Stormy Cooper Media: Texas Country's Best-Kept Secret
Bri Bagwell (center) with producer Lyndon Hughes (left) and Texas guitarist David Grissom during a recent session at Stormy Cooper Media.
Photos courtesy of Stormy Cooper Media
Stormy Cooper didn’t set out to become a music producer, at least not professionally. As a teenager, he started playing bass guitar and hanging out with musicians, which is generally a sure-fire way to find yourself on the road to success or disaster. In high school, he started playing around with sound recording.
“I started with a song here or a song there and that eventually led to me recording records,” says Cooper. “I had a pretty good sound at the time, but I never had the cash flow to go out and buy hundreds of thousands of dollars of recording gear and musical instruments, so I learned how to use the tools I had.”
While in college at Sam Houston State University, Cooper set up a recording studio in his apartment and storage unit, stringing 300 feet of cable over to a neighbor’s house to plug in. When he was still living in Huntsville, Cooper recorded an album from Mike Ethan Messick, now a Texas Music fixture and the writer of Roger Creager’s hit song “Everclear."
"I still hear that song when I’m driving through the Hill Country,” says Cooper. “When I finished college, I took a music job as opposed to a computer science or criminal-justice job," he continues. "I played in bands to pay my way through college, and when I got the opportunity to play with a professional band, I took it.”
That “professional band” just happened to belong to Creager, the Texas music stalwart who just happens to have a cult following in the statewide scene. Seventeen years later, Cooper is still playing with him.
“Being in Roger’s band for the past 17 years turned music from a hobby into a profession for me,” says Cooper. “I’ve always been a hobby recording engineer and producer, and the more the word got out about that, the more people would come to me and ask to record with me.”
In the beginning, Cooper recorded songs for friends and fellow Texas musicians for free, until it started taking up so much of his time that he had to start charging for it.
Stormy Cooper (right) plays with Allen Huff in Maui.
When Cooper moved from Huntsville to Houston, he teamed up with producer Lyndon Hughes to form Stormy Cooper Media, a full-service artist-development firm and recording studio. Cooper and Hughes first met several years before going into business together, when Cooper recorded Hughes as a percussionist in a now-defunct band.
“Fate happened,” says Cooper. “Lyndon rolled into Houston right around the same time I opened the studio, and he was looking for a gig just after finishing audio-engineering school. We’ve been together ever since.”
In fact, it’s been just the two of them, which Cooper says allows them to focus on developing their artists. “When you come and record with us, it’s all about the music,” says Cooper. “It’s not about pushing buttons. We have one of the fastest and most efficient systems in town, so if we can play the music correctly, we can record it with pristine quality.”
That recording system, alongside Cooper and Hughes’s producing talent, has begun to attract some of Texas’s top musical talent, including country artist and Cypress’s own Danielle Bradbery, who won the fourth season of NBC’s The Voice. When Bradbery came to Cooper’s studio, she was a relatively green artist who had never sung in front of a backing band.
“When Danielle came to us, she was a diamond in the rough,” says Cooper. “She could sing beautifully, and we helped put all that together. We brought in a band to put behind her, hired a vocal coach and a choreographer. She ended up winning The Voice, and continued with us throughout that whole process.” Shortly after her season of The Voice concluded, Bradbery was signed to Nashville’s Big Machine records.
Cooper has also worked with plenty of homegrown artists, including Cody Johnson and in a collaboration with Lloyd Maines on Roger Creager’s albums. Most notably, though, Bri Bagwell recorded her breakout 2015 album When a Heart Breaks at Cooper’s studio. Bagwell and Cooper met through touring with Creager, and the studio did some touch-up work on Bagwell’s last release.
“When her next record came around, we got the call,” says Cooper. “We’d done these smaller projects for her, and she fell in love with the place and the people. We’ve become her studio home. When she was in Nashville, she would leave to come back to Texas and come to our studio.”
Lyndon Hughes and Bri Bagwell mix "When A Heart Breaks," Bagwell's 2015 release.
The studio has also started to attract plenty of talent from outside of country music. Cooper and Hughes have worked with Houston’s Jacqui Sutton, a jazz vocalist who has recorded a few albums there.
“We started getting recognition from the jazz world when we weren’t really jazz musicians,” Cooper says. “But that worked into a lot of other artists and seriously opened up our musician base. We met a lot of cool people through that project, like Dr. Henry Darragh. He’s a phenomenal trombone player.”
Cooper has also charted an album on the Christian Country charts, along with Roger Creager’s 2014 album Road Show, which peaked at No. 20 on Billboard's Country Albums chart. But, Cooper emphasizes, the “artist development” aspect of Stormy Cooper Media is what truly sets it apart and makes it more than just a recording studio.
“Most of the people that come into a recording studio want to have a band and want to make it in the music business; that’s a given,” he says. “We can help you produce your music, but we can also hook you up with other songwriters. Or get your digital media, your website and your YouTube in order. If you need to shoot some audition videos, we have all of those resources.”
As a result, Cooper’s studio is packed with up-and-coming Texas musicians. In the coming months, releases from Magnolia’s Jesse Raub Jr. and Houstonian David Grace (whose “words and lyrics will rattle your soul,” says Cooper) will drop. Cooper will also record a few tracks on Cody Johnson’s forthcoming album, and is working with Austin’s Cody Jasper to produce a “blues-rock-pop” record.
Ultimately, it’s these artists that Cooper wants to make a home for at his studio.
“We want to become known as a viable option for artists and singers who don’t want to or can’t travel to Nashville or Los Angeles,” he says. “Our organic sound is sought after by artists who believe that sound quality matters.”
He’s also happy to tell you that the vast majority of the artists he works with quickly become friends (or family) once they’ve recorded at Stormy Cooper Media.
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