JP Cooper

JP Cooper

‘I’ve always been stubborn and a massive dreamer’ - Island Records pop star JP Cooper tells us what it takes to go from the practice room to Top of the Pops…

Jim Ottewill
  • By Jim Ottewill
  • 17 Jan 2017
  • min read
Mancunian artist JP Cooper is very much a modern songwriter, an artist equally comfortable writing for others as he is supporting Stevie Wonder on the main stage at British Summer Time.

After cutting his teeth in local guitar bands and practice rooms, JP joined Manchester’s Sing Out Gospel Choir and released a series of three mixtapes, making an impact in the world of urban music.

It was an astute move, with his talent hailed as The Future Sound of Radio 1 by Zane Lowe, in part thanks to his well-received When The Darkness Comes EP and a storming set at SXSW.

2016 saw JP go from strength to strength, with his hit September Song picking up 11m global streams, along with performances at Bestival, T in The Park, Festival No.6, and a platinum-selling collaboration with Jonas Blue, Perfect Strangers, which saw him on the Christmas edition of Top of the Pops. Anticipation is now ripe for a debut album which JP is gearing up to release this spring - we quizzed him ahead of what looks like being a 'mental' year…

How did you start off in music?

A lot of it was being a teenager in Manchester in the late nineties. I’m showing my age a bit, but it was around the time Oasis made it big. So it felt like the whole city was into music, particularly guitar music and songwriting. I had a few mates at school into it. It was a time when you could be on the football team but could also play guitar as well. It was being at the houses of mates while it was raining, sitting in and playing tunes. As a result I started delving back into grunge, bands like Pearl Jam and Soundgarden. I was more into their acoustic side, blues, soul and just started from there.

At what point did music become all consuming?  

Do you know what? Ever since I’ve started I’ve been very stubborn and a massive dreamer. A lot of my mates would do it for a bit of fun and I can remember having a go at one of them for not having practiced. He was like ‘we’re not going to be the next Foo Fighters so why does it matter?’ I was always like, ‘why not?’ That was my attitude. I was always a dreamer. If I’d been a realist, then I’d have given up a long time ago.

The turning point for me was when I started to do it myself and stop being in bands. That definitely meant it became real and was the beginning of this I guess.

Was becoming a solo artist something you always wanted to be?

As I got further into my twenties my mates started getting salaried jobs and partners. I was getting tired of having to ring around four or five different people to get a gig or people together. So I started doing open mic nights and playing two or three songs a night just to settle myself into it. It was a case of sink or swim really as my potential collaborators were thin on the ground. I was still stubbornly sticking it out and finally it seems we’re getting somewhere.

Your collaboration with Jonas Blue Perfect Strangers is how a lot of people know you - could you explain how the song happened? And were you taken aback by its success?

Well definitely surprised as it’s a bit of an excursion for me soundwise and stylistically. When I was asked to do it, it was just a bit of a writing session, I wasn’t a featured artist on it. I spent a day working with it, coming up with melodies and I did a vocal. I was a bit nervous at first as I wasn’t sure whether people would be confused but I’m really grateful now. It’s opened a lot of doors and become a massive hit.

You’ve collaborated with people like Stormzy and Little Simz - what’s the secret to a successful collaboration?

It’s a mutual respect for what both people are doing. If you’re willing to go in there and leave your comfort zone and see what happens, then that’s what excites me. There’s a lot of freedom in collaborating and I love that. I’m definitely looking to do more in the future.

What’s been keeping you busy?Is your debut album almost ready for release?

I’m always writing so we’re in this nice stage where I’ve almost finished but if these new songs work they can still make it onto the record. I’m enjoying that and getting the band ready to tour. I’m figuring out how to take it out live - our first headine show is in May so it's going to be a mental year.

What is the album about?

It’s autobiographical really. There’s a lot of stuff in there based on family life, relationships. Some of it is fictional and more playful but the nitty gritty is about a fascination with human relationships.

Have you any advice for new songwriters?

Yeah there are two or three things I always say. One of them is to work with people, in and out of your scene, anyone who is up for trying new things. You make a bigger racket if there’s more of you. Just figure out what you’re good at, stay in that lane and perfect it without aping other people. There’s also poster in one of the studios I go to in London which says ‘work hard and be nice to people’. If you can do a bit of each, then you’ll be good…

Watch the video for September's Song.