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Curtis Cooper: At Home in Philadelphia.

August 30, 2016

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Text by Vince Bellino. Images by Natalie Piserchio.

Curtis Cooper is working on learning to strike a balance. The multi-instrumentalist played almost every instrument on his self-titled record, an album that is much different than anything he played before.

“I never really listened to punk as music, so this was the first time I wrote music that I thought would suit me more,” he says.

Before the release of the album in January, Cooper played guitar and sang in the punk band Community Service. The band was fast and played exciting live shows but Cooper says the music he plays now — rock music that has included acoustic guitar, banjo, saxophone and a slew of other instruments — is more reflective of what he listens to on a daily basis.

Attaching his name to the project has also afforded Cooper the opportunity to steer his music in the direction he desires. As he works on his second record, which he says will not be released for a while, he has learned to relinquish a level of creative control as he works with members of his live band in the studio, which in turn has allowed his songs to flourish even more.

“These songs are a lot heavier,” Cooper says. “I kinda found the mix between punk and what I just did.”

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Cooper has lived in the city his entire life, save for a few years in Boston. Though he has lived in neighborhoods all over Philadelphia, he recently moved to West Philly for the first time earlier this year.

He now lives in the show house All Night Diner, which he believes has had a positive impact on him as a musician. There is no TV in the house and every resident is a musician or artist. The constant playing and creativity inspires Cooper to play and write music more.

“The priority is music in this house,” he says. “So it makes everyone want to pitch in.”

The DIY community in Philadelphia has helped Cooper grow as a musician, and he has helped introduce others, like Emmett Drueding, to the same scene. As a musician and friend of Cooper’s, Drueding’s basement was the place in which the two used to jam to Nirvana covers. Drueding has also seen Cooper evolve as a musician over the years, becoming an honest and original songwriter.

“I think Curtis plays the music that he hears in his head, and I think that’s the best way to be original,” Drueding says. “You see a lot of bands, even good ones, regurgitating sounds or saying, ‘We want to make music like so and so.’ There’s nothing wrong with that but I don’t think Curt’s approach is like that at all.”

Cooper finds a lot to love about Philadelphia. Being here makes it possible to tour up the Northeast corridor, as well as head South, without much difficulty. And he has found what he believes is a very special, inclusive and supportive music community, especially what is based in West Philly.

“That’s the best thing about West Philly. It’s an open scene,” Cooper says. “We’re in a very safe scene out here. I’m very fortunate to be playing out here.”

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