Grammy-winning producer Dave Cobb has invigorated country and Americana music with his work on acclaimed albums by Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, and many more. This conversation with the Museum’s Peter Cooper focuses on Cobb’s unlikely rise from a Georgia childhood that was heavy on traditional gospel music to a place among the world’s elite record producers.
The program also features video clips from career-changing moments (including his on-camera work with Stapleton and Justin Timberlake at the 2015 CMA Awards), and audio clips from Sturgill Simpson’s recordings.
Cooper describes Cobb’s chief studio role as “highlighting the talent and appeal of the talented and appealing,” because Cobb’s productions can vary in sound and style but not in quality.
Raised in the Pentecostal church (his preacher grandmother presided over the baptism of Oak Ridge Boy William Lee Golden), Cobb talks about his enduring love for rock music that was sparked in his teens, and about learning the ropes in Atlanta recording studios as a session musician on hip-hop and R&B records for artists including Jermaine Dupri.
Cobb recalls falling in love with country music through his friendship with Shooter Jennings (the son of Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter) and through his love of the Paul Kennerley-produced “White Mansions” concept album, featuring Jennings’s parents. Cobb also discusses his move to Nashville, his role in running RCA Victor Studio A—the room where Chet Atkins, Elvis Presley, and thousands of others worked, and where Cobb recorded gems from Isbell, Stapleton, and Mary Chapin Carpenter—as well as his multi-artist, Kennerley-inspired concept album, “Southern Family” (which includes tracks from Miranda Lambert, Brandy Clark, and Cobb’s cousin, Brent Cobb).
Cobb says he often tours the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum for inspiration, sometimes bringing artists through the building at the outset of a project.
“This is one of the only places you can go to see living history,” he says. “It’s unbelievable to actually see the guitar that spawned this, the clothes they wore, or the records they listened to. I feel like I learn something every time I come here. . . . I come here all the time.”
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