The road and the cities and venues along its path can be a blur for touring musicians, but despite the fact that Brent Cobb hails from south-central Georgia — far from the Inland Northwest — Spokane will hold a place in his memory forever.
"I've been there a couple of times, and both times nearly changed my life," Cobb says over the phone as he drives across south Alabama toward his Georgia home. "Spokane is beautiful. It's a beautiful place."
Pressed for why the Lilac City had such a big effect on him, Cobb chuckles over the phone before launching into a story in the syrupy-sweet Southern drawl familiar from his songs, which blend folk, rock and country to great effect on his two major-label albums.
"Well, I don't know if I should, but I'm going to tell you anyway," Cobb says. "Both times, somehow I came across some psilocybin mushrooms. The two best trips I've ever had, I was in Spokane both times. The second time, what really spawned such a beautiful, wonderful trip was the sunset in Spokane. It was really magnificent."
The next morning, when Cobb's merchandise guy informed him that the name Spokane means "children of the sun" in Salish, well: "it blew my mind," he says.
Lest you think Cobb's expanded consciousness and willingness to dabble in psychedelics on past tours means his music hails from country music's "cosmic cowboy" realm, a listen to either his 2017 release Shine On Rainy Day (nominated for a Best Americana Album Grammy) or last year's Providence Canyon will disabuse you of that notion. Cobb's songs are rooted in the Georgia soil of his small-town upbringing, sketching vivid characters and scenes relatable to listeners coast to coast. There's a reason the likes of Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert and Little Big Town have all recorded songs penned by Cobb.
His skills come through best on his own albums, and he's visiting Spokane again Saturday on the tail end of his support for Providence Canyon, an album released nearly 18 months ago and one that brought him to Spokane Arena last summer opening for Chris Stapleton.
"With both records, it's sort of been a slow growth in kind of a cool way," Cobb says about why he's still touring so long after the album came out. "A lot of people seem to still be discovering both albums, which I appreciate, and it keeps us busy and out for the long term."
Cobb already has most of the songs written for his next release, and he'll start recording in December. He doesn't expect to spend as much of 2020 on the road; he has a 5-year-old daughter and 6-month-old son, who he moved home to Georgia after he spent a decade in Nashville. Being a regular part of his kids' lives is next on the agenda, as is reconnecting with the people he so often wrote about while living in Tennessee. When he moved to Nashville in 2008, he populated his songs with places and people from his home state as a way to fend off being homesick.
"I would take myself to Georgia by writing these songs about Georgia. It almost made the memories more vivid for me," Cobb says, noting that now that he lives there again, the new songs aren't as much about Georgia. But the people he hangs out with there day to day still make their way into the new tunes. "I'll stop at the little gas station and have a Styrofoam cup of coffee with the locals, you know, and I can just listen to people talk. Maybe the dialect is seeping into the songs more. The last two [records] I would say were more about people and places, and this record so far has sort of lent itself more to thoughts and feelings."
At this point in his still-young career, the 33-year-old Cobb knows his roots in small-town Georgia are part of what fans like about him. He recalls playing clubs in England where 200 British people sang along to lines like "take me south of Atlanta." Seeing his music appeal overseas, or across the country in the Inland Northwest, means that what he's trying to do is working, Cobb says.
"I've said this before, but I always like to hear Willie Nelson sing about Texas," Cobb says. "I like reading Mark Twain write about Mississippi and Missouri. It always took me to those places without actually having to go there, and it seems like that's what I always wanted to do with my own songs. Take people where I'm from and kind of create that scene."
No mushrooms necessary for that trip. Just give Brent Cobb a listen. ♦
Brent Cobb and Them • Sat, Nov. 2 at 8 pm • $15 • All ages • The Bartlett • 228 W. Sprague • thebartlettspokane.com • 747-2174