Stephen Cochran: Remember This Name – Country Music Archives
Kentucky has done well producing entertainers in country music. There’s Montgomery Gentry, the Judds, Billy Ray Cyrus, Keith Whitley, Loretta Lynn and of course the Kentucky Headhunters. Here’s another name of a Kentucky raised country singer to remember: Stephen Cochran. A singer-songwriter who has not only poised to move further up the country music scale but he’s already overcome much.
So as he greeted fans at fundraisers during CMA Fest it’s from the standpoint of an entertainer but with an extra bold underscore. His music was put on hold when he became a Marine and served in Afghanistan and Iraq. He returned home injured, told he’d never walk again. The label he’d been working with pulled their deal as he set forth a course to show the experts that even experts can be wrong. He not only walked again but delivers a top notch high energy show that one would never know just watching it what it took to get there.
Growing up in the shadow of the Nashville music scene he had some advantages in understanding the business but has also put forth the effort on his own – something needed to succeed in a very competitive field. Among the best advice he received was to “always listen to the artists that have been in it a while. They know the ups and downs of this business.” Among those voices of experience has been his dad, Steve Cochran, a talented writer also, and the love of music was instilled early. Notable country entertainers Del Reeves and Bobby Bare were among those who came through the Cochran home.
With this experience then was there anything that caught him by surprise? “Even though my dad warned me and I have seen it with my own eyes in this business, it was hard for me as a Marine and human to fathom, that people in this world are so motivated by money and fame that they will say anything and do anything if they think you have either of those things. Very hard pill to swallow but there’s a crook on every corner in Nashville waitin’ to steal your money or your dream.” Indeed the business isn’t for the easily discouraged.
What would he tell someone else coming to Nashville as a singer or a songwriter? “Yep same exact thing in both cases…”RUN” RUN!!!! As far away from the music as possible. You will spend every dime you have to
live in this town to only be turned down by everyone and told you WILL NEVER MAKE IT HERE, borderline homeless, 99 percent of the time you can’t even afford to eat.” A hard reality check? Yes, but it’s born of seeing the talent not just on the biggest stages. “Everyone here is here to be a “Star” and most of the people workin’ at Denny’s can play, sing and write better than I could ever…But…when it’s right and people, even if it’s just one lonely guy at the bar in Tootsies at 3 pm on a Tuesday…when that one guy walks up after you have played everything in your soul and says man that song really touched me…it’s worth every stinkin’ ‘No’ you got the day before…Music is the only universal Language.”
With an outstanding first cd release and the first single, “WalMart Flowers”, from his second cd on video it’s natural for the subject of writing the music itself to come up. “I write as often as possible. Here lately I have been writing more than I probably ever have. I like to find the “best song “that describes a topic I have been through, and sometimes that means droppin’ your pride and admitting some other songwriter hit the nail better than you have. I have amazing fans and they deserve the best possible cd I can give them.” With that identification of situations common to many, and personally relating to common ground, there’s good reason fans seek out concerts and look for new music!
The music IS a universal language and as such there are memories made at both large and small venues. What are some that stick out from Stephen’s side of the stage? “Ohh without a doubt the first time at Jamboree In the Hills and now I’m getting to go back for my second time, so I’m sure it will also be up on this list the next time we talk!” That second time has now been completed but Stephen explains the first appearance: “It’s a 4-day music event and I usually get to open for Toby Keith. The first year was 55,000 people – amazing!! I felt like Garth for 25 minutes!”
Other high points include “Hoedown in Detroit since I actually saw Garth on that show when I was 13. Garth being my idol made it very special!” he laughed. “The Ryman was a dream come true…wow there are so many great times I have had. New Year’s eve 2008 would be a hard one to top: live from Time Square, New York City on Fox..3 million viewers.” The good times and big shows are seen by many “but it was topped last year when I got to return overseas to play for my brothers and sisters who are still serving in sand I remember so freshly….utterly amazing..it will be hard to top that one and the feeling it gave me.” This was the first tour back overseas since being injured there.
While many people see the “glamorous” side of concerts or television appearances there are many things we, as the listener, don’t see. Stephen says with a laugh “I thought after the Marines early mornings were over!” Instead “this is my typical day on the road or radio tour: Up at 6 a.m. to be at radio by 8 a.m. for drive time (very important). You usually have to do two then, back to hotel to sign some autographs – usually get done in time to head back to radio for evening pump of the show. By the time that’s over it’s time for load in, set up and sound check.” Keep in mind all of this is things most do not see! “After that is done its back to bus or hotel to change and get ready for show, then do pre-show interview and meet and greets, then play the show. After the show sign autographs at merchandise table, meet all the great new fans…usually load out by 2 a.m. Get in the bed headin’ down the road to the next show – and day – by 3 or 4 a.m. (Then)..do it all again the next day. I love it all though!”
No matter what we’ve done there’s always those goals that raise the bar. Who would Stephen Cochran like to work with? “Garth Brooks, definitely. I have always been a Garth fan since…well forever!! He is one of the biggest reasons I’m in this business.”
So what does Stephen Cochran do on the off time? “I really don’t take a lot of time off.” He goes on to explain “when I’m sleeping or taking time off someone else is workin’. I worked too hard to get here to let it all fall to the wayside now.”
At the end of the day there’s an underlined thought: “Music was my dream now it’s my life. So it’s pretty wonderful to wake up every morning and do what you love. We should all do that – life is very short. Be happy while you’re here.” Well said and be it career or personal life worth keeping in mind.