Brent Cobb makes country music his own way
A few years back, Brent Cobb was a name most country-music fans didn’t know, even though they’d probably heard a few songs written by him.
Cobb’s knack for a fine country song has not gone unnoticed in Nashville, and he’s had versions of his tunes done by Luke Bryan (“Tailgate Blues”), Little Big Town (“Rockaway”), Kenny Chesney (“Don’t It”) and Miranda Lambert (“Sweet By & By’) among others. But in 2016, Cobb released his second album under his own name, Shine On Rainy Day, and a funny thing happened; in an age of pop-country hybrids and massive, radio-friendly production, this ten song collection of stripped-down, largely acoustic country-Americana became an unexpected mainstream hit, landing at #I7 on Billboard’s Country Albums chart and garnering a Grammy nomination for Best Americana Album.
And despite the strength of Cobb’s songwriting resume and the appeal of his less-is-more approach, no one was more surprised than him when the album started selling.
“I didn’t expect Shine to do what it did,” Cobb says. “It was just nice to get it out.”
For the follow-up, Cobb, who will perform at Radio Room in Greenville on Saturday, avoided playing it safe and changed things up a bit, adding some Southern rock muscle on 2018’s Providence Canyon, courtesy of lead guitarist Mike Harris. Not that Cobb sees what he’s done as a radical reworking of his sound.
“Mike knows every Lynyrd Skynyrd lick in the book,” Cobb says, “and that may have fed into the rockier sound, but I wrote the songs from a similar place, I still feel like if you took off a lot of the electric guitars and stripped the drums down, it would be a very similar album to Shine. The songs came from the same place.”
The way Cobb sees it, Providence Canyon is merely a continuation of what he was doing on Shine On Rainy Day, and he didn’t give much thought to how it would be received commercially.
“I refer to Shine as being a Sunday morning album, and Providence Canyon as being Friday night album,” Cobb says with a laugh. “For me, the difference wasn’t so obvious, but I’ve noticed since that people are talking about it. I think they’re yet to give Providence Canyon a full listen-through.”
It’s an interesting philosophy, especially given that the new album has been just as much of a commercial success as his previous one, but it’s indicative of Cobb’s low-key approach. He’s simply going to keep plugging along, writing songs and playing shows, and let the chips fall where they may. In fact, Cobb says he’s never really been able to consciously aim himself in one artistic or commercial direction, regardless of what’s working in the marketplace.
“It’s never worked that way,” he says. “Any song that I’ve had that’s been recorded by another artist is a songs I’d consider for my own albums. That’s the only time I can write songs that work. Any time I’ve ever sat down and thought ‘I’m going to write a song for this artist,’ or I’m going to try to write a song to go on someone else’s album,’ it’s never worked for me. So I try not to think about it like that.”
Of course, it helps that Cobb’s cousin Dave, one of the most sought-after producers in the music business, has produced his last two albums. Dave Cobb’s name appears on albums by Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson and many more, and his magic touch with roots-rock and country artists is undeniable.
All Brent can say to that is, “I told you so.” “I remember when I first moved to Nashville and got a publishing deal, people started trying to produce me,” he says, “and I told them I had this cousin that was an amazing producer. He was in L.A. at the time, but I was telling them how much I trusted him more than anybody. Nobody knew the stuff he was
doing, so it was hard to convince somebody to spend money to produce an album with your cousin that no one’s ever heard of. But you can trust him with your whole heart, family or not.”
Who: Brent Cobb & Them, with Zack Logan
Where: Radio Room, 110 Poinsett Hwy., Greenville
When: Saturday, Feb. 9th, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $12 adv., $15 dos.
More information: 864-609-4441