As a 22 year old singer/songwriter, I am often referred to as one of the young up and coming artists in our music world. To me, this is a term I am proud to be associated with. During a radio interview last week I was discussing how some of the artists in this group have started to realize that you have to be very different in order to stick out. I would like to take this opportunity and elaborate on one of my favorite artsits in this scene who has taken some flack for maybe being TOO different … Johnny Cooper.
I feel that change is neccessary in music. It also can’t be fought. With age, comes change. Change in mindset. Change in attitude. Change in direction. I went through some of this change between my first record and the new one, and I can feel more change coming as I settle back into the reality that, soon, I will have to begin the process of thinking about the next record.
When I heard Johnny’s new record, “Follow”, for the first time, I realized why so many people in this industry went, “Whoa, whoa, whoa! What the hell is this.” To me this record is a beacon of hope for all of us who remember this scene as one that is for music. Somewhere through the years it has become somewhat commercial, and “Follow” blows the doors wide open. It is not a country record. It is not a rock record. It is a record. Full of everything that is Johnny Cooper.
When did we start to fear change? Change is different for everyone, and for those of us who have been around Johnny for many years, we could tell what was coming. I’ve been asked before, “Have you heard the Johnny Cooper record? He has strayed from the last one.” In the most polite tone, I always respond with this simple answer, “So.” If we begin to put restrictions on how much people can change, or put up barricades to block off the paths certain musicians want to take, doesn’t that do a huge injustice to the art of music? If change varies why should there be a standard for it. If I want to make a more pop influenced record next time, shouldn’t you give it the same shot as a more country record?
Change can be a beautiful thing if it is respected, and once you start to fear it, you begin down a slippery slope that leads to nothing good. I am proud of Johnny for doing what he wanted, and I am proud to be in a scene where we have the luxory to make records without the control of someone else to say, “You can’t do that song.” or ” I don’t think we will release this record. It just won’t sell.” We must all embrace the fact that as time goes by, people become different. If they didn’t, music would be no fun.
Don’t fear what might be different. Embrace it. Give it the same chance you would anything else. You never know when your eyes will be opened to something you didn’t quite understand before.
Go buy “Follow”. Put it in, turn off all distractions, put on the headphones, and absorb the music. I bet you’ll be surprised.