INTERVIEW: Cooper Boone

Cooper Boone is not a household name – not yet, but he is working on it. Cooper and I spent a very relaxing afternoon in Nashville to talk about all the exciting things he has going on – and there is a lot! Cooper has just released his second CD project, he has a television cooking show and has a hand full of other projects that keep him traveling between Nashville, his farm on the East Coast and New York City. Cooper is as genuine as they come and has a voice that will keep you listening to the CD over and over; my prediction is that we will soon hear his name quite often.

Bev: Wow, Cooper, where do we begin. I was reading your blog earlier and you never sit still.
Cooper: I actually took a short break recently to focus on a project and I stopped blogging. I couldn’t believe how many people looked forward to it. I was trying to commit to everyday, but it takes a lot of time to let people know what I am up to all of the time. But they love it.
Bev: I need to share something with you about your horseshoe logo that is on all of your websites and promotional items, you need to turn it upside down, the way you have it is considered bad luck.
Cooper: (Smiling) There are two beliefs around that. I will educate you. (He shows me his necklace) I’ve had this logo for years. There is a belief that when the open end is pointed upward; it holds your luck and there is a belief that when the open end is down; it pours into you. It’s the old is the glass half empty or is the glass half full.
Bev: I’ve never heard that before.
Cooper: So this has been a funny little necklace I’ve had for probably twenty years that has turned into part of my brand.
Bev: Branding is the new thing and a big part of the image you want people to recognize you by.
Cooper: For my cooking show and associated projects I am branding a line of food and it’s amazing what goes into that whole process. I have gained much respect for bookers, branders and those who market the product, because I’m doing a lot of leg work myself.
Bev: Speaking of leg work, you travel often between Nashville, New York and your home in North Carolina, do you enjoy the variance?
Cooper: I love Nashville, I wish I were here more, but I have to split my time between here, my farm and New York.
Bev: What’s in New York?
Cooper: I consult at a nursing home.
Bev: Really?! That’s a far cry from the music industry.
Cooper: I have a doctorate in Psychology. I started in music very young but it wasn’t the right time; I basically did weddings, I was the wedding singer. It put me through graduate school. I felt I was called to work with struggling people, so I worked in a center for drug addicts and with AIDS babies when no one would touch them. I also worked at a prison and in the projects so I have accumulated a lot of real life experience to use in my song writing.
Bev: What took you to New York?
Cooper: I went there for my doctoral internship and ended up getting hired by the hospital to work with AIDS babies. I don’t have a huge love affair with New York City. I appreciate it in a very different way now that I’m not there full-time and that’s why I bought the farm. It reminds me a lot of where I come from in Minnesota and it has become my sanity. I have an 1866 farm house, which originally was a German-American boarding house.
Bev: Do you raise your own food and do gardening there as part of your cooking show? Tell me how you went from New York to a TV show and being a country artist.
Cooper: Long story short Cowboy Kitchen which is what we were going to call it, is now called Coop’s Kitchen and my goal is to show people that they can merge things that they love into high brands. It took off due to a Hollywood Music Award I won last year for best country artist and as a result of being in LA I got calls from agencies to do get the cooking show off the ground.
Bev: Where are they doing the filming at?
Cooper: At the farm primarily but possibly Nashville as well because there’s a possibility to have some well known names on the show, so if that all falls into place then we will do some filming here and also in LA.
Bev: Had you always been a big cook?
Cooper: Well in my family cooking was a survival tool. I started cooking at 5 or 6 years old. I have a line of food coming out in November that includes barbeque sauces, jams, jellies, salsas, chips and coffee. The goal is to get onto QVC and package it as a food and music package. So when you buy a Coop’s kitchen product you always get a CD.
Cooper: I’m meeting with major networks to show them the pilot. I rounded up some really cool guests that are joining me; food-y people, authors, movie stars; so it should be an interesting little adventure.
Bev: Filming TV and making music video’s is not so much different; have you done music videos for any of your songs?
Cooper: We just finished the video it’s to “Country Living” and I filmed it upstate. I have a whole different appreciation for what it means to put out a music video. It was a three day and scenes were built, there were several different locations, costumes, make up, lighting and then weather. I was amazed. Kudos! Kudos ladies and gentleman for what you do.
Bev: Let’s talk about the CD. You mentioned starting singing when you were young – how young?
Cooper: It was choir! School choir. When I hear about school programs cutting music programs I cringe. Choir changed my life. I was in church choir as well. That was a place that I learned so many skills sets, mostly how to work as a team and in choir there aren’t stars. I got my ear from that, my ear for the harmonies which I love. A lot of my music is very harmonic. I don’t consider myself an entertainer as much as a songwriter or singer. I am here to entertain people and bring them on some kind of journey. My inspiration really is Jimmy Buffet in terms as a brand and what he has done with food and music. I want to do all of that.
Bev: Do you write or co-write most of your own songs?
Cooper: I co-write a lot. Angela Kaset and I wrote a song with James Dean Hicks, who I love. He’s brilliant. That was an amazing day we wrote, “What I did today” which is a ballad and it’s a great song actually. Angela is a dear friend and we continue to write together and we’re doing a Christmas show in New York.
Bev: Lets talk more about the CD you have just released, what do you love about it?
