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Scarsdale Songwriter Justin Cooper Makes Waves on Spotify

JustinCooperJustin Cooper, a graduate of both Scarsdale High School and Northwestern University, has cut his teeth as a professional musician over the past few months. His debut song, The Good Ole Days went viral over the summer, making waves on music streaming services Spotify and SoundCloud, before expanding to a wider range of platforms. Since then, he has released Sunny Side Up, a song about different types of eggs, and Call Me Girlfriend, a track about his relationship failures, that comes to Spotify on October 16. His newest song, Morning Person, is out now on Spotify. During our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, we spoke about the inspiration behind some of his catalogue, his interest in music production, and his love of singing.

So, just to start, how did you decide to make The Good Ole Days?
This year, I lived in a house with seven roommates, and it was just beautiful to hang out on the roof, especially when the weather got nice. So one night, a few of us are hanging out on the rooftop, and I'd just seen that episode of The Office when Andy [Bernard] says, “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you've actually left them.” It was almost graduation, and I was like, “Wow, like, these are the good old days.” And that night, I went down into my room, started working on the song, and just a few days later, it was ready.

Was this the first song that you made professionally?
So it's the first song that I released onto Spotify and SoundCloud, but I'd say since March 2019, this has been my passion project. Around then, I got one of those fancy mics, I got Logic Pro on my computer, and I just started pouring through YouTube videos, learning how to actually produce, mix and master records. I'd always loved writing songs, but this was probably the first song where I was like, "Wow, the public really needs to hear this. I really love this song."

What about that song made you think that it was time to start releasing?
As soon as I graduated, I was like, "Alright, I want to start releasing stuff. I want to see what I can do in music before I sell myself to the corporate world." So I was trying to figure out my best song, and this song— I caught [my friends and roommates] all walking around the house, humming or singing it. That's when I knew, “Wow, this is catchy. People are gonna like this.”

Can you walk me through the numbers that song has done?
I could look it up, but off the top of my head, I'm pretty sure on SoundCloud, it's past 100,000 [streams], but I think it's kind of topped off around there. And on Spotify, it's been growing every day. Right now, I think it's at like 75,000 [streams].

Why do you think it's resonating with people?
So I think there are a couple of factors. I really have tried to build my brand and identity around this nostalgia vibe, especially to the ‘90s. I also think that a lot of the elements of the song and the production are just very retro. The chord progression is this blocky synth that just sounds like childhood. It sounds like a kid banging on a xylophone. And then that coupled with the message of the song being "these are the good old days This is the time that we're gonna look back and be nostalgic about." I think it resonates with people on both a production and a lyrical level, where it's just a full on nostalgia trip.

I definitely got an e-boy vibe. I don't know if you know who Chase Hudson on Tik Tok is—he doesn't make music—but I was like, "Oh, if he made music, that is what it would sound like."
What's the name? Chase Hudson?

[begins typing] Cool. I'm gonna look him up.

I got the sense that the song was centered around the value and the benefits of male camaraderie. Am I catching onto something there, or no?
It's definitely about that. As the origin story of the song goes, it's about a bunch of dudes in a house, hanging out on a rooftop. At the end of the day, it's definitely got that bro-y, kind of hang-out vibe. And I feel like a lot of people definitely are feeling that, and especially recent graduates are probably feeling that too.

You can teach yourself how to mix and sound produce, but you also sing on the track. That's obviously more difficult. How did you come across doing that?
I knew that I wanted to be a songwriter and a producer, but the only way to get people to write and produce for is to have some credits. So, I just started singing on my own tracks. At first, I was terrible, but I practiced a lot, and with each subsequent song, I both got better at singing and got better at mixing my own voice. At this point, when I record, I definitely know what plugins I'm going to use on my voice in order to make it sound the best it can.

And then what was the inspiration for the song Sunny Side Up?
That was the first time I ever made a song, and there was no real inspiration for that other than I was really in the weeds of song structure and arrangement. And that song, when I showed it to people, I caught them singing it to themselves just randomly, and I was like, "This is a really catchy song."

Why eggs as a subject matter?
So when I first started writing the song, I was just trying to think of the most ridiculous thing I could write about. I had just had scrambled eggs, and I remember my friend was making fun of me for putting ketchup on my eggs. So I was like, "Alright, I'm gonna write a song about putting ketchup on my eggs." And then as I progressed in writing the song, I started to realize like, "Oh, eggs have such deeper meaning to them. They're so hard on the outside, but once you crack them, it's all gooey and mushy on the inside." That’s what inspired the lyrics from the bridge that are like, "Crack the egg and then do it all again. I'm in my shell. I'm in my shell." Maybe we're all eggs on the inside.

What did you want the eggs to represent?
I don't think that I really had an intentional metaphor with that. I was just trying to play around with them.

Oh, okay, because it just sounded like you kind of wanted it to mean something.
I want the audience to be able to extract their own meaning from it. And whether or not my intention was a specific meaning or not, I think is irrelevant. All that matters is what the audience perceives.

Your song Call Me Girlfriend—somewhere you said it was based on you making the same mistakes in relationships. Can you walk me through the thinking behind that?
Over the last couple years, I've gone through several different relationships that fell into the same patterns. At first everything was great, and slowly as the relationship would unfold, I started to get very attached. Eventually, it would just become very paralyzing. So this song was kind of my catharsis, to basically say to myself, "I think that I can break that cycle.”

And do you think that was your fault, their fault, or both?
Oh, it's 100% my fault. I think it's just something that I need to learn to work on.

Do you have any new music coming out soon?
I do have a few other songs, and I'm trying to figure out right now how I want to go about releasing them. I could see myself doing an EP, or just continuing with this string of singles. I kind of like releasing singles, because I feel like each song gets to be super special and has its own time in the spotlight. So I definitely want to think a little bit more about my release strategy. But for sure, I will at least have a song coming out every month for a while.

Can you tell me what the upcoming one is about?
Another song that I'm planning on releasing soon to Spotify etc. is called Turning Blue, which is about the mundanity of the quarantine. Every day feels like I'm waking up, not really doing anything, and not making any progress in any way. That's just making me miss the pre-quarantine days. I feel like none of us really knew how good we had it in February, when we could just go out and do whatever we want.

I know you want to be a songwriter, but do you want to keep singing?
Yeah, I didn't realize how much I loved singing until I started doing it every day. And now it's kind of like working out—I need to do my warm-ups in the shower, and I need to practice my repertoire every night, or else the day is just not complete.

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