JP Cooper talks his debut Raised Under Grey Skies, his Northern roots and working with Stormzy...
It’s taken John Paul Cooper a long time to today when he releases his debut album Raised Under Grey Skies.
He began back in 2012 with a series of self-released EPs, EPs that went down a storm online and earned him a record deal with Island Records as well as collaborations with Avelino and Jonas Blue, the latter of which produced the megahit ‘Perfect Strangers’.
All that has led up to his debut album, it’s taken him three years to put together and we chatted to him about making the album, collaborating with Stormzy and why so much of his time has been spent speed dating…
You got signed back in 2014, why has it taken you so long to get your album out?
“It was a long process. We did the album once and I’d say roughly 98% of that recording wasn’t up to it, so we went back and did it again. I’ve learned a lot and evolved a huge amount. For my second album, my eyes will be wide open.”
What’s the oldest song on the record?
“A lot of the songs are new. I’ve put out a lot of music in EPs and I didn’t want anyone to feel cheated so they’re mostly new tunes. I’d say the oldest song on the album is ‘The Only Reason’. I wrote that in my bedroom a long time ago, way before the record deal.”
You worked with a few different producers on the album, how did you decide who you’d work with?
“When you sign a record deal you get sent to work with a lot of different producers and writers, this is my third year signed and a lot of that time has felt like speed dating, you get sent out to meet all these new people and you have to search for creative connections. By the time it came to put the album together you basically need a unit of people who you know you work well with.”
“It’s a trial and error. Eventually, you find a sound that you want for a song and you settle on the right producers. I’ve put a lot into this process so I hope these relationships can carry on.”
People like Mike Spencer and Two Inch Punch have worked on some big records…
“It’s been great seeing how people go about things, how they start things differently, how quickly they work. It’s never as straightforward as thinking ‘They’ve written a big hit, I’ll go with them’, you need chemistry and to build a creative relationship. You need to click.”
You’ve got Stormzy on the record, how did that collaboration come about?
“Me and Stormzy go way back. He’s been turning up at my shows for years, I’ve been doing the same at his shows. We’ve been meaning to get in the studio together for ages and we finally managed to pin each other down for four hours and we wrote this song. We made what we thought was a demo, but we never got back in the studio again to do it properly so we’ve had to spend some time adding to it on our own. We definitely want to do more together in the future though, hopefully, we’ll have some more time.”
What was the song that took the most work to get right?
“Nearly every song has gone through endless mixes and lots of songs I’ve been playing live for ages didn’t make the album. To be honest, it’s probably ‘September Song’, there are so many versions of that song out there.”
What kind of album is this in lyrical terms? Is there a theme that ties it together?
“It’s an album about human relationships. There are break-up songs on there, some about my family, songs about falling in love, songs about appreciating people, I think it paints a lot of different pictures. I try not to be too clever with my words, I want to be universally understood, I just want to tell stories.”
What kind of lyricist are you? Do you need to be writing things down all the time? Or do you need music to work to?
“All the time. You have to teach your mind to be always switched on, whether it’s watching a movie or reading a book, you need to be gathering stuff. I need lots of little starts, ready for the right piece of music.”
When did you settle on Raised Under Grey Skies for the album title?
“It came late in the process. There’s a song on one of the earlier EPs with that title. That song is very autobiographical, about being young and growing up in Manchester. It’s a tip of the hat to Manchester and to the people of Manchester.”