Kolby Cooper rides a country music silver lining 'From Anderson County to the Moon'

·4 min read
Kolby Cooper poses for a portrait in Nashville. The Texas native is ready for his new release "Boy From Anderson County to the Moon" to hit the market in  August.
Kolby Cooper poses for a portrait in Nashville. The Texas native is ready for his new release "Boy From Anderson County to the Moon" to hit the market in August.

As they do generationally, the smallest of America's small towns are having a moment in country music.

For 23-year-old Bradford, Texas, native Kolby Cooper, this means that perhaps the smallest of those small towns has finally arrived. His trip as a "Boy From Anderson County to the Moon" culminates in his debut major label album, which hits the streets on Aug. 19.

Cooper's skyrocketing trek is best told as a heartwarming tale of gathering friends and family for a journey on a silver lining to the stratosphere.

Bradford is central to Dallas, Houston and Shreveport, Louisiana. Its population generally hovers around 50 residents.

Previous coverage: Country music's small-town stars are making the genre's biggest waves

Alex Lifeson: Rush's Alex Lifeson on Nashville charity work, his Gibson guitar and reuniting with Geddy Lee

Located in the East Texas woods, his home is 150 times tinier than Hardy's "Rednecker" roots in Philadelphia, Mississippi, and 80% smaller than Lainey Wilson's Baskin, Louisiana, where "(hooking) a trailer on a two-inch hitch" of a truck that runs on "dreams and gasoline" is everything.

Five years have elapsed since Cooper graduated from Anderson County's Cayuga High School. The school's roaring Wildcat mascot is emblazoned on the cover of his star-making 2021 released EP "Boy From Anderson County."

"I put the final touches on the foundation of my life there, like meeting my wife," Cooper says.

Cayuga High,  where one in three students is economically disadvantaged and where the school falls below Texas' state standards in college and career readiness measures, is where the silver lining of the singer-songwriter's life begins.

The EP and album's eponymous lead single is filled with deep, personal meaning, including lyrics highlighting his eight-year wait to kiss his eventual wife. Fast-forward 15 years and the song marks the occasion of his third wedding anniversary.

Kolby Cooper is ready for his new release, "Boy From Anderson County To The Moon," to hit the market in August.
Kolby Cooper is ready for his new release, "Boy From Anderson County To The Moon," to hit the market in August.

It's a significant evolution.

Hundreds of touring dates in towns similar to his roots in Anderson County have wisened Cooper. But, as proved by his EP's cover, he's still 18 at heart, staring wide-eyed at the future.

Cooper and friends entered high school as huge fans of '90s-era Seattle grunge and outlaw country legends Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. A black tattoo of the outline of Jennings' logo occupies a prominent space inside his upper-left forearm.

"My music is still inspired by grunge and the heavy music it inspired'" Cooper says, highlighting the influence of Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello's use of whammy pedals on the "Boy From Anderson County" album track "Storm's Coming."

"That one sounds different than what most country music guitar solos sound like these days. It feels perfect when I hear it."

JT Sharp has been best friends with the singer since the fourth grade (and a band member). By high school he was playing guitar and penning "100 really really bad songs that sucked" alongside him. He's responsible for derailing Cooper's aspirations as a high school football player to continue playing the guitar.

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - NOVEMBER 13: Kolby Cooper performs at The Basement East on November 13, 2021 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - NOVEMBER 13: Kolby Cooper performs at The Basement East on November 13, 2021 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

"Working at the Walmart warehouse or being a nurse at a nursing home were definitely my options after high school," Cooper says when asked what he may have been doing had music not worked out.

Two generations on his mother's side of the family were nurses. However, three months before he would have started nursing school, his mother suggested he take a year away from school and seriously pursue music.

After switching from bedpans to back lines, he hasn't looked back.

The video for Cooper's 2021 single "Boy From Anderson County" was shot in a home where he and his wife and their two daughters now rent in Tyler, Texas. The only qualm he has about his new abode is that the expensive couch he's purchased for his living room is a bit uncomfortable.

"This is all so surreal," Cooper says. "My mother's proud of me, though."

Cooper's artistic growth has been buoyed by his career as a hard-touring artist, strongly cultivating his song stylings and fanbase in equal measure.

In other news: The Judds' legacy to be highlighted with a new Apple Music Radio program

Dove Awards 2022: For King & Country, Maverick City Music among top nominees

He's spent one out of every three days on a stage in the past three years. Thus, the songs heard on his new release bear the imprint of countless hours spent playing in front of fans who, as he notes, "don't drink any sort of beer or bourbon in particular, they work hard and drink what's there, to escape what's bothering them."

Kolby Cooper talks about his new release, "Boy From Anderson County to the Moon," in Nashville.
Kolby Cooper talks about his new release, "Boy From Anderson County to the Moon," in Nashville.

Intricate guitar solos and sonic tricks that have worked in live settings highlight an album Cooper says represents "underdogs in the country scene who want to see themselves (reflected) in small-town venues and big-city stadiums."

"Tight-knit places show me love and have proven to me that anything is possible," he adds.

Cooper has evolved from thriving off the energy of his fans and delivering loud, hard-driving sets to playing tunes "with more feeling and emotion." He counts his time opening for more established acts like seven-time Grammy-winner John Mayer and 2022 Academy of Country Music Best New Male Artist Parker McCollum as important in his "subconscious awareness" of the idea that "maybe playing loud doesn't always equate to playing well."

When asked about his success and what's next, Cooper pauses, smiles broadly and offers hope grounded in humanity.

"Songs can do crazy things," he says. "But, thankfully, mine are pillars of who I am."

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Kolby Cooper talks new album: 'Boy From Anderson County to the Moon'