Dylan Cooper is part of Saskatoon bluegrass troupe In With the Old, Ellen Froese and the Hot Toddies and Von Jumbo - but now he’s branching out as a solo artist. His debut album is out now so we chatted to Dylan about his music career so far and what to expect from his first release.
Guitar-driven melodies about love and family.
First up, tell us bit about yourself - what first got you into music?
Well, my babysitter when I was a toddler made me a mixtape of NSYNC, Backstreet Boys, and Spice Girls, so that very well may have started things off. I started getting seriously more into music after my brother show me a beat on my cousin’s drumset one day. I found I couldn’t play it, so the competitive brotherly nature within me drove me to keep playing. It eventually grew into something very real for me, it’s less about being better than my brothers now and about enjoying life through music with my friends and family.
Were there any particular bands or artists you took inspiration from?
Oh definitely, Neil Young, The Doors, Tom Waits, Beirut, Billy Talent, My Morning Jacket, Canned Heat, Doc Watson, James Brown, John Frusciante…I don’t think I sound directly like any one of these artists, but I have certainly at one point in my life taken something from them.
How would you describe your style?
Smart music for dumb people or vice versa… guitar-driven melodies about love and family.
If you could collaborate with any living artist, who would it be?
You’ve been a performing artist in Saskatoon for more than 10 years. What does outlets does the city offer for musicians like yourself?
Saskatoon is a hidden gem in Canada…maybe not so hidden anymore though. There is an extremely supportive music scene, the size of Saskatoon allows most people interested in events to have access, there are multiple high quality venues with amazing staff, and lots of like-minded, DIY musicians that love to collaborate and play shows. I can’t ask for much else.
You have part of Ellen Froese and the Hot Toddies, In With the Old and Von Jumbo. How do you divide your time between them all?
I have no idea.
What have you learned from being part of these bands?
How to work with others. Being in one band, you can take for granted how the flow of writing and organizing is within that band, but as you play with others, you have to learn to communicate, compromise, and most of all, remember to have fun. As long as you work on those three, at least in my own experience, you can start writing great music you enjoy.
Your eponymous debut album is out now. What its themes?
The album consists of a collection of songs dated from as far back as 2012. Some of themes are existentialism, the prairies, the arctic, and love: found and lost.
When and where did you record the album?
The album was recorded by myself in the winter of 2018 in a Victorian acreage five minutes outside of Saskatoon.
Can you talk us through each song?
‘Where Was I’ - Written about my mindset before beginning producing the album. I turned 25 and realized I wanted more out of life than what I was currently doing. Luke Goetz on Pedal Steel.
‘Don’t Let These Words Weigh You Down’ - Breakup song. Recalling a time it was done in a car in the middle of winter. Brodie Monhniger on saxaphone.
‘Abigail’ - That feeling you get when you meet a stranger, a spark goes off, then you never meet again. Rock guitar song.
‘Seasons’ - The oldest song on the record. Was heavily into James Brown at the time I wrote it. Live, I mix into the outro a piece of ‘Try Me’ by James. Background vocals by Ellen Froese.
‘Second Winter’ - Recorded in 2012 with a $20 guitar I found at a thrift store in my bathroom.
‘Town With No Highway’ - Song about the high cost of grocery store food in the arctic (my hometown is Baker Lake, Nunavut). I sing about the logistics, the emotions, and the politics.
‘Soon’ - Written about the Rangers of the north, a group of men and women who have highly trained survival skills that benefit the arctic communities in emergencies, such as search and rescues. The song has progressed in my mind to mean a lot more personally, as it reminds me now of my late grandfather. Pedal Steel by Luke Goetz.
‘Making Waves in the Cold’ - The foggy memories I have growing up, heavily Crosby, Stills Nash, and Young inspired.
‘Voices’ - Existentialism and how I’ve come to terms with it. Kazoo is done with just my mouth, a trick a friend taught me last year.
What are your hopes for the album?
That it inspires someone else to write a song about their life.
When and where can we expect to see you on tour next?
Next year, Spring or Fall around Canada.
Finally, if you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice, when would it be and what would you say?
Can I go multiple times? I would tell myself each time to put oil in my car before the engine seizes.
For news and tour dates go to facebook.com/dylancoopermusic.