It took Ross Copperman nearly nine years to rediscover his voice. “For so long, I was helping other artists find their voice, and I thought was my purpose,” the hit-songwriter and sought-after producer tells American Songwriter over the phone. “I still love to write for others, and I know I wouldn’t be in this position to do it if I didn’t do that.”
With now 30 career-defining No.1 songs under his belt, the 38-year-old husband and father of three feels it is finally time to wield his own voice. His forthcoming EP, Somewhere There’s a Light On, is his first solo project in nearly a decade. First signed to the UK’s Phonogenic Records/RCA in the early 2000s, Copperman toured extensively, landed syncs on popular shows, and earned success for two releases out of the gate—including “As I Choke” and “All She Wrote.”
“When I first did the artist thing in the UK, I didn’t know who I was,” he says. “I did an album that was all over the place—rock, country, pop—and decided that I just really like producing record; I wanted to make lots of different music.” In Nashville, he joined a class of songwriters who shaped the sound of modern country music. The 2020 BMI Songwriter of the Year has no plans of stopping. Instead, his solo artistry will run parallel to his work as a songwriter.
The pandemic-provided pause changed something within Copperman. He says, “It gave me this moment to go inward and think about what I wanted to do with my life going forward. This felt like my chance.” Zoom opened doors into pop writing and exhibited the possibilities of this new virtual realm of creativity. He and his producer Alex Mendoza—who he credits for helping him hone his artist voice—created this entire five-original track EP over video. When Photo Finish Records heard the final product, they offered Copperman a record deal. Collaborators on the album include his friends and usual suspects like Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne, and Ashley Gorley, who helped him deliver an authentic collection. But Copperman points to his collaboration with Ed Sheeran as the moment that “sparked it all.”
Connected through Troy Tomilson, Copperman recalls, “I was always bugging him, like ‘this is the one thing I want.” Finally, one Sunday, the phone rang, and it was Tomilson telling him to cancel his plans for tomorrow. He had an appointment scheduled with Ed Sheeran.
“I showed up, and it was Ed and Johnny McDaid from Snow Patrol, who is also just a monster of a talent, and I brought some ideas and a little track for what became ‘Therapy.'” He compared the experience to what it must feel like to write with Paul McCartney. “He’s a savant. It is just mind-blowing what comes out of his mouth— melodically, lyrically. You’re just along for the ride.
“And Ed likes to write in threes,” he clarifies. So on that day, Copperman, Sheeran, and McDade penned “Electricity,” “Therapy,” which landed on the EP, and a song called “Prom Queen.” These three songs shone through his countless previous cuts. Copperman pitched them around town, and no one was biting. He says, “They appreciated them, but they were too poppy, or not country enough.”
Two years passed, and the artist took matters into his own hands, working up personal versions of the tracks he felt deserved to be heard. After nudges from his collaborators, Copperman took the final leap and emailed Sheeran for permission to cut the songs. He responded in minutes with full support and words of encouragement about his redirection.
After launching careers for other artists in the industry, Copperman stepped back into his own with a clear vision for himself. “For so long, I didn’t want any artists to know that I put out music because I thought it cheapened what I did as a songwriter and producer,” he explains. “So I spent almost a decade killing that off.” Sheeran’s blessing and overwhelming support from friends like Jake Owen, Brett Eldredge, Keith Urban, and Dierks Bentley have reinforced his purpose.
The first track off the EP, “Somewhere There’s A Light On,” penned with McAnally and Osborne, had been orbiting around his brain. “I’ve always gravitated toward songs that give people hope,” he says. “And that messaging is everything to me. No matter how dark the day seems, know that somewhere there is a light on. Maybe it speaks to the younger Ross who needed to hear those things. I grew up with parents fighting all the time and didn’t have anyone telling me those things.”
SongFarm, his non-profit he co-founded with Reid Shippen, extends this work, instilling hope for aspiring talent by providing resources like building recording studios at high schools.
“Electricity,” released March 25, follows suit. He says, “Everything about that one is my wife. I lean toward melodies like this one that move me. The key with my music is it has to make me feel something on a deep biological level.” Copperman has a history with this approach. “Holding On and Letting Go” (2012), and “Stars Are on Your Side” (2019) embody what he aims to achieve. In the writer’s room, he defines his role as “emoting.” More than melody, Copperman prides himself on his ability to “capture a feeling, and put the heart into it.”
“My goal is certainly not to be the most clever,” he explains. “I inject the feeling for a shout the-song-out-the-window feel.” He highlights a recent hit, “Nobody But You,” with Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton, in which the lyric is simple, but he says, “I feel that on every level of my being.”
Emptying emotion into his artistry with the new EP was “cathartic.” Timed up with his milestone No.1 hit— Brett Young’s “Lady” — Copperman feels confident in his duality in Nashville. From his perspective, the pivot into this new chapter has induced creative energy that allows him to write even better songs in his country sessions and leaning further into pop writing.
“I’m not putting out music to go play Bridgestone Arena,” he adds. “I just want to reach as many people and make them feel good, get through. Life is hard, and if I can offer anything to help, I will.”
Watch Ross Copperman’s exclusive music video premiere for “Electricity” below. Somewhere There’s a Light On is due May 21 via Photo Finish Records.
Photo by Gus Black