Musician Brent Cobb’s “Southern Star” folds serendipity into storytelling. We interviewed him about his evolution and the stories behind the new album.
On a rainy Friday evening in June, I stood in soaked-through cowboy boots, my favorite raincoat, and my beat-up hat singing along to the music of Brent Cobb. I was at the Old Salt Festival in Montana’s Blackfoot Valley, and Cobb headlined the first night. We Montanans don’t stop life at a wet cold, and neither did Cobb. He leaned into the night and rocked us all back into warmth as we spun and sung along on cattle pasture moonlighting as a dance floor.
Best thing you can do is don’t listen too close / Walk on to your own beat / Keep ’em on they toes
“Keep ‘Em On They Toes” introduced me to the back porch ‘southern eclectic’ music of a long-haired Georgian with a voice that follows folky rhythms in the way cool butter melts on bread fresh from the oven. The song, released in summer 2020, stretched like a lifting light over a lonely pandemic. It sat in the top five of my Spotify playlist that year with its hopeful and playful call to being yourself.
Enter Brent Cobb’s New Album “Southern Star”
Today, Cobb releases “Southern Star” and within its notes, you’ll find the same light, hope, and grit that Cobb offers in his deep-rooted style. Thematically, the album is lilting. It blends notes of blues, bluegrass, and a summery peach-sweet southern jam, with the juices you can’t catch sticking solidly to your shirt.
Cobb’s mid-range register pulls you through the songs at a sing-along pace, with room for reflection and dancing in the kitchen. The Georgia musician’s homing instincts ring through the album. This isn’t your road-dog wandering album with eyes for anywhere but here. It’s a devotion to place that doesn’t blink.
Along the way, a love song (“Patina”) pays homage to a partnership with the feel of worn-in leather. “Kick the Can” harkens back to childhood evolving in a way that feels familiar and comforting. A standout, “Devil Ain’t Done” offers a dance beat with a side of outlaw that counters the thematic sweetness without leaving the album’s tenor. It’s fun. And “Livin’ the Dream” ties gratitude into the deal:
Kind of feel like this whole thing’s a smokescreen / But it don’t owe me a doggone thang / I’m livin’ the dream
The one song that blinks a bit for me is “When Country Came Back to Town” but it’s more a matter of personal taste. The name-dropping earnestness is, for me, a classic and perhaps over-utilized country music device. Think Brad Paisley’s “This is Country Music” or Lady Antebellum’s “And The Radio Played.” It is, however, an industry standard — the way musicians pay homage to friends, touring buddies, and mentors.
The song itself is sing-along and sway-along-worthy, and it’s a thank-you note tied into the album. It still fits, and thematically, it ties into Cobb’s sense of home through musical community.
Overall, “Southern Star” is a delight. I interviewed Cobb about his rise to the present, and an album tied so deeply to home, love, and community seemed like an inevitability. I felt as if I was talking to a friend I hadn’t talked to in a year or two. Turns out, Cobb’s ability to harken familiar feelings — emphasis on family — is written into his DNA.
INTERVIEW: Brent Cobb’s Journey to His “Southern Star”
H&B: How do you describe your own origin story?
Cobb: Well, personally and musically, they’re interwoven. I grew up in rural southwest, central Georgia, about an hour outside of Macon. My dad and all the Cobb side of my family were from this little town called Richland. They’re all musical.
I grew up around little picking parties around the campfire, on the back porch of somebody’s place. My dad played every weekend as a secondary source of income. He opened for a lot of people like George Jones, Doug Stone, Chubby Checker, and Dottie West. I met them when I was a kid, so I grew up around that. On my mom’s side of the family, she’s from Cleveland, Ohio, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is in Cleveland. Her brothers were all rockers. They’re more lead.
Otis Redding, Ray Charles, the Allman Brothers — they’re all from close to where I’m from. I’m half Yankee as they say, but I grew up in Georgia and even when you’re so close to something, it’s sort of hard to see the forest through the trees. Music was for sure a part of me growing up.
H&B: So how do you end up getting into music on a personal level?
