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Nashville Moment: Peter Cooper

Behind the bustling life of singer-songwriter, professor of country music history, and senior director, producer, and writer at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

Written By:  Jennifer Justus

Photographers:  Shannon Fontaine

>>> Nashville Moment with Gertrude Crumpton

 

Peter Cooper, Music Expert

Peter Cooper has a solution for summing up his work as a singer-songwriter, author, journalist, professor of country music history at Vanderbilt University, and senior director, producer, and writer at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.  

“I say, ‘I do music stuff,’” he says. But, with his waking hours immersed in sounds, the entwined whole improves all the parts, too. “I try to keep myself employed in the fun business,” he says, a nod to Cowboy Jack Clement. “Sometimes, we all need a reminder that what you do with music is play.”

Age: 46

From The Tennessean to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum: “Going to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum was like being traded to a World Series[-winning] baseball team and getting to play utility infielder,” Cooper says. “In writing about anything, you’re assessing what’s going on and analyzing it and interpreting it, and that’s what a museum does as well.

Many hats: “Sometimes, I’m working on a Medallion Ceremony, where we formally induct new members. There are concerts to plan and programs to put on,” he says. “A museum membership allows entrance to what I think is the greatest music museum in America, but it also allows entrance to all these incredible programs, where you get up-close-and-personal with the heroes of American roots music. And you can do like I do and bring your six-year-old to Hatch Show Print to make valentines with 100-year-old wood blocks. We live in Music City, but the museum is a city of music all the time.”

One thing at a time: “It’s a goal for 2017,” Cooper shares. “No, I do one thing at a time, always, because it’s the only way to get it done. I feel like distraction is the enemy of anything artful. If I’m on a stage, I’m not worrying about the museum business. If I’m at the museum, I’m not worrying about writing a song.”

What he’s learned: “One happy result for me was when I figured out the people who write intelligent, empathetic songs have to be intelligent, empathetic people,” Cooper explains. “And they’re not trying to fake you out. You can’t become Kris Kristofferson without being that smart and kind and curious.”

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