Get To Know: Liz Cooper & The Stampede
The Nashville based trio Liz Cooper & The Stampede blend multiple genres together to create a recognizable yet refreshing sound. Fronted by a nomadic Liz Cooper, the group's folk rock melodies mesh perfectly with Cooper's soulful and raspy vocals, formulating a sound that's caught the eye of many, including Audiotree. After recording two Audiotree sessions, it only makes sense that they’d be asked to perform at the annual music festival put on by the Chicago based tastemakers who create audiovisual sessions of the best up and coming artists around. While at Audiotree Music Festival last month, we caught up with Liz Cooper and her stampede (Ky Baker and Grant Prettyman) to talk everything from the Nashville music scene to their hidden talents. The trio have been all over the place lately, performing new music at Austin City Limits Festival, touring with Desert Noises this past summer, and even recording their full length record. It's only a matter of time before they take over the world, so here are five facts to help you get to know them now!
They Inherited Their Great Music Taste From Their Parents
Liz, Ky, and Grant all got started in music at different stages in their life, but each of their parents played in a role in their first musical memories. Liz talks about her experience growing up with the rock and roll staples, saying, "For me, my dad was always really the one to introduce me to new music that was...not crappy. I’d be like I want to listen to--" she pauses, before continuing, "Not Beyonce, because I freaking love Beyonce, but like Nelly or something. And my dad would be like, 'No. Here’s Bob Dylan. Here’s The Grateful Dead.' So we always just went to concerts like The Allman Brothers and that festival type of thing. All those songs just bring back memories for me of summers as a kid doing that. So that’s always just been a magical thing."
Ky echoed that sentiment, adding, "For me, my dad has always had pretty great musical tastes. Even being in a crib I just remember going to sleep to Beatles and Springsteen records. Beach Boys, Elton John, and Tom Petty...So it’s been ingrained in me forever."
Grant says he didn't grow up on the classics like Liz and Ky, but his parents still played a major role in his musical development. "When I was really young, my parents started me playing piano. Whatever musical instrument I wanted to play...they would force me to at least try. Eventually I found my dad’s old Gibson ES 330 from the 60's in the basement under a broken couch in this random room. I was just like what is this? He was just like, 'Here let me show you. I think I remember Puff the Magic Dragon.' So eventually I started playing guitar. That was kind of when it started...finding that guitar. I had always liked music, but the guitar was really different from playing the piano or saxophone," Grant recalled.
They're Collaborative With Other Nashville Musicians
Liz also talks about how her parents unintentionally got her prepared for tour at a young age, by always moving around and living a nomadic lifestyle. After growing up just North of Baltimore, Liz says they moved around a ton. "I lived in Indiana. All throughout the east coast. My parents always moved around a lot and kind of had the wanderlust thing about them. I’m an only child so it’s pretty easy to just pick up and move around. That’s probably influenced a lot of just me. I was always around older people as a kid. I’ve just always had to kind of adapt into situations and meet new people," she reflected.
Now, though, Liz has been in Nashville for just about five years, and the band have become very comfortable in their newest home. "It’s been amazing This year, maybe year and a half, the community there has felt so strong. Like anywhere--with anything, it takes a long time to build relationships with people. Just to make solid friends. I feel like everyone who’s moved there maybe around the same time I have, or just in general who’s playing music that’s our age, we’re all kind of doing it together. It feels very communal this past year especially. It’s really inspiring and very cool," she says.
When I asked which fellow Nashville musicians the group would like to collaborate with, Ky says it would take a couple of days to list of his bucket list. Liz mentions that she's written a little bit with Okey Dokey, a band that the group has played with and become friends with, adding, "I’m actually gonna play guitar with Ron Gallo. He asked me in studio, so I’m gonna play guitar on a song. I’m not sure what the song is, but I'm gonna do it. He came up to me and he seemed really nervous about it."
Although Ron Gallo was a bit nervous to ask Liz to help him out on his recording, it turns out he came to the rescue recently when the band needed him at a festival. "During Americana Fest Liz lost her voice and we had a show. So she came up with this idea to have different people sing our songs, and we still played. Ron came in and sang “Dalai Lama” with us," Ky says. In addition to Ron Gallo, a few other Nashville bands added their hand to the set in order for the show to go on, all in the name of camaraderie. "That was so much fun! I mean, I didn’t feel well. But it was for Americana Fest. I needed to do something about it and I didn’t wanna cancel the show, so I had all these Nashville people sing a song," Liz concluded.
The New Album Was Recorded In Less Than a Week
While Liz Cooper and her Stampede have been playing a lot of their new music live, they also have new recorded versions on the way. "We were in the studio last fall and we recorded a full length. It’s all been this year of like getting it together, and it takes so much planning. This is all a new experience for me so we’re just trying to figure out what to do to make the right moves and decisions. We have a full length that we’re just waiting to do something with," Liz says.
