It has been a long road to success for British singer JP Cooper

JP Cooper signed a deal with record label Island Records in 2014 and released his debut album Raised Under Grey Skies last year.
JP Cooper signed a deal with record label Island Records in 2014 and released his debut album Raised Under Grey Skies last year.PHOTO: UNIVERSAL MUSIC SINGAPORE

Singer-songwriter JP Cooper had his break with dance track Perfect Strangers, but he says he is more of a soul, hip-hop artist

8Q

You have probably heard his honeyedvocals on tracks such as British DJ-producer Jonas Blue's Perfect Strangers, a tropical house music club anthem, or his breezy, soulful, solo single September Song.

But radio airplay and millions of Spotify streams were not always the case for self-taught British singer-songwriter JP Cooper.

After working in a bar, doing odd jobs on building sites and even a stint in a Pizza Hut outlet, Cooper, 34, worked his way up playing small shows in his home town of Manchester.

After a series of self-released EPs, he signed a deal with major record label Island Records in 2014 and released his debut album, Raised Under Grey Skies, last year.

Like Pirates Of The Caribbean protagonist Jack Sparrow sans eyeliner, dreadlocked Cooper sports handsome good looks. His big break last year opened many doors - including the opportunity to come to Asia for the first time to perform at the Java Jazz Festival in Jakarta, Indonesia, in March.

He has also just gotten off supporting Irish rock band The Script on the Australian leg of their tour and headlining his first solo show in Asia in Tokyo last month.

The father of a three-year-old boy has already started work on his second album. "I'd like to hope that the second album is going to be my big moment, in terms of reaching for other parts of the world," he says.

The Straits Times caught up with the singer while he was in Singapore for a whirlwind promotional trip.

1 Where did you learn to sing like that? Are you from a family of musicians and singers?

No, there aren't any musicians or singers in my family, so it was just years of playing and exploring.

I just played in bands where none of us were trained musicians and we taught ourselves. We worked it out as we went along... I didn't always sound this good.

2 What would you consider the turning point in your career?

Career-wise, it was signing a record deal with Island Records so I could focus on music and didn't have to do any of those jobs I was doing before.

My big global breakthrough was the collaboration song I did with Blue called Perfect Strangers and that's probably how a lot of people out here heard me. And then September Song was another global success.

That's changed things a lot and, now, we're working on cooking up the next batch.

3 Who has knocked on your door since?

A lot of people, especially in the dance music world after the Jonas Blue track came out. But I didn't want to do too many of them because I'm not really a dance artist and I didn't want to confuse people until the album was out.

Now that it's out, there may be a few more in the future, but I can't say who.

4 Have you already started working on your next album?

I've opened up the year with writing new songs and I'm doing a lot of that. It's still in the early stages, but I hope I'll release a fair bit more music this year.

5 Is it going to be in the same stripped-back soul vein as your first album?

I feel like it might be a little bit more urban and rooted in hip-hop influences. I'm really enjoying exploring that and a lot of my new material has been leaning that way.

My plan was always to never drift too far for the second album because I feel the first one was just a set-up, where a lot of people are coming to know me through it.

But I'm always going to be evolving. I don't really live for any one style of music and I want to have that freedom.

6 What has been the most surreal part of your music journey so far?

The show at Java Jazz was surreal, and just the realisation that people on the other side of the world know and love your music and sing all the words. A lot of the time, it never sinks in.

7 Do you have any plans to play in Singapore?

I'm hoping that, through this trip, we'll start to put some things in motion.

This is the furthest I've been from home and I hope I get more opportunities to come out here.

8 How would you like to be remembered?

I would like people to think kindly of me, as someone who had time for the people who met me, even if they were people I don't know so well. As someone who would stop and listen when people talk to me. It's getting harder to do.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 07, 2018, with the headline 'Pursue his dream, heart and soul'. Print Edition | Subscribe