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Hi Brent! Great to talk to you today. You recently released your Gospel-Country project, ‘And Now, Let’s Turn to Page…’ I believe you were inspired to create it after a near-death-experience. How did that shift your perspective on life?
In July 2020, my one-year-old son and I were T-Boned at a four-way stop. I only broke my collar-bone, and my son was completely unscathed, thank goodness - we were really fortunate. But after that, you start piecing together how each moment that morning led to that specific moment of getting hit by a car that ran a stop sign. I’ve always had the desire to record a Southern Gospel album, because that’s the music I grew up with. But I didn’t know when that would happen. The wreck motivated me to finally make that album - because you never know when you’re going to go!
One track that I find especially moving is ‘When It’s My Time’. Fear of death and fear of loved ones dying is something we all struggle with, but on this song you adopt the mindset of embracing death. What advice would you give to readers that might be struggling with this?
Since I was a boy, I’ve been acutely aware of how fleeting each moment in life is. For some, that is terrifying. But for me, it’s both bitter and sweet. You have to appreciate the moment if you know that it won’t last forever. As human beings, we may be the only things in this world that think we have to try and control everything. But we can’t, and to me, it’s comforting to know that. It’s a miracle I have been able to experience this life at all, and I’m just grateful for the moment that I do have. When it’s time to go, I’ll be gone. It’s not up to me.
That’s inspiring that you find that loss of control comforting, because a lot of people would find this to be the scariest thing! I think that’s what causes some anxiety issues and depression. In the back of people’s mind, they’re constantly thinking, “We’re all going to die some day”. It’ll make you go crazy, if you let it. Or, if you accept that truth, then it can make you calm.
You’ve spoken about how your crash made you appreciate that ‘everything in life is intentional’. What do you mean by this? It’s all input-output. For example, I couldn’t get to sleep last night until 4:30am - sometimes when I can’t sleep, it’s because I’m worrying. But last night, it was just because I was feeling so grateful about my whole life. We were pretty poor growing up, but I came from a great family. I make a living making music, which is insane. I come from a very culturally diverse place in the American South. That makes me empathic to a lot of different ways of life. There’s no way that this is by coincidence.
This album is of course going to be very inspirational for believers. But for readers who aren’t Christians, what would you like their main takeaway to be?
I grew up singing these songs in the church, and they were just uplifting songs. When I sing them, it takes me back to the little old country church I grew up in, with the sun coming in, and then going to my grandmother’s house to have dinner with my family. The songs just have a light feeling. To me, it doesn’t matter if you believe in something or if you believe in nothing. But I like to think that we recorded these songs in a way that if you just believe in music, then you’ll be able to enjoy this album.
In a previous interview, a Gospel artist mentioned that artists in the genre can sometimes focus too much on the message, and don’t devote enough time into the actual sonics. Was it easy for you to strike this balance?
The main thing for Dave Cobb and I was to make sure that we made these songs sound like home. I you listen to an Otis Redding album, that is Gospel music, and it’s the same with Lynyrd Skynyrd - it all comes from Gospel. It turned into an album that sort of sounds like Jerry Lee Lewis and Otis Redding got together with Lynyrd Skynyrd and recorded an album in Muscle Shoals.
This project was a family affair - you wrote ‘When It’s My Time’ with your wife, Layne Cobb; your parents and sister joined you in the studio; Dave Cobb, your cousin, produced the album; and your dad’s Gospel group features on one of the songs. How special was it to have your family so involved with this album?
It was the way it was meant to be. Dave and I didn’t know each other growing up, and we met through his grandmother’s funeral. She would come to my church and she would perform ‘We Shall Rise’ a capella. Because I came from such a small country church, a lot of the congregation is my family, so it just felt natural to include them all on this project.
You wrote a Children’s Book, which was inspired by your song, ‘Little Stuff’. What made you want you to bring the message of this song to another medium in this way?
I have two kids, and the albums I’ve released since my first was born in 2014 have all been messages for them. The children’s book is no different - it’s about celebrating and appreciating the little things in life, that sometimes we don’t focus on. One of my heroes, Shel Silverstein, wrote ‘The Giving Tree’, and I found out later that he also wrote Johnny Cash’s hit, ‘A Boy Named Sue’. I just thought it was cool for someone who you wouldn’t expect to do that, it almost gives it a depth that it otherwise wouldn’t have had.
I love the song you penned for Kenny Chesney, ‘Don’t It’. It’s a very philosophical and reflective track. What was the inspiration behind this?
I wrote that with my buddy Chase McGill. We were on tour in the summer - he had that lick, and he would bait me with that late at night, at the end of shows, for like two years. And finally, I had to ask him, ‘What is that you keep playing? It’s so good!’ We just wrote ‘Don’t It’ about our lives. Again there’s no way of knowing where you’re going to be in life, but like it says in the song, ‘Life has it’s way of moving you on, don’t it?’ Simple as that.
There’s a lot of introspection on this record, but there’s also a healthy dose of fun and rowdiness thrown in there - on ‘We Shall Rise’, for example. How important was it for you to put this levity on there as well as including the heavier tracks?
It was important because that reflects life. Life is not always happy and it’s not always sad, just as it’s not always fun and it’s not always boring. It was important to have the project ebb and flow like that.
Is this Gospel sound here to stay for future releases, or should fans see this album as a stand-alone project?
I have no idea! A lot of my peers really like to grow their sound, they go completely in an opposite direction to where they started. My way of thinking has always been the reverse - I want to try and get to the root and core of what it is that I do and the feeling that I have. I don’t know what that means exactly, but that will be my pursuit forever.
Finally, one question we ask all our interviewees is to name their favourite songs that have a theme of mental health and wellbeing. What would be yours?
I’d Have to Be Crazy - Willie Nelson
Freebird - Lynyrd Skynyrd
Brent Cobb's new album, 'And Now, Let's Turn to Page...' is out on all platforms now!
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