The best laid plans often go awry, but sometimes they lead to something better. That holds true for singer-songwriter Liz Cooper, frontwoman of Liz Cooper and the Stampede. Cooper, a scratch golfer in high school, grew up on a trajectory to make a name for herself in that world, even getting a scholarship to play in college.
“I’ve always played sports, but on my own time I definitely tried to escape that,” Cooper said of her need for artistic balance. “I’ve been into listening to music, and reading and doing lots of artistic stuff, too.”
Shortly into her freshman year, she realized that sports was not the direction in which she wanted to take her life, and developed an obsessive love for music. She made the choice to drop everything, move to Nashville and pursue that passion professionally.
“I just started working and playing and writing, and eventually realized I liked playing with other people,” Cooper said. “I had these sounds in my head that I couldn’t just do by myself, so I found some people to play with.”
Enter Liz Cooper and the Stampede bandmates Grant Prettyman and Ryan Usher. The trio now pumps out ambient psychedelic folk on stages across the country.
Cooper found musical influence at a young age from her parents, also musicians, who always had instruments around the house. Cooper first developed her chops on the acoustic guitar, playing as often as possible. Her work in the studio with drummer Ky Baker became Cooper’s introduction to the electric guitar.
“Playing live constantly has really shaped how I’ve played, doing a lot of bar gigs,” Cooper said. “I needed to figure out how to make more sounds and make the sets as long as I could—especially for bar gigs that were usually a few hours.”
Going into the recording sessions for her debut full-length album, Window Flowers, Cooper had a clear vision of what she wanted. But also wanted to keep the recording process organic.
“It was exactly what I wanted to hear from the album,” Cooper said. “We really just dove into it, experimented and made it sound the way at it ended up sounding.”
Cooper spent a year making a defined effort to take time each day to engage in at least one creative medium, as well as making a conscious decision to say “yes” to anything she was asked to do. She said the experience broadened her horizons in her artistic influences and her writing.
“It taught me how to become a better player,” Cooper said. “It took me out of my comfort zone and definitely pushed me to become a better player and writer because I’m putting myself into other people’s shoes.”
Liz Cooper has been on the road extensively following her album release, criss-crossing the country on a headlining tour. With her recent success, she’s finding new stages, including an appearance at Napa’s BottleRock Festival. She said she’s looking forward to the challenge.
“It’s pretty exciting to be able to play at these big festivals and see how each one is different that the next,” Cooper said. “I love festivals; I grew up going to festivals.”
Cooper is no stranger to wine country, having played at Petaluma’s Lagunitas Brewing Company. Bay Area fans will have another opportunity to catch her show at The Chapel in May. Looking ahead, Cooper is excited to get back in the studio to record her next project. She said the band is writing as much as possible, even while her bandmates out on the road.
“It’s just one of those things that’s constantly developing,” she said. “We’re just on the road a lot this year, and we’re constantly creating and doing different kinds of arts. We’re all artistic people.”
Follow writer Mike DeWald at Twitter.com/mike_dewald.