Local country music artist Andrew Cooper has heard his fair share of “no’s” while seeking a professional career in music, but now he has gotten a big-time “yes.”
The 30-year-old, who has lived in Tucson since he was 11 and played music since before that, has landed a slot at Country Thunder, one of the nation’s largest annual country music festivals. The event, which runs from July 24-27 in Twin Lakes Wisc., and also debuts in Florence each April, is known for having helped propel the careers of such stars as Eric Church, Brantley Gilbert, Jason Aldean, and dozens of others.
Now Cooper will try to mimic that success, temporarily stepping away from his familiar arenas in the Tucson and Phoenix markets to perform at the event that attracts nearly 25,000 people over a four-day period.
“I’m a little nervous, but I like the pressure,” said Cooper, who has in the past opened for Toby Keith in front of a crowd of about 10,000.
Cooper, or “Coop,” as his friends call him, will take the side stage at Country Thunder in Wisconsin, playing from 4-6 p.m. on July 24, and 10:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m. on July 26. The news came via a phone call after Cooper sent in samples of his music to be heard by festival officials. He got more than he expected when Country Thunder officials told him he had been given two time slots – both of which coincide with some of the largest crowds.
“I tried to sound really calm and keep my cool on the phone, but really I was thinking, ‘heck yes,’” said Cooper.
Inspired by artists like Eric Church, Bonnie Raitt, Pat Green, Garth Brooks, Stoney Larue, and Cross Canadian Ragweed, Cooper got his start in Tucson by playing at the Cactus Moon and the CowPony, both of which he previously worked at. Through mentorships and persistence, he expanded his reach to play at countless other bars and venues throughout Arizona and others out of state.
At one point, he dabbled in college courses at Pima Community College and the University of Arizona, but just as quickly realized music was his true calling, despite the challenges and doubters that came along with.
“School was always something I had to do, but I’ve always loved to play music,” he said. “Even when I had to beg for gigs and play for free, I’d go do it. If someone would tell me ‘You can’t,’ I’d work on getting better. I used to find the person in the crowd that I thought hated me and thought what I was doing was horrible, and I’d try to make that person smile by the end.”
Cooper describes his style as unique to himself, falling somewhere in the broad range of pop country and red dirt Texas. Likewise, his upcoming album, “Hangovers and Heartaches,” follows no particular genre pattern, implementing gritty songs to more upbeat tracks. It is due for release in early July.
“The goal wasn’t to stick to a certain category of country music,” said Cooper. “The goal was to make the best songs possible and put them onto an album. About a year and a half ago I stopped trying to sound like anybody but me. It’s easier to be you than it is to be somebody else.”
Cooper has collected quite the fan base since he began hitting the music scene, having acquired nearly 3,000 friends on Facebook. He has become very well known and respected in the Arizona music markets. One of his closest friends, Dustin Mayfield, is also his manager, and has seen the progression over the years.
“He used to play at all the places I went,” said Mayfield. “The management aspect just sort of occurred by happenstance. I always loved what he was doing on stage, and it’s cool to have seen him get to where he is now and to now be able to work with him in this industry.”
Fans looking to support Andrew Cooper can donate money on Kickstarter.com, a funding platform that will help with travel and record expenses. Fans who donate will receive prizes associated with the amount contributed, including tickets to Cooper’s shows with travel, up to airfare. They can also earn backstage passes, free downloads, and more.
Donations will start being collected the second week of June. For more information on Andrew Cooper, and to hear samples of his music, visit www.reverbnation.com/drewcooper. His music will be available on iTunes soon.
Cooper asks that fans also help support other local artists who he refers to as "crazy-hardworking," such as Jay Faircloth, Jack Bishop, Flip Side, and DJ Du, the latter of which started as a local artist and is now nationally recognized.