Talking a little more about the process behind this upcoming record, Liz adds, "Well we recorded it at Welcome to 1979, which is like... you walk into this big warehouse. On the outside it’s kind of just--" Liz paused and Ky interjected, "Very conspicuous. Looks like an old, nothing special to it...Then you go in there and it’s vibey as hell." Liz continued her story about the studio, saying, it was indeed like walking into the 1970's as the studio's name implies. "It was intense, but not at all. It was really cool to see how it all worked together," she added.
"It was intense in that we had 5 days in there to record 10 or 12 songs. But it was a very relaxed atmosphere. It was intense cause it was like we can’t just sit here and take our time. We have to really stay on schedule and crank this out. Our producer did a really good job of milking new ideas out of us we didn’t know we had in there," Grant chimes in.
As far as how similar the new songs will sound on the record versus on the road, Liz says, "For people who have been seeing us, they’ll recognize the songs. We recorded them in a different way. So what we do live is a different interpretation. But for everybody’s ears it will be a fresh thing and something we can keep touring on."
They Plot Out Their Setlist Carefully
Liz also lists "Hey Man" and "Dalai Lama" as some of her favorites to play live. "That’s the one that people usually just go nuts on," Ky says of the latter. "You can see a usual shift. Usually 'Dalai Lama' is the third or fourth song in the set. When we play it, people have been receptive up until that point, but when we play it, all of the sudden after that, they’re a little bit louder. It just seems like people are more engaged. So it’s really fun for us not only because it’s fun to play, but it also gets everyone a little bit more into what we’re doing," Grant adds. "That song’s pretty crazy and everyone will go nuts and we’re doing everything we know how to do at once. Then we’ll come back in with the next song and it’s really chill. So everyone is like 'WHOA What?!' So now they’re paying attention. They’re like 'They might go somewhere now,'" Ky says, echoing off of Grant.
Liz says the placement of "Dalai Lama" is intentional. "I like to plan it out--it’s all part of the journey. Really planning out your set. I mean it’s fun to just feel it and do random things sometimes. But to really plan something out, you start paying attention to how people react. It’s just like painting or something. You figure out what to do and how to do it," she says about the set list. "40% of the time we write down a setlist. 60% of the time it’s 'Oh yeah let’s go to this one next,'" Ky adds.
The band also mentioned that one of their touring highlights of the year included playing with their friends in Desert Noises. "I played guitar in Desert Noises, and we went on tour with them and opened up. I did double duty and that was a whole new experience for me and that’s kind of been something I’ve been doing this year to just absorb as much as I can and keep learning. To just keep getting better. How I learned to play guitar was just sitting down and learning from guitar tabs and you kind of keep progressing to whatever you’re gonna do. But I was learning from other people so that was a really cool thing for me," Liz recalls.
Ky elaborates on that tour, saying, "I was such a fan of Desert Noises before they took a break for a couple of years. I was a giant fan. They eventually moved to Nashville, I got to become friends with them, and they decide to make some music again and ask Liz to play with them and have us open. For me it was this whole like holy crap, one of my favorite bands and favorite human playing together and I get to open for them. Now we’re having a blast out on the road. It was really cool for me personally. Absolutely fantastic. A huge highlight of my whole music career. Getting to see my favorite band with one of my favorite humans."
They All Have Hidden Talents
Ky says when he's not on tour he works at a pizza place and he can make a mean pizza. He's even an expert at twirling the dough around, but that's not the only hidden talents the band members hide up their sleeves. "I grew up playing golf...that was basically my life until I moved down to Nashville. My dad and my grandpa played, and whenever I would go visit my grandpa in North Carolina--I don’t remember much of anything, but they’d give me a driving club and it was just like a natural thing," Liz says, adding that she thinks the hand eye coordination of playing golf transferred into learning guitar.
Ky also mentions that he can put his legs over his head on a good day, but his pants were too tight on the day of the festival to be able to demonstrate. "Grant can catch things in his mouth from quite a distance and from different angles. You can just throw things and he’s gonna catch it in his mouth," Ky continued.
While they might have a killer golf swing and a knack for catching grapes with their mouth, the band say they're thrilled to just keep doing what they do best in the music scene. Liz mentions how excited they were to be part of the Austin City Limits Festival this year, especially the same day that Jay Z played. The band is also infinitely grateful for Audiotree and the festival they put on. "We love Audiotree. This festival is awesome. Anyone we’ve ever interacted with at Audiotree has been awesome and taken us in with open arms," Liz says.