Interview Phil Cooper

In 2015 I met the musician Phil Cooper (via Twitter) who asked me to check out his album ‘Half Live’. Not sure what to expect, I headed over to his Bandcamp page to give it a listen and found out that the first half of the album was recorded in the studio while the later half was performed live. Honestly, the album is a little rough around the edges at times, but this adds an authentic appeal to what he has created. His style of acoustic folk with a slight indie feel surprised me in a good way, and found that his live recordings sounded a lot better than the studio side of the album. With great songs like ‘Sunshine Follows Rain’, ‘Footsteps’ and ‘You’ this was a musician that caught my attention.

So, who is Phil Cooper? I know him as the former frontman of the band The Haiku who in 2012 decided to take his music on a new journey as a solo artist. This new direction has found his music compared to the likes of Neil Finn and Ben Folds. To let you know a little more about the world of Phil Cooper I got in touch with the man himself to see if he would answer a few questions. He was kind enough to get involved and this is what we talked about:

Was there a moment or someone that inspired you to become a musician?

I grew up around live music really. My dad has always played guitar, and my older brother (who now plays bass in my backing band) is also an awesome blues guitarist. I guess a combination of a musical family, plus a really supportive music teacher at school meant I was always on that path.

Once this decision was made, were there any musicians who help influence your music and it’s sound?

Well I’ve been told my songs have a Crowded House style to them, and they’ve always been firm favourites of mine, but I think I owe my love of the guitar pop song to Buddy Holly. I learned to play guitar by playing along to his “best of” album, my sound does lean more towards the Crowded House sounds than Buddy though!

When you write new music what is the important part to your process and what helps you get passed writers block?

The important part is to have a spark or idea to work from. That could be a simple musical or lyrical phrase, or it could be a situation that I feel I need to somehow put in to words. The lyrics are very important to me, even if they don’t always come first in the writing process. Once I’ve got something solid to start from, the rest always seems to fall in to place. As for writer’s block, I’ve had it a few times, and I’ve found the best way through it is not to try too hard to overcome it. If nothing’s coming, there’s no point forcing it. It can be frustrating, but the world’s not going to end if I don’t write anything at that specific moment, it helps to remember that.

For new fans out there, what singles/EP’s/Albums has you released so far?

I released my second album “Thing’s I’ll Never Say” in March this year and I’ve been touring that ever since. I’m really proud of it and feel it’s the most complete recording I’ve ever made. My first was released in 2014 and was an interesting project where I recorded two live concerts and then took the base recordings back to the studio to expand on them. It has a real live feel, as you’d expect, but it also has the slightly fuller sound you get from overdubbing. That one is cunningly called “Half Live”. For anyone who wants to dig even deeper, my old band “The Haiku” released three albums too!

From these releases which are your favourite songs and why?

From the new album, my favourite by far is “To the Unknown Loves of my Life”, which just sounds EXACTLY like I always wanted it to. It’s got an orchestral feel which is almost Bond theme-esque, it just sounds so full! The opening track “Let it Fall” (for video click HERE) also has a brass section on it, and I couldn’t hide my excitement at how great it sounded during the recording sessions. I was grinning like a Cheshire cat! There are also a couple of tracks that I have a very deep emotional attachment to, such as “A Year in a Life”.

Is there anyone you’d like to write a song with, or collaborate with and why?

I’ve always struggled to write in a collaborative way, probably because my songs are quite personal, but I’m making a conscious effort to try and open myself up a bit more. I recently did a show all about the art of songwriting and I collaborated with the entire audience to get a chorus and verse written. The song’s pretty good too actually! Besides that I guess I’d like to pick the brains of songwriters I admire, such as Neil Finn and Ben Folds.

What can people expect from your shows?

In a word, “inclusivity”. My best shows are the ones where there is no barrier (metaphorical or literal) between me and the audience, and they are actively involved with what’s going on. I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve to encourage people to get involved, such as handing out as many egg shakers as I can and the old favourite “doodle pad” (http://phil-cooper.co.uk/gigdoodle/) where I get the audience to drawn me pictures. People tend to be happier when they are being creative, and I want them to be as happy as possible at my shows!

If you knew that you were going to be stranded on a desert island what 3 things would you take to make your stay much easier and why?

Ooh, tough one… The practical man in me says a good quality and comprehensive swiss army knife is a must, and I also think a massive ball of strong string would come in incredibly handy. You might expect me to take a guitar, but it’s more important that I can listen to music than create it. You can get solar powered mp3 players, so one of those loaded with my entire music library would be great!

What are your future plans and goals for your music?

At 35, I’m not likely to ever be a mega star (it happens but not often) so my goals have to be realistic. I want to be earning a comfortable living from my songwriting and performing for the rest of my life. I want to keep learning and improving,  and I want to get my music out to as many people as possible. I’m confident that people will like the music if I can help them hear it, so pretty much hard work and loads more great songs is my future plan!

Finally, is there anything you like to say to any new listeners out there or maybe to any of your fans who are ready this?

My answer is simple… Please get in to the habit of recommending things you enjoy to your friends. Whether that’s my music, or someone else’s, share it with others, let them borrow the CD, bring them along to a show. Personal recommendation is the strongest way to spread the word, and is by far the best way you can help the bands and artists you like.

Like Phil has said, he has recently released his 2nd album called ‘Things I’ll Never Say’ which is his best collection of songs so far. As soon as you hear the first track you can instantly hear how the recording quality has improved which helps to showcase this impressive collection of songs. This album is all about the lyrics and vocals as they really stood out for me especially when Phil slowed things down to give us a tender performance. My favourite song ‘The Quiet Goodbye’ as well as ‘To the Unknown Love of my Life’ are great examples of this side of his songwriting. This is an album that gets my thumbs up so take a trip to his Bandcamp site (click HERE) to give it a listen. You can listen to both of his releases here and purchase copies if you ears like what they hear.

I’m looking forward to hearing how the music of Phil Cooper develops and as I am following his on his social media sites of Facebook and Twitter I can keep up to date with his world of music. You can also find out more about Phil, his music and future gigs from this sites as well as his website at Phil-Cooper.co.UK. Don’t forget, if you like what you are hearing then tell the world all about the music of Phil Cooper today!