Cobb: I got involved in my first little band when I was 12 and started meeting other kids who could play. And then luckily I had a dad who played every weekend, but that’s as far as I thought you could really do it. I thought you had to work a regular job and then you could play on Friday and Saturday nights regionally to make a little extra money.
My one thing was that I was never very good at learning cover songs. I’m not good at remembering lyrics that I don’t write.
That’s real still to this day, but I wasn’t then either. I played in cover bands from 12-years-old to about 18-years-old. I’d always have to have a second singer because I could never learn all the songs. So I started writing my own songs because I can remember them.
To this day, if I write a song, I don’t ever have to write the lyrics down. But for some reason, I can’t remember all the words to ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ to save my life. But I can write a song one time and I’ll remember it forever.
H&B: As a writer, I totally get that. They’re your words.
Cobb: You’re very much attached to it as a part of yourself, like as you are to your thumb, you know what I mean? It’s just sort of an extension of me or of you as a writer.
H&B: What happened next?
Cobb: Well, like I said, I didn’t know you could do music professionally full-time until I had a great aunt who passed away. I was a pallbearer at her funeral. I heard we had a cousin named Dave Cobb coming who I’d never met; he was her grandson. And word got around that he was an LA record producer.
I didn’t know what he had produced, and I was kind of an arrogant kid at the time — like most 18-year-olds are. I say, man, I hear you a big-time record producer, what have you produced? He listed off a few things. He said, I’ve done this and that, and I just did this album by Waylon Jennings son, Shooter Jennings, called Put the “O” Back in Country.
H&B: That’s like something out of a novel.
Cobb: It really was. That blew my mind. That album was all we were listening to; it was so cool. He kind of shut me up then. I had just recorded this little six-song acoustic demo of songs I had written. My mama’s brother recorded in Nashville at his little basement studio, and I had a cd.
Shamelessly, I gave him that cd. And then two days later, he and his wife were on the ride back to the airport and his wife Lydia was saying, you should listen to your little cousin’s demo. He’s like, I’m not listening to that shit. She talked him into it.
I had a couple decent songs on there, I guess. Two days later, the phone rings. I answer it and my folks aren’t there. And he goes, Hey, it’s your cousin Dave. We met at Grandma’s funeral. Man, I listened to your demo and I got Shooter sitting here. I played it for him. We want to fly you to LA and make a record.
And I’m looking at my stoned buddy sitting at my mom and daddy’s kitchen table, and I’m just silently just mouthing holy sh*t and pointing at the phone.
H&B: Incredible! What happens from there?
A couple weeks after that, I go out to LA for the first time, and it’s the first time I ever flew on an airplane. When I get to the studio, Shooter and the 357’s are in the process of recording their next album Electric Rodeo. I felt like the kid journalist in ‘Almost Famous’. I just was like, what the hell is going on?
That was the first experience. I went back and forth for about a year and a half. When we finished that album, we put it out on my birthday, August 1st of 2006.
I met Jason “Rowdy” Cope during that time. We were playing and putting a band together and writing songs. And in the meantime, when I would come home, I’d play with that cover band Mile Marker five that I was in.
We had a couple opportunities to open for Luke Bryan when he was on his tour. Luke is from Leesburg, which is about 30 minutes from where I’m from. And he was not like a superstar at all yet. He had written a couple songs that went pretty big for him as a songwriter. Around that time, he just was just about to put out his first single.
My best friend, Sean Radford, who was playing bass in that cover band, he was like, “I’m giving him that damn album you just made.” That was my “No Place Left to Leave” album that I recorded in California.
H&B: Sometimes we need that little extra push from someone, right?
Cobb: We really do. Luke listened to the album. He called and was like, man, you got to come to Nashville. So I was in between LA and Nashville. I felt like I needed to move to LA first because they were the first people that showed interest. I went out there for about four months and it was all I could do. It was just a little too big of a change.
I moved back home, and I was working with my dad. He has an appliance repair business We’re drinking coffee. And this is back when CMT was on, and they’re playing the debut of Luke Bryan’s new video for “All My Friends Say.”
