, has all the success changed anything for you?
It definitely hasn't changed me as a person, I came into this industry at a much later age so I am too set in my ways to change. The only thing that's changed maybe is what I aim for, now that I know what I am capable of, my expectations of myself are a bit higher, but to be honest with you I have always been my own worst critic, and I have always been a dreamer so think if I wasn't that way then I wouldn't be where I am today.
Obviously, where I am musically, I get on the radio quicker, the venues are bigger, the bigger radio stations have started playing my music, and people from all over the world are asking me to do interviews so that's changed.
But as far as who I am, I think that the fact of the matter is I have spent more time in my life pulling pints in the bar than I have, being on stage. So I am actually still more comfortable in that kind of place and I am okay with that.
I don't need to be the star on stage whose sold a million singles, I am very happy to be the guy who used to work in a bar who writes songs and people like them, so I think it will continue to be like that.
So you're not an attention seeker?
Oh God now! I am definitely more of an introvert than an extrovert, I am happier in the studio, or on my own writing, than I am in big crowds, in big parties and things like that.
What moments inspired September song?
I guess it was inspired by the kind of looking back on high school days when times were very much simpler and the biggest worries you had in your life was missing your crush during the summer holidays. Obviously, the whole thing is massively romantic, there isn't a particular person that I am pinning for from high school days. But you know, I think it is nice to write something that was just a very innocent, sweet, nostalgic, teenage love song really.
What lessons has being a dad taught you?
Just being a musician and a dad is hard. I guess it taught me to be consistent as a parent, your time can't always be consistent but your character can be, especially now my time has become a lot more precious.
So what's left in your life to accomplish?
I am constantly chasing a balance in life, between my music and personal life. As far as music goes, becoming more raw and honest in my content, obviously I want to reach as many people as possible, but the main thing is finding a balance within that as well.
Don't forget to pre-order JP Cooper's LP Raised Under Grey Skies coming out on September the 22nd!
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