Brent Cobb is a well respected songwriter and musician based in Nashville. He has written for artists such as Miranda Lambert and supported artists like Marty Stuart. He has a new album out ‘Providence Canyon’ and GIGsoup caught up with him on his recent tour of the UK.
Welcome Brent, it’s great to have you here. Tells us what you enjoy about being here
It’s my third time here and I look forward to going to the country side. I’ve been in the cities a lot and I would like to go out into the countryside. I’ve had fans on-line saying you should come hang out, we’re hillbillies just like you. So I’d like to go, if I get the opportunity.
Let’s talk about your early musical life. It seems to have been family affair. You played with your dad and recorded songs with your cousin, producer Dave Cobb. What are your recollections of those days?
We always used to pick guitars, at parties and on the front porch. Everybody played an instrument. We have an old photo of my great, great uncle and Dave’s great grandfather. They’re all sitting there with their fiddles, it just goes way back. Everybody’s always played music in the Cobb family. Music was a secondary source of income for our family. My father played on the weekends. It provided him with a bit of money. It was always treated as a trade, like going to school or heating or something. A lot of families don’t encourage the children to grow up and do music for a living, but in my household, it was always encouraged, you could do it. It was wonderful growing up in a household full of musicians.
What was the first instrument you picked up?
An old Fender Telecaster my dad had. It was an old you know and I think it was probably inherited. That was the first guitar and he showed me a chord a week.
When did you realise that you could stand out there on the stage and do this on your own?
I started singing with my dad on stage when I was super young, but I started a band when I was 12 and we would play and open shows for my dad’s band. That was still sort of recreational. I guess, not until I met Dave did I know that I could actually pursue it you know, as a career, as a professional. It took Dave to get me out of Georgia and move to LA. Once I did that, it was like, oh, I could do this.
What were those LA days like?
Good, I was seventeen, lived right in the middle of Hollywood. It was the first place I’d moved outside of Ellaville, Georgia, population 1609. I was working for an Art Department for a while, I went through an earthquake. I was almost car-jacked; there was a shooting on my road. I didn’t grow up that way. LA was a lot different, it was eye-opening. I am glad I experienced it.
How did you get to Nashville?
I’ve lived there for ten years. After LA, it was a lot easier to move to Nashville. It’s similar to my home town, but still much bigger. When I got there, I was able to land a publishing deal and start writing on Music Row. I still have the same publishing deal I got a decade ago. It’s what Willie Nelson and all my heroes had done before me. So it feels like I’m living in part of history, country music history.
You’ve written with the likes of Miranda Lambert, tell us about those kind of experiences?
In Nashville, it’s a big co-writing world. You walk in, often, you’re strangers. If you had a song idea, we’d start writing the song. I wasn’t used to that. I was used to writing by myself. I didn’t know how to share my thoughts. If I had a direction for a song, I didn’t know how to articulate that idea to someone else. I learnt that. I learnt team work on a song. I also learned how to critique myself. Probably more that I should. I’m sure you probably do the same as a writer. It’s definitely honed my craft. I try not to over think it. I try not to look too far into it. I still try to attack song-writing the same way I did when I was 16 – just from the heart.
Looking back over your co-writing is there one song that has special memories for you?
Gosh … a song I wrote for Miranda Lambert. It’s called ‘Old Shit’. My Grandfather had just passed away. I actually wrote it with Neil Mason from The Cadillac Three. It was the first time we’d ever written together. I was on my way to his house and I already had the first lines in my head. I walked in and said ‘I know this is strange, I know it’s a weird song idea …. But ‘. We wrote that song right there and got done with it. Both of us were like ‘no-one’s ever going to record that one’. Then lo and behold, Miranda Lambert recorded it. It did not make it to radio, but that’s a special song for me.
What was your thinking when you started writing for your new album ‘Providence Canyon’
We had been on the road with Chris Stapleton. We were opening these large 20,000 seated venues and I just wanted to rock a little bit. So going in to record this album, it was with that thought in mind. I wanted the song writing to be the same. I think the songs are from a similar spot as ‘Shine on Rainy Day, but I wanted bigger, funky production. I wanted it to feel lively, not so much of a songwriter album, more of a band album.
Tell us the story behind one of the key tracks ‘Ain’t a Road too long’?
I have a daughter and wife. I miss them so much, all the time. But there are a lot worse things that could be taking me away from them. I had two days off and on those particular days, I decided to get a hotel room of my own and write. That morning I got an e-mail form RAM Trucks asking if I’d be interested in writing a song for their next commercial. I was in this hotel, missing my family, thinking I got to keep going. I get the email and every theme they had was around family, loyalty, drive. That was exactly what I was feeling. I had the little riff and it just sort of fell out. I had that sure fire direction and it wrote itself.
You travel extensively. How do you make the tour bus ‘home’?
I wish we had the bus here, you could see. We hang pictures on the wall. There’s a song on my album called ‘The King of Alabama’ about Wayne Mills. I have a sketch of him. He’s no longer living, but he rides with us. Things like that. We have a dog on the bus, our driver has a little yorkie. That kind of makes it feel like home, having a little dog. I wish I could bring my wife and child out that would make it just like home. We have fun playing music for about an hour each evening, the rest of the time, it’s just moving.
Tell us a little about the animations that go with you songs. How did that come about?
They are actually done by a guy in London, Tom. I always liked this animated show called ‘School House Rock’ as a kid. They taught you different things, like how to spell. It was just cool. I loved the way it looked and wanted to do that.
Quick Fire Questions
Superman or Batman – Stick Man! I thought you said Pac Man or Stickman! I choose Batman and Stickman
Nature or Nurture – Nature is nurturing …. hmm … can’t pick!
Moonshine or Moonlight – Moonlight
Justice or Kindness – Kindness
Key Lime or Cherry pie – Gonna go with Cherry