JP Cooper, singer and songwriter, chats with Kevin cooper about playing the V Festival, his musical inspirations, the release of his debut album Raised Under Grey Skies, and his forthcoming tour of the UK.

John Paul Cooper, known professionally as JP Cooper, is an English singer and songwriter. In 2016 he featured on Jonas Blue’s single, Perfect Strangers which went to number two in the UK charts and was certified platinum. His follow-up solo single was September Song, which was released a year ago.

Cooper was recently announced as Vevo’s latest LIFT artist, which is the video platform’s programme that throws the spotlight on fresh new talent in Britain. Having been signed to Island Records, he will be releasing his debut album in October. He has collaborated with Stomzy on the song Momma’s Prayer which is included on the new album.

Whilst busy getting ready for the release of his album and the forthcoming tour of the UK, he took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.

Hi JP how are you?

I’m very well thank you Kevin, how are you?

I’m very well thank you and having the same surname as you we may well have been separated at birth. We will have to look into that later (laughter).

Yes we will, we really must do that (laughter).

Before we move on let me just thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

No worries man, it’s my pleasure.

And just how is life treating you?

Life at the moment is really good, it’s busy but things are really good. I wouldn’t be happy if I wasn’t busy so these for me are exciting times. Everybody is in good spirits and I am really excited.

Your debut album Raised Under Grey Skies has a UK release date of Friday 6th October. Are you excited at the thought of it finally being out there?

The honest answer is that I really can’t wait. There have been a lot of people waiting for this moment for a very long time now; waiting for me to release a full album, so I am really pleased that I have finally finished it. I now have a product that I am really proud of. I am most definitely chomping at the bit to get the album out there, I simply can’t wait.

I have currently heard three songs from the album and I have to tell you that I think that they are all wonderful.

That’s amazing, thank you so much.

People are being very secretive about the album so just what can you tell me about it?

(Laughter) are they really, well that makes me sound like James Bond (laughter). From the outset I must stress that it is most definitely not a dance album. Despite people liking what I have done in the past I like to keep people guessing so if you listen to the three songs that I have already released, they are all quite varied. What I will say is that there are a lot of different flavours; a lot of different colours on the album. There are songs on the album that will make you smile, songs that will make you want to get up and dance, and songs that will bring a tear to your eyes. There is a hell of a lot in there. I just can’t wait for the public to hear it. I am so happy with the final product together with all of the different people who I worked with on this album. It is far better than I ever could have imagined. The attention to detail is just amazing and I can’t wait to share the album with the fans and with the people out there.

So I can take it that you are happy with it?

Yes I am, I really am. I am very, very happy with the album.

Are you a meddler or when the album was finished could you leave it alone and walk away from it?

(Laughter) it’s not that I can walk away its more of a case of me having to walk away from it. If I stay then when the team come in to mix the album I find myself listening and then saying “do you think the guitar should be a little louder in this part” (laughter). When I have tried to do everything myself in the past I would end up with thirty different mixes before deciding on the final mix (laughter). So now once it is done I tell myself “that’s it, it’s finished” and simply walk away from it all.

How far ahead are you working, are you already working on a follow-up album?

I have to be honest with you and tell you that I am always focusing on my next project. However, at this moment in time I am still trying to take on board everything that is happening with the first album whilst trying to make a bit of time for me to actually enjoy the occasion. But yes I am constantly thinking ‘what’s next’ (laughter). As you know I will be out on the road touring the album for the next twelve months or so but between you and me I really can’t wait to get cracking on the next project. I have learnt so much while doing this one, I really can’t wait to move on to the next one. I have to say that I am so lucky to be doing what I am doing, it is an amazing thing, such a wonderful dream.

You have currently had over one billion streams which must confirm to you that you are doing something right.

What can I say, it’s encouraging (laughter). You just never know these days. There are so many artists, so many people making credible music, and you just never know how people will react to what it is that you are doing. I really do hope that the album will do well and I have to say that I am currently in a comfortable position.

Who has musically inspired you?

