Brent Cobb moved to Nashville in 2008, landing a publishing deal that same year. Although he’d already released an album — the out-of-print No Place Left to Leave, released a full decade before his 2016 breakthrough, Shine on Rainy Day — Cobb found himself thrust into a business that required him to write songs for other artists, not himself. And though he was successful in that role, scoring cuts for Luke Bryan and Miranda Lambert, among others, he never forgot about his solo career.
“The first question I ever got was, ‘Are you more of a writer or more of an artist?'” he tells Chris Shiflett during today’s episode of Walking the Floor, which focuses not only on Cobb’s own albums, but his role in bringing other musicians’ albums to life. “I didn’t know how to answer that. I was like, ‘Well, I write ’em and I sing ’em. I don’t know, I guess I’m both.'”
Recorded midway during Brent Cobb’s ongoing tour with Stapleton — another solo artist who earned his first accolades as a behind-the-scenes songwriter — the newest installment of Shiflett’s biweekly podcast tells the story of a slow-talking southerner who’s bringing back the country-funk sound, one autobiographical song at a time. Read on for a list of episode highlights.
The energy found on Cobb’s newest release, Providence Canyon, is a reaction to the singer’s road-dog experiences as Chris Stapleton’s opening act.
“Chris had us out last year, as well,” Cobb tells Shiflett, who conducted the interview backstage during a California tour stop on Chris Stapleton’s All-American Road Show Tour. “It was the first time I’ve ever played venues that can hold 20,000 people. Just being out there and around that, I wanted a little more energy on this record.”
Years before Cobb toured the country with Stapleton, the two musicians worked together as Music-Row songwriters, hammering out new tunes for the country singers whose career highlights Stapleton would eventually rival.
“The first time I ever wrote with Chris Stapleton, about seven years ago, I walk in and I have an idea about a dog named Rastice,” Cobb remembers. “I walk in and I have a cool little melody on the guitar, a little run, and I’m like ‘Yeah man, I have this idea about a dog named Rastice.’ And Chris looks at me and he’s like, ‘I don’t know if I feel like writing a song about a dog today.'”
Despite sharing the stage with one of the mainstream’s best-selling country artists, Cobb continues to source much of his inspiration from underground artists and hard-to-find records.
“I’d been listening to a lot of this dude, Larry Jon Wilson,” he tells Shiflett, when asked about his influences on Providence Canyon‘s funky sound. “He did two records in the early Seventies that are super country-funk-based. His lyrics are some of the countryiest content I’ve ever heard.” Another favorite? The Delbert and Glen Sessions 1972-1973, which blended country, rock, soul and R&B into an underground gem of a record.
It was Luke Bryan — yes, that Luke Bryan — who helped convince Cobb to relocate to Nashville.
“He’s from 45 minutes south of where I’m from in Georgia,” he says of the country hitmaker, who — like Cobb himself — kicked off his career as a Music Row songwriter before focusing on his own material. “My old cover band I played in, Mile Marker 5, had opened some shows for him in Georgia. He got ahold of [my 2006 debut] and kept inviting me to come to Nashville, and I finally did. You know, all my heroes had always staff-wrote on Music Row. Willie Nelson, Roger Miller, Jerry Reed — all those folks. I always kinda entertained the thought of being able to do that some day. And then the opportunity presented itself, so I made the move to Nashville in March of ’08, and got a publishing deal, and just started writing on the Row every day. That turned into me living in Nashville for 10 years.”
Living in the big city for a decade couldn’t kill Cobb’s love for the great outdoors.
Cobb misses being outside. He misses nature. As a result, his bandmates have begun camping whenever they’re on the road, foregoing the usual Holiday Inn hotel rooms in favor of tents and campfires. “We started staying at KOAs instead of hotels,” the singer explains. “I like fires. I like throwing horseshoes. And I like to grill. Any off-days we have, we’re at a KOA.”