Ross Copperman is perhaps best-known as one of the biggest hit-makers in Nashville.
With an incredible 31 number one hits under his belt for artists such as Blake Shelton, Keith Urban and Brett Eldredge, Copperman has won plenty of awards and sold millions of records. Earlier this year, Copperman stepped back into the artist spotlight with new EP ‘Somewhere There’s A Light On’, his first collection of material for several years.
I caught up with Ross recently to talk about his EP, discuss his return to the artist spotlight, and to find out about the many hits he’s written for Nashville’s biggest stars…
You recently released your EP ‘Somewhere There’s A Light On’ and this is your first collection of material in a while. Why did you decide to put it out now?
The pandemic threw me into this. Everything shut down and I thought if I if I’m ever going to do it, now’s the time to do it. I dove in and I surrounded myself with people that believed in me, and that belief gave me a new confidence in finding my own voice again. It took that to find my voice, which I had kind of lost for last 10 to 12 years.
The songs on this EP are very different from the songs that you’ve written for other artists. When you write a song do you think about how it’s going to sound or does that part come later in the production?
After writing for so long for so many other people, it’s almost really hard to sit down and try and write for myself. I don’t want to change my process. I just try and write the best hook and the best idea, and if that sounds like a Blake Shelton song, then that’s what it is. In the end, if it sounds like something that I would maybe sing then (I sing it). I like to let the song run its course first because I set out to be a songwriter initially. I like to let it run its course and let other people hear the song first. Ultimately, as time passes, the songs seem to find me like ‘Somewhere There’s A Light On’ I always knew that was a me song. Luckily, I was able to have that song for myself.
I imagine when you’re as prolific a writer as you are, it must be hard to decide where the songs should go. Has that process become more natural and intuitive?
I generally will write write a song and I’m like, ‘oh, this really sounds like something Keith Urban might want to say’ or ‘this this sounds like how I imagine Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani’s relationship, this could be a cool thing for them to sing together’ like ‘Nobody But You’ and ‘Happy Anywhere’. With my songs I like to have messages of positive reinforcement. That’s been my thing, to inspire people. With songs like ‘Somewhere There’s A Light On’ reminding people as bad as it gets, as dark as your days are, there’s always somewhere there’s a light burning in the world.
The message of that song feels even more relevant at the moment because of the pandemic. It’s really resonating people because we need hope don’t we?
We really do. We think we’re out of it and then we’re not, and then we’re back in it…
What kind of impact did the pandemic have on you? Did it stifle or help your creativity?
It really opened me up in a lot of ways. I was able to Zoom write with people from all over the world that I might not have been able to meet otherwise. I was writing with writers named Caroline Ailin and Sly who were in Scandinavia. We were writing on Zoom and I was in North Carolina. Then I got to write with Jason Evigan who was in L.A. with Dan + Shay who were in Nashville and Ashley Gorley who was in Florida. It really took the limits off of creativity. We could all be anywhere and be inspired by our surroundings, and then come together and write. I actually really enjoyed Zoom writing like that.
I’ve spoken to a fair few artists about Zoom writes and they seem to either love them or hate them. Was there any challenges in terms of getting the same vibe you’d have in a writers’ room?
Yeah, there’s definitely a vibe missing but you have to create your own vibe. I have my studio here so I’m able to vibe out myself. I understand where other people are just staring at a screen trying to listen through the computer and trying to catch a vibe, it’s more difficult to really feel what’s happening. I get being on the other end of it.
Do you think you’ll carry this way of writing forward post-pandemic?
Yeah. I wrote yesterday with a writer in LA, because traveling is still kind of questionable. I would never have done that write pre-pandemic. (We would have waited until) they’ll be in Nashville or I’ll be there in LA. It could have been two years (in that scenario). I’ve made really cool relationships like this. I’ve been writing with Ilsey Juber who is a phenomenal pop writer. We’ve become good friends and collaborators over Zoom, and we finally met in real life two weeks ago in Nashville and felt like we knew each other forever because of Zoom.
