The singer-songwriter gears up for World Poetry Day.
“I was never one to read poetry when I was younger,” JP Cooper sighs. “I’ve never really sat down and read the classics of poetry, maybe that’s something I should get into.”
Partnering up with Julius Meinl’s Pay With A Poem campaign for its fifth anniversary, the Manchester-born singer-songwriter is now gearing up to reveal something very special for World Poetry Day on 21 March. I was keen to talk through his involvement and with delight he responds, “I’m massively flattered that they asked me to get involved. It’s the first time I’ve ever been asked to do anything like this, so I’m really happy to take on the challenge!” The singer will be joining Viennese Coffee Roasters Julius Meinl on World Poetry Day next Wednesday, writing a song inspired by poets around the world as part of the campaign. “For songwriters, it’s not a regular thing for them to class themselves as poets. I’ve always thought that poets are on such another level to me, and I still do! I’m constantly inspired by poetry and I would really like to think that music influences poets too.”
Although Cooper acknowledges that poetry has traditionally been viewed as elitist, he sees the rise of non-traditional forms of poetry and the changing perception of “who” a poet is as changing the way that people view the art form. “Some of the most influential artists of our time are using poetry to inspire their lyrics, and for me, experimenting with poetry is an essential part of the ideation process,” he explains. “Much like music, poetry can provoke debate, stop you in your tracks, or reduce you to tears.” He also sees poetry’s rising accessibility as being influenced by social media – naming Rupi Kaur as one of his favourite “Instapoets” – alongside the use of the easily digestible free verse form and the fast-growing interest in spoken word poetry and slam poetry events.
Cooper started making music even before he considered it as a full time occupation. But before doing music as a career, he worked in coffee shops, soon becoming “a bit of coffee geek.” This is where the connection between the two was born. “There is a strange world between coffee and writing. It might be a bit cliched but it’s definitely there,” he laughs.
Following the massive release of album Raised Under Grey Skies in 2017, I was interested to hear the back story to Cooper’s incredibly heartfelt journey. “There is a lot of stuff that was from my childhood, and even now,” Cooper goes onto say. “I think it’s important to be honest as then there is more chance of people being able to relate to it. Us humans aren’t really that different, as we all share experiences. By writing like that, you are more able to connect with people which is the ultimate goal for us as writers.”
This debut full-length album showcases his soulful, versatile voice and fingerpicked guitar skills, often matched with stunning string and piano arrangements. Romantic in tone, with powerfully emotional and social lyrical content, his music varies from soulful R&B to more of an indie-pop style. “For me, when I say exactly what I wanted to say right and express it the way I wanted it, then I’m happy,” he emphasises. “One of the things I want for my music is for it to be able to evolve.”
While his track “September Song” has picked up over 200 million streams on Spotify, elsewhere Cooper has a number of great collaborations under his belt, having worked alongside the likes of Stormzy and Jonas Blue. “The Jonas Blue one was amazing simply because I learnt so much about myself,” he explains. “I kept thinking, I’m too underground for this, but if I hadn’t have done it I would have missed out on so many beautiful moments and open doors. But then the Stormzy one was just as amazing because of subject and something that we both had our own stories in, so it was easy to write.” Asking if he’s working on anything new, he lets me in on a secret. “I’ve just finished another collaboration with a grime artist Bugzy Malone, who is a fellow Manchurian. That’s something I’m really excited about that no-one has heard yet. I’ll always be doing collaborations because it’s exciting mixing new ingredients together and not knowing what it will taste like until you try it!”
So what’s to come for JP Cooper? “I’ve mostly been in the studio writing,” he says. “I’ve done a couple of little gigs and the great thing about this year is that I’ve been to some places I’ve not been before. I also want to work on more solo work this year, as-well as collaborations before the second album.” Yes you heard it. Brace yourselves. Second album here we come.
To find out more about Pay With A Poem, and how you can be involved, visit www.facebook.com/JuliusMeinlOfficial and www.meinlcoffee.com. Follow the social conversation using #PayWithAPoem and #PoetryForChange