Wednesday, January 22

Johnny Cooper to play the Key Club

Johnny Cooper, a 21-year-old singer, songwriter and guitarist from Texas, will debut at the Plush Lounge in Los Angeles. Angela Villanueva

A good old country boy from Texas is coming to the Key Club on the Sunset Strip and bringing strong funk-based music as mixed as an iPod shuffle.

Johnny Cooper’s young yet fresh style stems from many influences but above all, strives to make the audience have a good time.

“I have been on this kick where it is R&B and rock kind of stuff, but I have an eclectic style,” Cooper said. “For us it is all about finding the groove. If it makes you want to dance, it is probably a good thing.”

Because of his widely sampled musical taste, different styles are evident in his music, from rock and funk to generally strong country vocals.

“(Cooper’s) philosophy is that he is a member of the iPod generation,” said Scott Welch, Cooper’s manager. “He and his friends listen to music that is all over the place ““ he says, “˜Well, my record should be the same thing.'”

Cooper, who just turned 21, has already released three albums, the latest of which is “Follow,” which debuted at No. 22 on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart. It is described as a more solid reflection of his personal musical style, as compared to his first album which was written when he was just 16.

“I was a teenager on my last album and you could hear it,” Cooper said. “I got to be involved in every aspect of this new record, and I had more knowledge of what I wanted to do. We are in this phase right now of really trying to create our sound ““ we want to come on the radio and for people to know right away it is us they’re listening to.”

Cooper’s first album was more rock-‘n’-roll based, while “Follow” has a more definitive funk sound. Only songs from “Follow” will be featured at the Key Club show.

“The biggest difference between the two records is that he’s 21, not 16,” Welch said. “This record is written by him. It is truly a reflection of where he’s going.”

Although Cooper is relatively young, his stage experience outweighs that of many starting artists and his presence relates to a wide spectrum of audiences.

“One of the advantages is that (Cooper) has … probably played almost 800 shows ““ that is a big learning curve for an artist,” Welch said. “He has a really unique cross-generational style that everyone seems to gravitate (to).”

This musical magnetism has been very appropriate to the college environment. With college towns being a large portion of the shows Cooper has recently played, Hollywood, only miles from UCLA, should be no different in terms of attracting a student crowd.

“We play a lot of college towns in Texas. As far as region is concerned, that doesn’t affect anything,” said Cody Shaw, Cooper’s bass guitarist and lead band member. “I just like to let the sincerity of the music tell (the story). Music has no home and isn’t just from Texas ““ that’s just where we’re from.”

Cooper looks forward to his Los Angeles debut and suggests that music should span long distances in its universality.

“It is one of my goals to play at different places throughout the U.S. and the world,” Cooper said. “When I am writing music, I want to write something that will touch somebody a 100 million miles away.”

Another important goal for the band is just to get the audience to dance and have a good time.

“Our goal number one right now is a funk-based music that people can groove and relax to,” Shaw said. “(We want) people in the back of the bar who are having a conversation with their backs toward us to still bob their heads while they’re talking but not know why, just because they’re grooving so hard.”

While the band is excited for the Los Angeles debut, it is just a step in the calculated public emergence path for Cooper. Each show is taken as a single step at a time, and the audience is always considered.

Whether or not Los Angeles is ready for a young artist with a simple, feel-good and characteristically unjaded sound, the show promises a good time.

“I’m extremely excited, but I’m new to the bigger side of the business ““ it’s just now starting to get more serious,” Shaw said. “I’m just an old country boy from Texas. If just one person enjoys the show, that makes my day. Whatever happens will happen.”

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