What did we do before Zoom? No one seems to have ever used Skype for this sort of thing…
Yeah. It hardly happened. We would maybe do this (interview) as C2C if I came over and played otherwise it probably wouldn’t have happened.
What’s your plan in terms of rolling out new music beyond this EP?
It’s a slow grow for me. I did it really hard in the beginning about 15 years ago, and then I just stopped for 12 years so it’s been a rebuild process. Luckily, Spotify and Apple have been super awesome putting me on some playlists and I’ve been getting a lot of New Music Friday on Spotify and Apple’s got me on all these pop playlists, and I’m on country playlists. It’s just really introducing me to the world and being like, ‘hey, I put out music too’. It’s been really fun and very cathartic for me to go through this process again. We have plans to roll out music over the next year. I’m doing some really cool collaborations that are blowing my mind with artists that I really respect and look up to. I have a lot of cool stuff coming. This EP is the beginning of a long build.
I have 10 years of material that I’ve been sitting on and I’ve been gathering these over the years. I’m excited. I’ve got some Christmas songs coming out this year and a collaboration (in August). I’m so excited me. It’s just fun for me at this point. I’m approaching it from an entirely different angle.
We’re of a similar age so you’ll have seen how much the industry has changed over the past 15 years. The way you release music now is so different. Have you learned a lot by watching how the songs perform that you’ve written for other artists?
Yeah. Things like TikTok have been eye opening and game changing. I was on Phonogenic Records in the UK and they would do a marketing campaign where they put my posters up all over the city. I don’t feel like that happens anymore. Now you just make a TikTok video and you can get 500,000 views. That’s more eyes than would be on a poster driving around the city. It’s unbelievable. I love TikTok. The floodgates are open. There’s no more gatekeeping. Anybody has a shot now.
I was talking to Walker Hayes recently about how he’s harnessed TikTok to turn ‘Fancy Like’ into a huge hit…
Walker is a great example man. I’m so proud of him. He worked that system for two years relentlessly and then the algorithm paid off for him. I’m blown away by that whole thing.
You’ve had 31 number one hits so far. Are there any songs that particularly stand out for you or that you have fond memories of?
There’s definitely songs that stand out to me like ‘John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16’ (by Keith Urban), ‘Nobody But You’ (by Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani) and ‘Setting The World On Fire’ (Kenny Chesney and Pink). I gravitate towards songs like that. Those those songs speak to me and capture an emotion or feeling. ‘Setting The World On Fire’ captures those young days of falling in love in Los Angeles and chatting on the pier. Those songs bring me back and give me that nostalgia. ‘Nobody But You’ I did my own version of as a Spotify single. That song has always been close to me. It’s always been (the song) that if I ever put out music, this would be the song I’d want to put out.
That song has done wonders for Gwen Stefani and it’s made people see her in a completely different light…
Yeah, that’s crazy. I was the biggest No Doubt fan in the world so when I found out she was singing that song I was like, ‘what if life? This is crazy. Gwen Stefani singing a song I wrote’.
She’s a very good example of an artist that has moved through genres throughout her career. Music listeners and critics tend to like to put artists in a genre box but I feel like we’re getting to a place where genre is almost irrelevant. What are your thoughts on that?
Funny, I have this conversation with Keith Urban. Every time I’m around him we always end up going into this conversation talking about creating sub-genres within the Country genre. A lot of Country fans are like, ‘oh, that’s not country music, that’s pop country’ and they’re right. A lot of the songs I’ve written are pop country songs. We almost need sub-genres within our own format. Maybe you’re right, maybe that will just eliminate all genres and it’ll just be music. Kids are listening to a Drake song, and then they’re listening to Blake Shelton, and then they’re listening to Luke Combs in the same playlist. That never used to be the case. It used to be that you listened to this CD and you were into hip-hop and that’s what you listened to. Or you were into Country and you just listen to these Country records here. It’s so interesting man. Social media has just blurred all the lines, which is cool. To me, Julia Michaels is a Country artist. I love the way she writes songs. That’s like why I love Nashville.
Ross Copperman’s EP ‘Somewhere There’s A Light On’ is available to download and stream now. Watch an acoustic version of the title track: