There’s an unspoken rule that dictates if you’re going to make it in the music biz, it’s imperative to move to Nashville or L.A.
Brent Cobb took that advice, but after paying some dues in both of those cities, he opted to return to a locale that’s a world away — Ellaville, Georgia, the small town where he was raised and still calls home. A decidedly humble individual, the 32-year-old singer-songwriter (“I prefer songwriter-singer,” he said) eschews the traditional trappings of music making.
“I was never the kind of kid that wanted to escape his hometown,” Cobb said, speaking by phone from home a day before a return to the road. “I always embraced it. I always appreciated where I was from. I never wanted to leave.”
That’s still the case. Cobb recently took two months to stay home and tend to domestic duties, specifically the care of his newborn son.
Nevertheless, success still stalks him. “Shine On Rainy Day,” released in 2016, earned him a Grammy nomination and climbed just inside the Top 20 of Billboard’s Hot Country Albums chart.
Cobb calls it “a fine experience,” an unmistakable understatement if ever there was one.
“Well, maybe it does a matter a little,” he allowed when asked if the honors will loom large over whatever project comes next.
“That’s nothing we were really planning on,” Cobb said when pressed on the effect of the Grammy nod. “We’ll go into the next record with that same thought, or lack thereof I guess. I don’t want to repeat the same thing over and over again, but I also know what I do as a songwriter, which is kind of a Southern type of country music that I love and that I’ve always listened to. It’s my favorite kind of music, so I don’t know that I would change. I just don’t want to overthink it.”
It’s evident by now that Cobb doesn’t put on any artificial airs. That’s an attitude instilled in his music. “Shine On Rainy Day” and his most recent effort, “Providence Canyon,” are as unpretentious as might be imagined, given that their songs center around everyday experiences and aspirations.
“My daddy and I were talking last night, just kind of hanging out and walking the land, the kind of stuff we like to do,” Cobb mused. “That’s kind of my life. That’s where my inspiration comes from. I feel like if that’s what I write about, people will kind of relate to it.”
If Cobb’s good old boy attitude makes him appear somewhat nonchalant at times, it’s only because he eschews pretense and chooses instead to adopt a kind of everyman attitude. That’s one reason he feels country music has drifted away from its roots.
“Nowadays, I swear to goodness, it sounds completely removed from anything that came before it,” Cobb said. “I’m not saying it’s a good thing, but I’m not saying it’s a bad thing either. It is strange. That music always allowed you to collect your thoughts and make you think about something you might not have thought about before. It just doesn’t seem to do that anymore.”
Nevertheless, Cobb’s ability to stay true to himself has been well received by other performers. His compositions have graced any number of best selling albums including those by several successful headliners — Luke Bryan, Little Big Town, Miranda Lambert and Kenny Chesney among them.
“I’ve had around 35 songs I’ve written covered by other artists,” Cobb said. “And though none of them have been released as singles, they’re all the kind of songs that I like in country music. They do say something. I’ve never sat down and thought, ‘This is something that will compete with what’s on the radio.’ They’re always songs that I myself could have recorded and possibly will record someday.”
Cobb said that he’s always found writing music to be therapeutic, one reason he’s never thought about doing anything else. After making his stage debut at age seven with his father’s band, he fronted several local groups during his teenage years. A chance meeting with his cousin, producer Dave Cobb, resulted in his relocation to Los Angeles. It was there that he recorded his first album, the prophetically titled “No Place Left To Leave.” After returning home, he was later encouraged by Luke Bryan to move once again, this time to Nashville, where he scored a successful publishing deal.
“Once I had three or four cuts placed on records, I knew my contract would be renewed,” he said. “At that point, I figured the publisher wouldn’t lose any money on me and I could make a living out of this. It’s all I really wanted to do. I never saw anything long-term in anything except this, even before I knew I could do it.”
As for the future, Cobb said that being home has inspired a new batch of material and he’s eager to get back into the studio. However when it comes to touring, it’s evident he’s somewhat less enthused.
“I love writing the songs. I appreciate the opportunity to perform them and I appreciate the people wanting me to perform them,” he said. “It blows my mind. It’s a blessing. But I’m not a natural entertainer. A lot of people live for that, but sometimes I don’t want to be the center of attention. That doesn’t mean I won’t put on my best performance.
“But I just wanted to be a songwriter, and somehow I got pulled into performance and making albums for a living. I tried my hardest to sabotage my performance career. It just never worked for some reason. So I will continue to go whichever the wind blows me.”