Catch up with Detroit-based singer-songwriter Cooper Anstett and check out his latest single, "Wrong", off his upcoming sophomore release, Cooper.
What got you interested in music and songwriting?
Cooper Anstett: My dad was always really into music and he never wrote any music, but he was always singing and playing songs for me when I was a little boy. Once I got into high school I had been playing guitar for a while and high school, for me, was the first time I was starting to grow up a little bit and coming into some of my own life changes and everything and needing an outlet to reflect on that. It started off as something that was more of a journal/diary entry type of thing with songwriting, and then it grew into people liking these songs and maybe I needed to focus more on writing songs for both personal reasons and for entertainment for others, for other people to connect to some of my stories.
Do you remember the first song you wrote?
I was down in Florida and I think I was a freshman in high school and I had a trip down there with some friends. There was this guy who was maybe 30 years old, performing on the street, and I talked to him and he was really inspiring to me because he was playing a lot of his own music and I thought those are pretty cool songs so I thought, 'yeah, I'm going to give it a shot and write my own tune'. I had gotten back to Michigan from visiting Florida and still wanted to be in the sunshine and enjoying the weather, so I wrote a song about just my experience in Florida; not so much about the weather, but it was just a really enjoyable time with my friends and my first solo trip when I was younger. It wasn't anything I was super proud of at the time, but it was fun to get the process started and learn how to formulate a song and just the whole process of creating an entire length of work: progression and finding the melody and whatnot and deciding what I want to talk about. I think now, where I'm at, I've developed more meaning behind my songs and they're more meaningful than that song was, but it was a good place to start, for sure.
Which musicians have you been influenced by?
When I was younger, my biggest influences were a few different people. I'd say Jack Johnson was a huge one, Mason Jennings, Ben Harper, and a couple other older singer-songwriters, James Taylor and Cat Stevens. I'd say those were the essential people I listened to and that was a result of both my own interests and my parents' listening to them. I got exposed to some more classic singer-songwriters at a very young age and that let to me wanting to do something similar, at that point.
Who do you have in your playlist now?
It's always changing but, right now, a band that I've been listening to a lot is The 1975; and Kendrick Lamar, I've been listening to a lot, as well. I still always have the essentials that I go back to, but I like to throw in some new stuff just to keep my mindset fresh and follow the progression of music. I think it's really important to evolve as a musician and not get too set in your ways and pigeonhole yourself, because music's always changing and that's not a bad thing, it's fun to change with music, as well, and keep things exciting, keep people interested, and evolve as an artist with an ever evolving industry.
How would you describe your own sound?
The way I write songs is just me and my guitar, whether it's me writing the song alone or with a friend or another songwriter who we've set up a co-write with. My sound has grown from, originally, just me and a guitar recorded and that's it - I had a couple demo CDs when I was younger, just very raw, very basic singer-songwriter - to, now, I'm going more in a direction where it still is that, in its essence and its most raw form, it is me and my guitar and that singer-songwriter sound, but I think it's evolved into a little bit more of a modern sound. I want to be labeled as singer-songwriter, but I don't necessarily want to have that classic singer-songwriter sound, you know, a guy just plucking away at the guitar and singing a tune; I want to keep it interesting, show people what a singer-songwriter is and that it can be a modern sound, even though it's labeled as a singer-songwriter. For me, I think my music is very, very happy, very upbeat but, at the same time, I think the production behind it plays a big role in keeping it modern and what I've done for the latest two singles is teamed up with a producer named Ryan McDermott who has a really hip-hop and R&B influenced background and I think, with that background in addition to my background of more chill singer-songwriter stuff, we've created a sound that's very interesting. Definitely, in my eyes, it truly is just a modern singer-songwriter.
What were your inspirations behind your new single, "Wrong"?
Myself, and I'm sure a lot of other people can relate to this too, I tend to get myself into the same situations - whether it's in relationships or just with another person - and you know that type of person's not good for you but, for some reason, you're attracted back to that type of person. Let's say you're with someone and you realize they're not good for you and you want to end it with them, but the next person you start to fall in love with or get intrigued by, you're blinded by your heart and you don't even realize that you're falling in love with the same type of person and restarting this cycle of getting yourself back into something that's unhealthy. The song is about learning to break that cycle and realize where your heart goes wrong and understand what is actually best for you and not something that is just pleasurable in the short term.
Could you tell us more about your upcoming self-titled mixtape?
I'm very excited about it and I'm calling it a mixtape because, pretty much, it is an EP at the end of the day, but when you see a mixtape, you generally see rappers releasing mixtapes or whatever and that ties back into what I'm trying to do with a modern singer-songwriter. Singer-songwriters can release mixtapes too and a mixtape is a pretty loose word and can be used in a lot of situations and that's why I'm calling it a mixtape.
The mixtape's going to have a lot of different influences on it; the two songs, "Wrong" and "Move", are produced by Ryan McDermott, like I said, but then I have two other songs that are going to be on it that I'm feeling excited about that are produced in Nashville which are going to have a little bit different of a sound on it: it's going to be slightly more live instruments and a little bit more full band feel, instead of a more electronic, sample type of feel. But, the two sounds are very representative of what I am and what I'm trying to do, moving forward. I'm also going to have an acoustic track on there too that is strictly just me and my guitar. The mixtape is just showing a few different sides of me and, moving forward in the future, I intend to focus on all the sides of me, whether I focus on one side for a whole project and then the next project I focus on another side of my artistry, I just want to show people, in one project of five songs, a few essential sides of where I'm coming from and what my roots are as a musician and what they will be growing and evolving into in the future.
How would you sum up Cooper in one sentence?
I'd probably just sum it up in that one word, to be honest with you. Diverse, progressive, and my music, in general, is just very positive; I've always lived my life in a very positive way and that's what I try to express in all facets of my life, besides music. But, yeah, I'd say diverse and progressive for a singer-songwriter.
What do you hope your listeners are able to take away from your music?
At the end of the day, I just want to affect them in some way, whether it's just making them feel a sense of positivity or happiness throughout their day - like I said, that is a central thing I'm trying to put into people's lives is happiness and positivity - or making them reflect on their own life and making them realize like, 'hey, it's okay to feel and recognize the emotions you're feeling,' and I think music is one thing that can help you realize you're feeling a certain way and not ignore the way you're feeling, but realize it and face it and then make a change to move forward; or, not make a change and continue what you're doing and live a happy, positive life. I hope my music can promote that for my listeners and I think it will. I'm excited to release it.