Welcome back to the nineteenth feature from the Collective Series by The Idle Man. Where we meet up with interesting men who either work in the creative industry, or we just admire the work they do. Styled in our most recent collections, drops, and photographed by our Editor Cal McIntyre, read the full feature below as we believe it's more about what we do, rather than what we wear. To shop the products JP Cooper is wearing simply click the images.
Meet JP Cooper, the voice behind the 2017 summer hit “September Song”. Although he was born in Manchester, music wasn’t the first thing on Cooper's mind, who was, in fact, a keen sportsman. It wasn’t until he grew into his teen years and found an interest in music, particularly falling for the grunge scene. From playing in his room to forming a band in school to creating the 2017 tune, Cooper has been creating smooth and soulful sounds which have lead to his career rocketing and being picked by the leaders of the MOBO Awards and Island Records.
During his younger years, the “Passport Home” singer taught himself how to play the guitar and began exploring other genres of music, finding himself listening and aspiring to Bob Marley, which explains his style nowadays with his dreadlocks, goatee and Rasta-hat. After discovering the world of soul he dove in and started writing some of his own songs, themed around romance with a strong sense of emotion mix with his colloquial lyrical content. In 2012 Cooper made his first self-produced trio of acoustic singles which were instant hits and loved by many more than he originally had anticipated.
After gaining attention from his early singles the soulful singer was pushed further into the spotlight when the organisers at the MOBO awards gave a shout out to the up and coming singer saying he was ‘one to watch’. Gaining a huge following after receiving the support he was quickly signed to Island Records, the same record company which signed his idol, Bob Marley.
Cooper was seeing the attention his music was getting and released is debut EP for the label “Keep The Quiet Out”. Different from what he was used to producing, it had more of an electric sound which was something that he enjoyed created as it was another genre for him to explore and learn about. The six-track EP lead the way for his biggest album to follow. In 2017 Cooper released his first album “Raised Under Grey Skies” featuring the tracks “September Song”, “She’s On My Mind” and “Momma’s Prayers” which he collaborated with Stormzy on. The album was a huge success with “September Song” making it number seven in the UK charts. To this day the dance hit has racked up over 345 million streams on Spotify.
This year he is taking his music on tour visiting seven different countries including, UK, Romania, France and Germany. Visit his website for more information on tour dates and booking. However, before the tour kicks off later this year and his diary gets too full, The Idle Man is sitting down with the man himself to discuss his quick success and his future plans.
How did you discover the different genres at a young age, did your parents show you what they’re interested in?
Growing up there wasn't a lot of music around the house, the only things I can really remember was my Dad playing artists like the Drifters and maybe a bit of James Taylor. We used to have long drives up to my Grandparents place most weekends and I really loved listening to the radio back then, I remember singing along in the back of the car. To be honest, it wasn't until I was a teenager that I really started to get involved with music and started really listening to it and that was mainly through friends and being in Manchester in the late ’90s/early ’00s. There was a huge amount going on musically so that was when I started delving more into different types of music like rock/soul/electronic but it definitely wasn't family influenced.
What was the name of the band you were in at school? Did you ever perform?
I was in a few bands at school and we didn’t really ever have names, we used to rehearse in the school hall after school but we didn't really do any shows. I think we tried to do something at lunchtime once but it didn't really pan out. The performances didn't start until a little bit later. My first ever performance was in a rehearsal room complex that was opened up to the public, sort of a come in and bring your own booze type of thing, basically a bit of a free party with different bands playing in each room. It's funny, I was very young and naive and I thought there was going to be record labels there but it was just a load of other musicians.
What do you love the most about music?
As a listener, I love the way it makes me feels. I love that it lifts, changes or enhances my mood. I love that it gives me an outlet to speak and express myself. I love that way that it makes other people feel. I love that it's something I have that I can use to communicate with other people but ultimately, it's about feeling, and I love the way it makes me feel.
How did the collaboration with Stormzy and Astrid S happen?
Stormzy was a collaboration that was always going to happen, he was coming to my shows a long while back just around the time he was just starting to break, and we had been messaging on socials for ages saying that we need to write together. Finally, it happened, the song that we did was written within a few hours with the production and music all being finished off by Hannah Vasanth and it made it on to my album, I am really happy with the way it turned out.
Astrid was different, I’d already written Sing It With Me and we were looking for a female to sing the mid and final chorus. I wanted a really really sweet-sounding voice so I was looking around and somebody suggested Astrid S, I heard her and I just thought we have to have this girl on the track. Her voice is so sweet and when we got into the studio, I was so happy with the way the two voices worked together. That was more me hunting for someone who had a particular sound. I've been travelling and doing shows with her
recently and she's a great girl, always smiling and great to be around so it's all worked out great.
Who else is on the bucket list for collaborations?
I don’t know at the moment, I'm not really chasing anyone. I think most of the people I’d love to collaborate with are in the Hip Hop world but that’s more of a pipe dream at this point. People like Kanye or Chance the Rapper or Dr Dre, any of those people would be amazing obviously. I just keep my mind open and you know things come along that you probably weren't expecting and that can turn out great. for instance a recent collaboration I have done with French producer Petit Biscuit. I don't really go hunting for collaborations, they tend to just come along.
How would you describe the music you create today in comparison to your debut record?
I would say it's a natural progression really. I've tried recently to challenge myself to write with more pop sensibilities, it was never really on my agenda to be a part of the pop world and I've kind of found myself here but its a very free and interesting space. My first releases were from a real personal place, now I have more life experience and I find it easier to write for fun /enjoyment and for the challenge of it. There will always be things that I write about that come from the heart but this record will be more playful which I equally enjoy.
Who is your style inspiration?
There are people who I admire for the way they are but I wouldn't say I take conscious inspiration from them. One of my favourites is Steve McQueen, but right now I’d say I was taking inspiration from Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite, he's pretty badass.
Are you looking forward to going on tour this year?
Of course, I always look forward to getting back out on the road, It's been a while so I like to ease my way back into it gently so the first tour is pretty short. I especially like sharing new music and seeing how people react to it. It will be great to get back out with the guys and to see all the old and new fans who have supported me, it's always an exciting part of releasing new music.
You used to be a keen sportsman when you were younger, what sports did you play?
I was yes, I loved sports, English Literature and creative writing. They were kind of my first loves. I was a skinny kid who could run forever, I’d run for as long as anyone told me to, I’d just keep going I had a huge amount of energy. I loved distance running and cross country but also basketball and swimming. I never really got into football because I did so much other sport I never really had time even just to play with my mates in the park. I was pretty good at high jump as well which was unusual because I'm not the tallest person.
Do you still have the love for sports now, or has music taken over?
Once I discovered music everything else kind of slowed down really, I still try to enjoy sports now but its more to keep me feeling good and to keep myself from turning in to a studio slob. Cycling / Running / Boxing is probably the main things for me now but yes music has mostly taken over, to be honest.
Do you have any new releases planned for this year?
Yes, there will be a few more singles this year and a couple more collaborations. We are working towards releasing the album, I’m not sure it will be this year but it won't be too far off so ultimately everything is heading towards album 2!
What are your goals for your music career? Hhmmm I guess just to keep exploring really, you know, I feel so so grateful for the way doors have opened over the last few years. For me, ultimately, I want to be in a place where I am making music that I 100% love, that I am really proud of, that I am always excited to release. I want to continue to challenge myself, to meet other people, to collaborate and to get a point where my whole team is happy (and eating) including the musicians I play with. That to me is success.