NH heads toward Brent Cobb's soulful, dirt-road brand of countryBy CHRIS BIERI
Special to the Union Leader August 22. 2018 1:45PM
If you go...WHO: Brent Cobb, opening for Chris Stapleton
WHERE: Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion in Gilford
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday
TICKET INFO: banknhpavilion.com or 293-4700
Brent Cobb has been able to pull off what has become an increasingly rare feat in modern America — appeal to music fans across a broad spectrum.
His shows have become a gathering place for divergent groups of friends and families, his songs loved by hipsters and hillbillies alike.
Cobb’s soulful, dirt-road brand of country rock is also a perfect fit to open Chris Stapleton’s All-American Road Show, which rolls through the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion in Gilford on Friday and Saturday nights, with country legend Marty Stuart also in tow.
“We have a lot of couples that are fans of ours,” Cobb said. “We’re a family band. It’s nice to go to Seattle and be able to sell out a 500-person room just the same as Lexington, Kentucky.”
Earlier this spring, Cobb released “Providence Canyon,” a funky follow-up to “Shine On Rainy Day,” which debuted in 2016.
Providence Canyon, known as Georgia’s Grand Canyon, is located in the southwest corner of Cobb’s home state and was a spot he visited regularly in his youth.
The album carries a theme of being on the road and returning to welcoming, familiar places, as some of it was written while Cobb toured in support of “Shine On Rainy Day.”
“A lot of it was written on the road,” Cobb said. “I think it started with ‘Ain’t A Road Too Long.’ I had my own hotel room. Normally, we all pile up into two or even one room. But I paid for my own room so I could write and got started on that (song). That really set off the tone for the rest of the album.”
Cobb’s interest in music, and his work ethic toward the craft, may be attributed to his father, who played in bands while Cobb grew up.
“Music was always considered as much of a trade as going to school for heating and air,” Cobb said. “It was always a secondary source of income (in our family). A lot of people grow up and it’s not considered that way. It’s a hobby. I’m not an entertainer. I don’t have that hambone in me, but he’s a real entertainer.”
The family vibe continued into album production as he once again worked with his cousin, Dave Cobb, who is considered one of Nashville’s preeminent producers.
“The first time we worked together was in ’06,” Cobb said. “We didn’t know one another growing up, (but) every time (we work together) you’d think we’d grown up together. He produces the same way I write, very spur of the moment. It’s as natural as being with someone who’s close to you. It has to be in the blood. We do work so similar. If I have an idea, even if I can’t articulate it, he knows what I’m trying to come up with.”
Cobb got his start on Nashville’s Music Row after scoring a songwriting contract. He started getting recognition as his tunes were recorded by notables Kenny Chesney, Miranda Lambert and Luke Bryan.
“I learned more than anything that in that world, in the Music Row world, it’s treated more like a day job,” Cobb said. “Go in at 9, clock out at 5. More often than not you’re working with a co-writer. A lot of great writers like Jerry Lee Reed and Willie Nelson got their start like that. It all felt really magical to me to do that every day.”
Cobb said those years as a working writer in Nashville helped hone his skills, but he sometimes still gets bogged down in the minutiae of analyzing every last detail and lyric.
“A lot of exercises that I developed over that time I still use today. Some are good and some are bad. Sometimes I’m too much of a critic when I’m in the moment of writing a song. I have to remember that I’m just writing a song. I’m not performing surgery,” he said.
Cobb’s songs have become more personal over the years as he’s penned songs for his own projects. Still, he says he doesn’t tailor the songwriting process.
“I always write for myself,” he said. “I never sit down and say I’m going to write this for so and so. It’s always for me.”