10 New Country Artists You Need to Know: February 2018

From the blue-collar twang of Pat Reedy to the easygoing country-pop of Brown & Gray

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Ross Cooper
Jody Domingue6/10

Ross Cooper

Sounds Like: If Ryan Adams recorded songs like "Why Do They Leave?" with Whiskeytown, a lot less anxiety and some cowboy cred

For Fans of: Sam Outlaw, Andrew Combs, Chris LeDoux's rodeo dreams

Why You Should Pay Attention: Ross Cooper has the kind of background that would make country's authenticity police drool: the native Texan was once a professional bareback bronc rider, breaking bones and accumulating stitches, so he's earned the right to sport a cowboy hat. But the best surprise about the now Nashville-based Cooper is how he seems more interested in using his life to shape his lyrical narrative but not impose sets of strict rules. In other words, his forthcoming LP, the Eric Masse-produced I Rode the Wild Horses (out March 9th), is no collection of spur-stomping rodeo songs. Instead, it's full of gentle, story-driven alt-country accented by pedal steel, standing on the quality of the tales he conjures. Because as much as he's a Lone Star kid, growing up on the Mavericks, he also dug into Adams, Tom Waits and even Dashboard Confessional. "I am a rodeo kid who grew up on indie music," Cooper says.

He Says: "They are equally as challenging, but when everything goes right, they're literally both the best feelings in the world," he says, comparing bronc riding to songwriting. "When you go from rodeos to playing music, you can be a glutton for physical punishment and mental punishment. They are equally hard in their own ways, but the reason you do either is for that feeling where everything goes right. You know when you make a great ride, and a great song."

Hear for Yourself: There's a subtle melodic nod to Modest Mouse in the twangy traveling anthem "Lady of the Highway" that mediates on any touring artists' first love: the road. M.M.

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