New Music from Brent Cobb
Brent Cobb talks his new album, Providence Canyon, and his career so far.
Written By: Luke Levenson
Photographers: Don VanCleave
Professional singer-songwriters bear the burden of deciding which of their many compositions to release and which to shelve. For writers like Brent Cobb, whose inexhaustible catalog stretches back 20-odd years, this undertaking is made easier by deep-seated musical roots, which help to shape the direction of each album.
Last month, he released his third LP, Providence Canyon, on Elektra Records’ Low Country Sound imprint. Arriving a short two years after his Grammy-nominated major-label debut, Shine On Rainy Day, Canyon was written and recorded during one of the most hectic periods of Cobb’s life.
“A lot of the songs were inspired by being out in the open for those huge shows with Chris [Stapleton] and Morgane last year,” Cobb says. “That makes you want to write something a little more energetic. The music stood on its own legs, but I wanted to get a good show.”
Cobb’s 2017 stints on the road supporting larger acts, like Stapleton, Margo Price, and Anderson East, not only galvanized his music into dance-inducing action, but also road-tested many of the songs he was recording intermittently with his cousin and Grammy-winning producer, Dave Cobb, who also produced Brent’s self-titled 2006 debut and Shine On Rainy Day.
“This new record really sounds like South Georgia to me,” Dave says. “We’re both from there, and we kinda played it to a tee. The stuff we grew up with, the food we ate, and the culture. That’s the wells we were digging from—not purposely, but self-consciously.”
Canyon is named after a state park located 45 miles west of Cobb’s native city, Americus, Georgia. It was in the nearby city of Ellaville where he was raised and where he, at age 12, started writing songs and playing guitar. Six years later, in 2005, Cobb met Dave at his great-aunt’s (Dave’s grandmother’s) funeral, where the then-L.A.-based producer was impressed enough by his younger cousin’s homespun expertise to fly him out to California and produce his debut LP.
Just when things were slowing down for Cobb in L.A., family friend and burgeoning country artist Luke Bryan called him and encouraged him to move to Nashville. The next few years proved to be a propitious first chapter of Cobb’s career. He penned songs for stars, like Kenny Chesney and Little Big Town, put out and toured on a critically acclaimed EP, and welcomed the birth of his daughter with his wife in 2014.
“We were definitely able to afford more [with Providence Canyon],” Cobb says. “But, if you took out some of the keys and huge harmonies and stuff like that, it’d probably feel just like the last record. The songs have always come from a similar spot.”
Thirty-one-year-old Cobb indeed stays true to his swampy, R&B-infused country sound. “Mornin’s Gonna Come” is a loose, on-the-edge Southern rock romp that portends the day-after consequences of too much fun. When it scurries into a double-time jam at the end, the debauchery is at its peak, wallowing in a bluesy frenzy then coming down hard, before the following track, “Come Home Soon,” kicks off a more plaintive groove, recounting the homesickness that transpires in an adventurous life. Here, Cobb is “on the road, just trying to survive.” High stakes like these abound in the songs’ stories, giving them a gritty, hardscrabble tone. Together, they make up an impressively comprehensive album, not without its cryptic lyrics, which Cobb delivers in his signature drawling croon.
A chorus hook, like, “if I don’t see ya’, baby I see ya’,” might not be straightforward enough for a Music Row songwriting session, but it wraps up Cobb’s refrain in a fittingly elliptical way. He’s a hard-touring artist, whose lyrics often come from a place of remove, a contradictory wanderlust, and pining for the Georgia home that once raised him.
“He reminds me of my grandmother, who passed away,” Dave says. “His phrasing, his timbre, the way he projects. I’ve heard it my whole life. It feels like an old show. It really just reminds me of home.”