From folk-filled beats to crepuscular soundscapes, JP Cooper effortlessly blends high-energy sounds that sends your psyche into a place of chilled-out reflection.
JP Cooper is not just another guy with a guitar. He’s songs are very internal, very personal. He has the ability to walk a fine line—creating records that are both poignant and raw. But the beauty of his work is that he’s entrancing, soul-laden voice also has the ability to leap from neo-soul to folk to pop, he connects the dots with emotional power.
The Manchester-born singer-songwriter continues to delight with the release of his new EP, ‘Keep The Quiet Out.’ It’s packed with great storytelling, optimism, and catchy guitar jams which hides their heaviness at first. His unfiltered sound is the kind you’ll hum softly, then dance along to whilst repeating the words in your head. His lyrics speak with sincerity in between his enigmatic stanzas, but that’s exactly how JP and his fans like it.
So, to get right into it, when did you go from listening to songs to making them?
I think probably when I was about 15. I remember a friend of mine buying a guitar and both of us doing covers for a bit of fun round his house. It then got to the point where we decided to start writing some stuff and it was terrible [laughs.] It was awful, it didn’t make any sense. Ever since then I haven’t looked back. I pretty much said, ‘This is what I want to do.’
Is it at all pressuring, the idea of people out there talking about you?
I mean, it’s amazing. It’s what I have always wanted, you know, to reach people and to be able to turn up at venues I’ve never been to before. Since those days when I first picked up a pen and started putting stuff on paper I’ve been preparing, so I’m kind of totally ready for whatever is coming.
What do you feel is your strongest talent—the singing, the writing?
It’s definitely not playing the instruments because I’ll always call myself a blagger when it comes to that. I’m not a trained musician. I kind of just picked up the guitar and worked with the shapes. I’ve worked really hard over the years and I’ve always wanted to challenge myself, as far as the singing goes. And with the writing I guess I am getting better. I’m lucky enough to have developed my vocals to the point where people are finding an element of honesty and an element of emotion, I guess. So, I think the singing and the writing just compliments each other. I mean, one wouldn’t stand-up without the other. The last gig I did in Birmingham, a young man proposed to his girlfriend during one of my songs because I think the song connected with him so much. I think the writing will reach people on a much deeper level than just my vocal abilities.
If you could hand out the award for best songwriter of the decade, who would it go to?
There are so many amazing writers out there — Passenger and Ed Sheeran are two amazing writers but then they are not really people who I would go home and listen to. But I can appreciate the way that they write. Coming from the guitar background that I’ve come from I don’t know if I’ve subconsciously taken bits of influences from people like Bill Withers and Foo Fighters. I think they have some amazing songs, their songwriting is fantastic. It’s really difficult to pinpoint one person who I would give that crown to.
There are people who say, “JP Cooper, he looks like Jason Mraz, he’s Bob Marley’s love child.” How do you feel about that?
[Laughs] I don’t really get too caught up in that kind of thing. I mean, the main thing for me is to focus on the songs that I’m writing. But don’t get me wrong, it’s cool, I like to laugh at stuff like that. I know image is a big thing in this industry so I’m quite easy-going with those kinds of comparisons.
In your words, how would you describe your music then?
I’m a singer-songwriter but, as far as the music goes, it’s coming from a place that’s very soulful. I think up until now I’ve been making acoustic music but I’m definitely experimenting more with other sounds. I’ve always thought of my sound as a little alternative, it’s not pop music but at the same time there are some sprinkles of pop in there.
Tell me about your new EP. How did you go about choosing ‘Keep The Quiet Out’ as a title?
It came from the title track of the EP and the idea of having to make a sound to stop yourself being lost and being kind of caught up in the quiet and your thoughts. That silence can get into you and it can eat away at you sometimes. I mean, silence is a great thing but it depends on the state of mind you’re in. I don’t often dwell on things like that too much, I try and stay positive in what I’m doing. I guess that’s my way of making a positive out of a negative.
Your music is so intimate and personal— are all of your songs based on real experiences?
Yeah, a lot of them are. Sometimes it’s conversations I might hear from other people or situations that my friends might find themselves in. It’s not always autobiographical but they are definitely inspired by real people. Some of them are trigged by me writing from someone else’s, perspective but they are things that I see around me, in society and within my social circles.
You’re currently working on your debut album, how do you think, you’ll know when it’s “done”?
It’s funny because my dad’s a painter and he used to always say, ‘Leave it until it’s done.’ The main thing for me at the minute is finding the way to put things in their right place and having things work together so that all of the elements — production-wise and instrumentally are working together. That’s a journey that I’m on and which I’m learning more about. Every song’s a new challenge. This new EP has been the most experimental one that I’ve ever done. I think by the time I get to the album I’ll probably come back a little bit more towards the more organic sound of things.
Given the nature of your music, people have this emotional attachment to your songs. I would assume most of them would probably imagine you as this sad, delicate person…
I’m actually a pretty positive person whatever life throws at me. I’m also quite a romantic person from the way I look at life [laughs.] I definitely wouldn’t say that I’m this fragile sort of person but I think my writing gives me the opportunity to explore that. There are certain themes which I don’t think a lot of guys are allowed to go into without people saying, ‘Oh, you big softie.’ I like to explore and go to those places. In my day-to-day life, I’m a pretty ordinary guy. I’m most definitely not the type that you would see in coffee shops writing poetry.
At this point of your life, how many guitars do you own?
I’ve not got that many compared to most people. The first one that I ever had is broken so I don’t really play it very much. I’ve got a double bass salon that I bought which is broken to the point where it cannot be fixed. I’ve got another one that I use most of the time which is my baby, and I’ve also got an electric guitar that comes out of it’s bag every now and then.
Words: Noel Phillips