Cooper: The entire project is deep and fun and silly. It has meaningful ballads that I pulled from my experience with working with crazy people for many years and my own crazy-ness as well. It’s about epiphanies that happen in ones lives when you get to a certain moment. It is about paying attention to life and that life is about relationships and service; that is how I was raised. Life is about repair and knowing you can always go back to repair relationships and mending fences. “What I Did Today” is about waking up to my life. Moments where you get so unconscious about humanity. It’s about a re-awakening of my life. There’s a song in there called “Yes” and I say yes because I’m all run out of no’s. Then there are songs about silly-ness. I’ve got “Cougar Dream”, a song that has garnered press. It’s my homage to hot women over forty. I didn’t even know what a cougar was a year and a half ago. When I play that song it comes from a good place; there aren’t enough songs for ladies over forty and I’ve decided to write this one for them and it’s silly, it’s funny. USA Today did an article on it and the song is catching on, especially with the new TV show out there now. Timing is everything.
Bev: When you look into your audience, what kind of fan base do you have?
Cooper: Women over thirty. These are ladies who watch QVC, work hard, raise children and have jobs. You know what the best compliment is? It is not from country music fans; but when I get something from someone saying I didn’t get into country music until today. I get choked up every time they say that. We get into our ruts and our rituals that we do. So I if I need to woo country music fans through food and merge two of my favorite things, then I am very happy.
Bev: With the economy as it is and the ever changing marketing, digital vs hard copy; what else are you doing outside the box to promote your music?
Cooper: There’s a song called “One Song”, I wrote for DKMS which is for the world’s largest leukemia bone marrow matching bank. Leukemia mostly affects children which is a huge cause of mine; as is the general well being of kids. I wrote their theme song and sang it at the Cipriani which is the coolest place I’ve ever been to in my life. It’s an old bank that’s a restaurant in New York City. I had a children’s choir back me.
Bev: What’s been the worst experience while making music?
Cooper: The worst is the monster machine of the business. It’s frustrating because it is filled with a lot of power. I guess it is the curiosity and then figuring out the problems of it; then knowing, somehow dancing a little bit with it but making sure I don’t take the dance to seriously. It’s a very tricky thing and I find it very frustrating.
Bev: What has been one of the craziest things a fan has ever done or told you?
Cooper: I have been asked to father children, I have had undergarments taken off, and I have had people stalk me at my house. I’ve had young ladies want me to marry their mother, everything.
Bev: When that sort of thing happens, what thoughts go through your head?
Cooper: I have a pretty good sense of humor. I just play along with it and attempt to say some clever thing without hurting people’s feelings. People hopefully know me for saying crazy stuff to them. Not much shocks me.
Bev: What about something that has been very emotional? Has there been something someone said that you didn’t expect?
Cooper: Yes, several times. I have spent and shed many tears with fans. I have been to some very deep places in these songs and it touches people. I wrote a song for my grandmother which is called “Celia’s Hand”. I struggled for many years on how to write it and a woman came up to me and told me your grandmother would be very proud of you and that always touches me. My grandmother was very very dear to me. She’s been gone since 1993 and still; she’s the driving force and ultimately why I’m sitting here. She believed in me and didn’t think I was stupid.
Bev: You said it took a long time to write, how long?
Cooper: Fifteen years. The loss was very painful for me; the loss was just to close. When I did the album release party, my mother and sister were there and I had cousins fly in and they were all weeping.
Bev: Is that song your all time favorite?
Cooper: Absolutely. It means the most to me.
Bev: When you write do you have a specific way you like to write or are you an idea person and you’ve just got to spill it out right now?
Cooper: What I do is, because I forget everything, I write it down right away and if I can’t I’m always calling my voicemail with song ideas, like three or four times a day. Then I’ll sit down, and this is what I love about Nashville, people will are not stingy down here about writing because it’s a relationship industry like everything else. I’ve been very fortunate that so much is a co-write here and I love that. That’s synergistic and I don’t think there is anywhere else in the world where people are like that
Bev: What kind of music is your influence?
Cooper: Anything, I listen to anything. Even contemporary and there is some rap I like. It all depends on what they’re saying and if I can understand it. I love Mary J Blige in terms of R&B I’m a huge fan of Garth Brooks, as an entertainer it doesn’t get better than him. I saw him at a state fair many moons ago and I just found him to be so generous to the audience and his energy and who he was. I’m a big, big fan of Little Big Town. Lots of harmonies and they are very Fleetwood Mac, which is what I grew up on and I enjoy The Eagles. In terms of folk, I grew up on a lot of James Taylor. I love John Denver; He wrote a lot about the things that I connect with, such as nature, the environment and just being outside. Leann Rimes is simply good, through and through and she has a great live show. Kathy Mattea I could listen to til the cows come home; there’s just something about that voice. Of course Angela Kaset. Angela has that kind of Carly Simon quality to her voice, so obviously a lot of genre’s and a lot of different ages but I think you have got to keep yourself open to music, to life. It gets into your soul and influences you in some way. It also helps you define what you don’t like as well as what you like.
Bev: Do you have any advice for new artists?
Cooper: I hope that when people hear my story they get inspired more and more, and go for what they want. People are so stuck in fear, and I understand that, I’ve been there, but once again you don’t know until you’ve been there.
Bev: Is there anything we have not covered?
Cooper: I am going to do a cookbook this year! A publishing company wants me to do a cookbook and of course I am planning to have a CD in it. Everything’s got to have music with it.
Bev: When you are in the kitchen, do you sing while you’re cooking?
Cooper: Yes! We sing on the show! We cook and while it’s baking we do a song and go back and eat and we’re done. It’s Paula Dean meets the show Crossroads, literally.
Bev: I have enjoyed talking with you so much and your CD is amazing. I look forward to seeing the TV show.
Cooper: Thanks and I enjoyed this time as well and thank you for your time.

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