Liz Cooper knew it was a risk to move to a new city and follow her dream. A dream that has certainly paid off.
In 2012, after a year enrolled in Towson University in Maryland, Liz Cooper dropped out and moved to Nashville, Tennessee. The only person she sort of knew was a friend of a friend of her dad’s. With a dream of playing music, she risked it and moved anyway. The move was, as Cooper describes, “scary as hell,” but as her band, Liz Cooper & The Stampede, gets set to release their debut album, it’s evident that Cooper’s brave move paid off.
Cooper grew up in a musical household in Bel Air, Maryland. Her dad played in a cover band and taught her the fundamentals of playing the drums. Her mom played acoustic guitar, an instrument Cooper picked up when she was sixteen. “I latched onto the guitar and I think it was because I could think of these melodies in my head and it was really fun for me to make that into a reality,” Cooper explains. “I was obsessed.”
During her stint at Towson University, Cooper says she felt angry all the time, becoming a catalyst that fueled her songwriting. Once she planted her feet in Nashville, she participated in songwriters’ rounds and jammed with her country club co-workers who introduced Cooper to Nashville’s music community. Cooper joined in on other jam sessions around town and eventually she met bassist Grant Prettyman and drummer Ky Baker (who recently was replaced by Ryan Usher).
And together they formed Liz Cooper & The Stampede.
“The fact that I moved down to Nashville and didn’t know anybody and had all of these dreams become a reality, it’s amazing to me,” says Cooper. “I never thought I’d meet so many amazing people. I just think it’s so inspiring to be in that city where everybody is supportive of each other and pushing each other to make great art and I think that’s what the world needs right now, great art.”
With the help of Nashville band Future Thieves, Liz Cooper & the Stampede recorded their first EP Monsters in 2014. Some songs tease the hazy rock sounds the band later cultivates while others center on Cooper’s acoustic guitar. It’s only within the last three years that she started to play the electric guitar. Cooper, who plays a custom made spruce body Creston guitar, taught herself how to solo and through playing with folks around town, developed her skills.
“Last year was a really cool year for me as far as playing guitar. Other bands, Desert Noises and Okey Dokey, and people from the community that I really respect asked me to play electric guitar for them so I went on tour with them. That was a really good challenge for me,” says Cooper. “That is how I like to learn and how to push myself is just by throwing myself into scarier situations and figuring out how to play songs by people who I love.”
Liz Cooper & The Stampede’s debut LP Window Flowers has been two years in the making and includes tracks that were on the band’s 2016 EP Live at the Silent Planet and their Audiotree sessions from 2016 and 2017. Although Cooper hasn’t completely abandon her acoustic guitar on the record, Window Flowers is a rock album with a trippy psychedelic undertow. Cooper cites the Grateful Dead, Neil Young, and The Doors as inspirations.
Standout tracks like “Mountain Man” and “Motions” begin brightly before growing hazy as Cooper’s gravelly voice guides you through life’s ups and downs. Mid-way through the record, on the psych-rock track “Dalai Lama,” the band toss you into a swirling tie-dyed abyss and let you tumble around while they jam for about four minutes.
Characterizing Window Flowers as a “labor of love”, she is ultimately glad that it has taken so long to be released. “I wouldn’t have know my sound if it had happened sooner,” she says. For Cooper, the album is also a marker of how far the band has come since they recorded it. Her skills as a guitarist are constantly developing and Cooper mentions that she’s learning how to keep her voice healthy. As she looks towards the future, Cooper is already eager to get back into the studio.
“I know I’m getting ahead of myself yet but that’s the way it goes,” she admits. “I feel like there’s so many things I would have done differently [when recording Window Flowers]. Now I’m listening to music in a different way than I did back then and I just know more about what I want to hear. There’s so much to it. I’ve got the fire in my belly to keep playing music and learning from it.”