Before Dave Cobb had made a name for himself in Nashville, his cousin Brent had begun making his own. Brent had recorded his first record 10 years ago with Dave in Los Angeles, but the West Coast wasn’t for him.
After only four months in L.A., he moved back to Nashville and began writing songs for other artists — Miranda Lambert, Kenny Chesney, and Luke Bryan, among others. It wasn’t much longer before Dave came to Nashville, too. The pair hooked up on Brent’s new record, Shine on Rainy Day, in October and has become the case with everything that Dave touches these days, it’s received a lot of acclaim. This month, Rolling Stone Country named it the 11th best album of 2016.
Brent chats more about his relationship with Dave and his relationship with his hometown and about an influence that’s really clear but not often spotted before his stop at Workplay on Saturday.
Weld: Shine on Rainy Day starts out kind of soft and sweet and then as it progresses, it jams a little bit. Was that natural or is that an influence that Dave’s production had on the album?
Brent Cobb: Dave was always good about. I think everybody internally wants that to happen with their music. I’m definitely more of singer-songwriter. So when ballads or more songwriter type songs can have that grit to them… A lot of folks — producers — don’t know how to do that, and luckily, that is one of Dave’s specialties. So, it’s kind of a little bit of both, I think.
Weld: I hear a lot of Allman Brothers influence in your music. Is that something that was a big influence on you?
Cobb: Absolutely, yes. The Allman Brothers had a lot of influence on me growing up. I was always around that music, and Dave was too. So, when we get in, it was only natural. Nobody goes that route. Everybody that goes the Southern rock route kind of goes more for the, I don’t know, like “Country Boy Can Survive” or the more outlaw, Southern rock thing. But, man, the Allman Brothers were so musical and so melodic and jam[ming]. They’re definitely more of a jam band than Lynyrd Skynyrd or anything. Everybody misses that part sometimes, and we want to complete it.
Weld: You and Dave are somewhat distantly related, right?
Cobb: My grandfather is his grandfather’s nephew. So, I guess, technically were third cousins removed.
Weld: When you met, you were actually a teenager, and I guess he would have probably been close to 30 at that point. Were you all immediately compelled to collaborate then, or was it later on? And how did that relationship grow?
Cobb: Well, I think we’re both reluctant at first because I was a little [expletive]. I was 17, nearly 18, and my great aunt had passed away. It was his grandmother. I had to be a pallbearer in her funeral.
He didn’t grow up in Richland. His dad was the only Cobb that left Richland, Georgia which is the same area where I’m from and he never came back. So, they came back for her funeral.
We’re all musical in my family and word had gotten around that he was a record producer… I remember going in and going, “Oh, so, you’re a record producer, what have you produced?” That kind of thing. And then he told me Shooter Jennings’s “Put the ‘O’ Back in Country” and that blew my mind because that was all me and my buddies…we’d all been listening to for months and it’s still one of my favorite records.
And so the next day, he was still down there and I’d given him the a six-song acoustic demo of songs that recorded in Franklin, Tennessee, with my momma’s brother, my uncle, David. And I guess he was really reluctant to listen to that on the way back to the airport to go to L.A., and his wife talked him into listening to it. And so, once he did, he took it to Shooter, and he asked Shooter if he was crazy or was this any good. And two days later, I’d just gotten off work — I was working for a tree service at that time — and the phone rings, and it’s Dave and he’s got Shooter on the phone and changed my life and flew me to L.A. and do a record. So, that what he did, and that’s how we first met.
Weld: And I guess, that’s been almost 10 years — or there are about 10 years between that first record you did out in LA and this one that you did in Nashville, how did you all grew apart and how did you decide to come back together? And I know you were writing songs for a bunch of other folks during that time and I assume that weren’t working any with him, how did that relationship evolved over those 10 years?
Cobb: Well, we did the album. I had a deal with an independent record company and record label. And I was really reluctant to move to L.A., so I would go back and forth for about a year and a half. And back in that year and a half, I decided to finally make a move, so Hollywood was the first place I ever moved outside of Ellaville, Georgia, population 1609.
And so, there was drive-by shooting, and there was an earthquake. It only rained one time and I almost got carjacked and I was only there for four months and all of this happened in four months. And by the time I made that move a year and a half after the record, that iron had kind of cooled off a little bit over there. So, I really didn’t want to be there, and so, I left L.A. I went back to Georgia for a couple of months, and then I made the move here to Nashville in March of ’08. So, I was all the way over here; Dave was over there. Though, right when I moved here, he did come to town to do an Oak Ridge Boys album, The Boys are Back. That was my first cut I had gotten was with the Oak Ridge Boys on one of the songs that are written when I was 17.
I started learning about [being a staff writer] through Luke Bryan, and I landed a publishing deal. All of my heroes had been staff writers, like Willie [Nelson] and Kris Kristofferson and all those guys, so I did that. I focused on songwriting. Of course, I didn’t know the first question everyone asked you when you start working on Music Row is, “Are you more of an artist? Or are you a songwriter?” And I thought they were all the same; I didn’t know there would be a much of a difference to that so I would say “both.” So, they would go, “All right. Well, you’re an artist. I will need to find you a producer; I will need to find you this and find you that.”
And I told them, ‘Well, I’ve got a producer. He’s my cousin, and he’s really great.’ And nobody knew who Dave was at that time. They weren’t comfortable with investing their money into someone’s cousin who was a producer that they didn’t know. And rightfully so, I guess. I didn’t have the money at that time, Dave didn’t have any money. So, we couldn’t really work together.
Dave ended up moving here right around that time, and he started working with different artists, and he called me to write with different artists, so we worked together a little that way. And then I was touring on that EP to try to sell that EP. So, I did about four years of touring. And then when we found out we we’re going to have our first baby, I decided to leave the road and just focus again on songwriting.
After about a year and a half of taking that break, Dave called us about doing Southern Family earlier this year. I did that, and we got in a studio. It had been 10 years since we had been in a studio together before, and the both of us felt like coming home. It’s what I’ve been wanting to do since the first one. He’d been wanting to do it and we just finally had the resources to do it. And of course, [now] everybody knew who Dave was in this town and it just really worked out.
Brent Cobb comes to the Workplay Theatre on Saturday, December 17. Adam Hood opens. The show begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10. For more information, visit workplay.com.