New Single ‘Love You In Your Own Time’ By James Douglas Cooper Releasing July 28
Aussie singer, songwriter and musician James Douglas Cooper talks about his new album, staying creative during lockdown and some of his musical influences growing up.
Hey James, give us a little background into how you first got into music:
I first learned piano at a young age and veered off into writing my own stuff when I got frustrated with the traditional exam system much to my teacher’s frustration. I was in orchestras all through my youth as a trombone player and also in choirs. I performed in these ensembles in Australia, the US and Europe and it opened my eyes to group creative work and the power of music individually and collectively. I went on to form a band at college and when some of our songs were played on the radio in Australia, that well and truly gave me the feeling I needed to keep going. Music is a great thing for young people to get into. You form lasting friendships and relationships with people you may not otherwise meet, all because you can create together and make life better for each other, and audiences, all through song.
Who were some of your influences growing up?
My time in Youth Orchestras introduced me to classical composers from a young age and I remember being especially taken with Antonín Dvořák’s New World Symphony and the work of Jean Sibelius. When I started learning guitar by ear so I could play along with pop music, I was hooked in by The Beatles, The Finn Brothers in Split Enz and Crowded House and I remember loving Billy Joel, Elton John, John Lennon and Frank Sinatra. I was really inspired by a lot of local music in Australia in the 1980’s from Icehouse to John Farnham, Jimmy Barnes, Midnight Oil, Men at Work, Crowded House, Divinyls, Hunters and Collectors — there was great music being made locally when I was growing up. My first live rock concert was Crowded House’s farewell to the world on the Opera House steps and that blew my mind musically. I remember after that I had a shape on what I thought I could offer musically in my own way. Those guys really opened my mind. What Neil Finn was doing really inspired me.
How did you find the music industry in Australia compared to the US?
I’m not sure what to say about the industry really. I art directed a lot of album covers for well-known artists in the UK as well as Australia. Along with making music and art for the industry I do notice that the Australian industry is very small by comparison. In the US, I think there is a wide scope of opportunity and a lot of diversity which is exciting to me. I think the industry is this thing that everyone talks about as ‘out there’ but actually we musicians are the ones who make it up one person at a time, so really, it’s about community and groups of creatives making their work as best they can.
Tell us about your new music/album:
The new album ‘In Pursuit of the Firebird’ is a record I made that was unexpected. It’s made up of songs I’d written over a 10-year period when I was on hiatus from the music industry. I consciously stepped away from music, for a variety of reasons. But I had kept on writing. So, when lockdown hit Australia (where I was during the pandemic) I had about 5 albums worth of material. So, I decided to start recording in my home studio — to just fill up the months of dead time. A theme emerged through some of the material. I’m interested in the notions of ego, of building and making things in the world, and of course the notion that everything that is built is eventually also destroyed or eroded. The pandemic era seemed to highlight a lot of this to me.
I wasn’t really sure the world was going back to normal; you know? So, the pursuit of the ‘firebird’ relates to the idea that we are constantly searching for something outside of ourselves. This mythic, larger than life point of arrival that our ego and sense of self-worth desires, but actually everything we really need is already inside of us and we simply need to awaken it and realize it’s there. Often when we stop searching and stay still for long enough to be present, we realize we’ve already ‘arrived’. There is an old car called a ‘firebird’ and I wasn’t searching for that. Although if that’s how it makes sense to you, then that’s fine too, ha.
I’ve released the album independently and it’s available on all streaming platforms and we are releasing a new single on July 28, ‘Love You In Your Own Time’. Some videos for the songs will be coming down the pike and I’ve been starting to play some of the songs live again in LA. It’s all very organic and I’ve written, recorded, produced and released everything myself so there’s no label or anything behind it — I’m learning a lot this time around — it’s my 3rd solo album now out in the world. I hope people relate to some of it in some way.
What has been one of the biggest highlights/achievements of your career?
I’ve been lucky to have a few already in my music career. Performing at Ronnie Scott’s in London, The Paradiso in Amsterdam, writing songs for other people whom I really admire, and I think hearing a song I wrote, ‘Beautiful As You’ with Aussie band The Whitlams, on the radio when you go into a store or turn on the car radio all these years later still makes me smile. Just the process of recording the work and having new songs on the boil — at a basic level — is always an achievement for me.
If you had a chance to work alongside anybody who would that be?
That’s a great question. I’ve been lucky to work alongside some mega heroes of mine art directing their album covers and musically too. I think if I had the chance, I’d love to co-write and open shows with/for some of my favorite writers in the world and record some special songs with them. Shooting for the stars I’d say artists like Paul McCartney, Elvis Costello, Lindsay Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, Neil and Tim Finn, Bonnie Rait, Peter Gabriel, Eric Clapton, Ron Sexsmith, Colin Hay, Bruce Cockburn, JJ Cale, Jackson Browne, Paul Simon, Robert Forster, Graham Nash, Neil Young, Sarah McLachlan… real artists that I admire who have an insane command of song craft. Those singer-songwriters truly inspire me… some of whom are at the height of their powers well into their twilight years.
This is a long list, but who knows, anything’s possible musically these days with collaboration.
What other projects do you have coming up?
I’m about halfway through recording and writing my next album. It’s being recorded in LA, and I’ve got a few wonderful collaborations already underway with it. I’m excited for this next one where I’m using what I’ve learned with the last record to really dive into new song ideas and new recording techniques.
We’ll be making some new videos for the current record too. I was slow off the mark with that. But that doesn’t matter because things being delayed now seems to be cool after the delays of the last few years. It’s like you’re nobody if you’re not having a delay with your creative work!
What is your best piece of advice for other aspiring artists?
That’s a big area to touch on but I’d say follow your intuition as an artist. We’re all given a spark as Robin Williams once said and we have to use it. Chase your path down and create from your authentic self and your authentic voice. Say what you mean and give your gift to the world. You never know where it might take you!
Cooper’s new single ‘Love You In Your Own Time’, taken from the album ‘In Pursuit of the Firebird’, is released on July 28 and streaming world-wide.
For more info. visit links below: