Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Brent Cobb's latest album Southern Star is more than just a collection of songs; it's a love letter to the musical history that runs deep in the heart of Georgia. In a recent interview with Wide Open Country, he shared the influences of the region's musical legends and how they immersed themselves with the making of his latest album.
Cobb, raised in Southwest central Georgia, was exposed to music early on. Growing up in a state that has given birth to iconic artists like Little Richard, Ray Charles, James Brown and Otis Redding, the profound musical history of Georgia has long been a muse for him.
"I came up in a musical family," he tells Wide Open Country. "I was so close to it, I knew the history of music, I knew my soul. The way [these artists] send up the light of a southern star on the rest of the world with their music, it's universally personal."
Cobb grew up playing music that he credits with changing the world.
"Without the American South, there would be no music, no world music that [we] know today," he says.
He was influenced by Otis Redding, who is considered one of the greatest artists of all time and heavily impacted the record.
"We all know him as a wonderful songwriter, a wonderful singer and a wonderful showman. When he wasn't on tour, he was coming back home to Macon, [to] his farm, raising chickens and hogs and riding on his horse. He comes from this very country spirit and [wrote] these profound, universal, yet personal songs that the whole world can relate to," Cobb says. "And I'm the same way, I guess I tried to do the same thing. We obviously grew up with completely different life experiences, but the light of that southern star shines the same."
In 2017, he visited Capricorn Sound Studios in Macon, Ga. and it was a transformative experience for him. The historical significance of the iconic studio, a place credited with the invention of the Southern Rock genre and known as the main recording studio for The Allmans, Redding and more, played a pivotal role in shaping the recording process and atmosphere of Southern Star.
"That first time [I visited], even with it as dilapidated as it was, you could immediately feel all the history, and you could feel the ghosts," he says. "It felt like home. Capricorn was built with Otis Redding, you can feel all that in there, all of the reasons that this place was meant to be built," he says. "I'm just trying to capture that southern eclectic [sound]. It's a little bit of rock and roll, a little soul, a little country, but it's also southern."
The album, Brent's first self-produced work, is deeply rooted in the themes and stories of Georgia, paying a heartfelt tribute to his home state. Having prior experience in the producer's chair during collaborations with Adam Hood and Caleb Lee Hutchinson, producing was a role that came natural to him.
"I sort of knew how to articulate what my imagination was, and what I would like to hear on an album," he says. "If we have great songs, you can't screw it up; you can record it in a tin can. I went in with that headspace - trying to pay respect to those who came before me, and respect to the songs."
Songs like "It's A Start" offer glimpses into Georgia's rich culture. In the song, Brent paints a vivid picture of sitting on a creek bank trying to catch crawfish, a simple yet profound moment that encapsulates the down-to-earth essence of the south. "There's something about rural people and rootsy country music," he says. "You grow up around all these old-timers and old stories all the time, and it just kind of imprints it onto you."
One of the standout features of Southern Star is the collaboration with legendary Georgia musicians who have left their mark on the world of music.
"I wanted to use local Macon musicians. It's not only historically significant, [it's] a studio in a town that is actively, currently, presently, making great music - it's not just something that's in the past," Cobb says.
Collaborations with local musicians and artists like Taj Majal bridged the past and present of the musical heritage in Georgia.
With the album's release, Cobb is filled with a mix of emotions. He reflects on the journey that has led him to this point, recognizing that this album, like those before it, contributes to his lifelong musical legacy.
"I tell a half joke that goes, it's only taken me nearly 20 years to get to the bottom... and I'm glad to be," he says. "It's been a long ride and a long career. And it can be exhausting sometimes, but I'm happy to keep my lights on and my babies fed. I'm just proud of how far independent country has come since I first started."
His hope is that this album will resonate with his audience, just as the music of Georgia's greats has resonated with him throughout his career.
"It is a love letter to the state of Georgia," he says, "but if the state of Georgia and musicians who come from it have influenced the rest of the world's music, then surely it will be equally as universal. I don't know that much has changed. We're all living the same life, different colors."
READ MORE: Lukas Nelson Comes Home to His Classic Country Influences on New Album 'Sticks and Stones'
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