So it’s playing, and my dad tells me that I should call him and that he really seemed like he wanted to help me. And I was like, he’s too busy now. I’m not going to worry about it.
The very next morning I had a missed call from a number that I didn’t have in my phone. The voicemail said, ” Hey man, this is Luke Bryan. I haven’t talked to you in a while, but I just want to tell you the invitation is still open for you to come to Nashville.” So I did.
H&B: Isn’t it funny how the universe, when we can’t support ourselves, sometimes it just steps in for us.
Cobb: It’s all serendipity. I moved to Nashville then March of 2008, and I was working at Walgreens for about a year.
Then, I got a publishing deal in 2009 with Carnival Music Publishing. Frank Liddell was the owner of that. He produced a bunch of those early Miranda Lambert albums and Chris Knight stuff. And I’ve been right there ever since. And yeah, I mean, I tell a half-joke that goes taking me nearly 20 years to get to the bottom.
H&B: There’s that old saying that ‘it takes 20 years to become an overnight success’ as well. Southern Star is obviously coming out. How has that process been?
Cobb: It’s kind of funny. Yeah, that is Southern Star is connected all the way back to that first time going out to LA. It wasn’t the place for me, but I’m so glad that I did because I wouldn’t be who I am today. While I was out there, I needed to be back home always. I
I wasn’t a kid that grew up in a small town that was like, I can’t wait to leave here. I was like, I absolutely love this place. Really, I just didn’t ever care to leave.
But I had to because of what we were just saying. The universe made me go. You can’t turn down these kind of opportunities. Most people go their whole life wishing that these sorts of opportunities would present themselves, and they just don’t. I would feel wrong if I didn’t answer when it came knocking.
Cobb: Still, it’s taken 20 years and sometimes you go, am I doing what I’m supposed to be doing? I honestly don’t know. But I would think about where I came from and the light of that Southern Star. But then on the other side, there was an artist, Sally Jay, who was from Cartersville, Georgia when I was in , amazing songwriter. She’s actually the songwriter of Miss Der that is on Southern Star, which was the last song that I wrote or that I recorded for Southern Star.
When I was in LA and I was so homesick, I met this amazing songwriter and artist named Sally Jaye. My friend Rowdy was helping her on a new album. She’s from Georgia, and her mom came out to LA. She was super southern, super country, and she actually grew up in Sylvester which is like 20 minutes down the road. Sally invited us all over and her mom made us a home-cooked Southern meal one evening. It made me feel so at home; this lady seemed to know I needed some cornbread and some dang peas.
“In this very dark and lost homesick moment of my life, that light of a southern star shined on that moment.” — Brent Cobb
Fast forward all these years later, I still remember that. And a couple years ago I was going to record a whole album of covering Sally Jaye’s ‘Amarillo’ album that Rowdy had worked on. We had it recorded, and I was going to just name it ‘Thanks Sally.’ Well then Covid happened, and our friend Rowdy passed away [from diabetic complications].
The cover project got put on the sideline, and we began working on the album that would become ‘Southern Star’.
The last day of recording was a Sunday, I cooked for everybody. I cooked a bunch of collards and made a big Southern meal for the band and everybody, like Sally’s mom had done for me back in the day.
That morning I woke up and I just knew I really wanted to get 10 songs. I got real emotional that morning; it hit me that I needed to record “Miss Ater” by Sally Jaye. She was this huge southern star for me then, as was Rowdy.
On the way to the studio, I’m riding down Riverside Drive in the middle of Macon, Georgia on the way to Capricorn. And there’s nobody on the road. They’re at church; it’s Sunday in the south. And so while I’m riding, I’m going, am I doing this right? Is adding this song the right move?
Then, in the middle of the road, there is a lone floating balloon that is not attached to anything. It’s just free-floating over the road — a silver star balloon.
H&B: Your Southern Star!
Cobb: Exactly. I was like, alright, then that’s what I’m going to do. So I covered Sally’s song “Miss Ater” for the album, and this whole connection to the past of my origin story comes together. And the best part is Sally sang the harmony on my version of it for the album.
Brent Cobb’s latest album Southern Star released on September 22nd. Get it wherever you listen to music.