I think that the real reason as to why I stumbled across a love for music was down to the fact that I was bought up in Manchester back in the nineties. At that time everybody had a guitar in their house and I knew lots of lads who had guitars. I didn’t come from a musical family or anything like that; music was something that I literally stumbled upon because of my friends buying guitars. We would all sit in our bedrooms and cover Oasis songs (laughter). So that was the initial spark if you like. After that, one of the first things that I fell in love with was the Grunge scene. I was obsessed with Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, that whole Grunge scene. I really liked the acoustic stuff that the bands were doing, stuff like the unplugged records around that time.

Once you strip away the distorted guitars you soon find that there is a hell of a lot of blues and soul in there. From there I started digging into the soul world and it wasn’t long before I discovered the likes of Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin and I completely had my mind blown by that genre of music. At that time most of my friends were into Rock music so I didn’t really express the soulful side of my music for a very long time although I was listening to it, it didn’t really fit into the work that I was doing at that moment in time. Shortly after that I joined a Gospel choir which enabled me to find an amazing expression in my voice. It was a safe place for me to be able to both explore and express in that way. It is something that I feel like I marinated in for a long time and hopefully I manged to soak up some of its flavours (laughter). From that moment on I just love soul music.

Was it always going to be a career in music?

Yes it was. I have never been a person who would do things by half. Whenever I was into something, I would get obsessed by it. It may not have always lasted for very long, but I always had to give it one hundred percent. Fortunately for me the music did last. I can remember when I was fifteen years old, rehearsing in the school hall with a couple of lads. It was one of those occasions where one lad had a guitar and another one said “I will go and buy a drum kit. I can’t play the drums but I may as well buy one” (laughter). We would learn to play a few songs but then one of the lads said “what’s the point, we aren’t going to be the next Foo Fighters are we” and I remember saying even at that point “why not”. Whenever it came to music I always thought that anything was possible and luckily that outlook has stuck with me.

Things didn’t happen for you overnight did they?

No not at all, no they didn’t. It was a hell of a long time before I had any sort of success. I have had fifteen years of not making a penny out of music right up to the point where I finally got a break. So I can honestly say that yes, I am glad that I stuck with it.

You recently played the V Festival, how was that?

It was totally amazing man. Firstly to be playing at such a prestigious festival was in itself amazing but to see people in the crowd singing along to the songs well that just blew me away. Even more so as the album hasn’t even been released as yet; it was totally mind blowing. It didn’t even matter that the weather wasn’t brilliant, you have to remember that we are British and we just get on with it don’t we come rain or shine (laughter). Whether the fans are stood smiling or simply trudging around in the mud it is a wonderful scene, it really is (laughter).

As part of your forthcoming tour you will be coming to Nottingham on Saturday 14th October to entertain us here at Rock City. What can we expect?

Well to start with I have wanted to play Rock City for years. It is just one of those must play venues so I am very excited at now getting the opportunity to play there. I just can’t wait to get out there and play an album that people will have heard by then. I think that by the time we get to Nottingham we will be absolutely cooking. Even now the band are sounding great but I would think that by that time the live show will be something really special. I don’t just want it to be a small, intimate gig, I want it to be a human experience. I don’t want it to be all about the production, I want the fans to go home after the show feeling as though they have had an experience with me. For me music is all about sharing, it is about giving, so I would like the fans to feel as though they have been invited into my living room. I want to be able to look people in the eye, I want to be able to speak to people, I want to share some great music with them and have a great time doing that.

What was the first record that you bought?

That was the Bad album by Michael Jackson.

Who did you first see playing live in concert?

That’s easy it was Oasis at the G-Mex Centre in Manchester back in 1997.

What was the last song or piece of music that made you cry?

Wow, that is a bloody good question (laughter). I went to see Eulaulah Donyll “Lalah” Hathaway who you may know is the daughter of the late, great Donny Hathaway. She sang one of her dad’s songs, A Song For You and during the song certain parts of her voice sound so much like her dad. I have to be honest and say that I think that I had drunk far too many pints of Guinness but I absolutely bawled my eyes out. My eyes were absolutely streaming. It was a pretty beautiful moment.

On that note JP let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me, it’s been great.

Thanks a lot Kevin it’s been cracking and I look forward to seeing you in Nottingham.