Brent Cobb wouldn’t change a thing about his experience at the 60th annual Grammy Awards.
To represent his home state of Georgia on the red carpet with his wife Layne as a Grammy nominee meant the world to him. That night, his full-length debut Shine On Rainy Day was up for best Americana album along with albums by Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, Iron & Wine, the Mavericks and the late Gregg Allman. The award went to The Nashville Sound by Isbell & the 400 Unit, and the feelings Cobb felt in the moment his category was being called are still hard for him to describe.
“We all hope that we can get to this kind of somewhere,” Cobb tells CMT.com over the phone from his home in Ellaville, Ga. “It’s just such a fulfilling feeling when I’m included with all these people I know, and I love. It felt like the home team sitting up there.”
The only thing he would have added to the show was a smoking section. “I’m not complaining about anything,” he says. “I’m just saying that, [expletive], put a smoking section up. Layne and I were dying to smoke a cigarette, and apparently, there’s no place in or around Madison Square Garden to smoke a cigarette.”
Cobb didn’t have a speech prepared that night, but if he happened to win, he would have thanked the folks who influenced his distinct brand of character country. Listening to Shine On Rainy Day and his latest Providence Canyon is a deep dive into the interesting characters in his hometown of Ellaville, Ga., and the stories they tell each other while killing time between the action that happens in a small Georgia town. Both were produced by his cousin and Grammy winner Dave Cobb.
Ellaville is home base for now after 12 years of living in music capitols Los Angeles and Nashville. Being closer to relatives is what’s best for Cobb’s family at the moment, and he hopes it’s the right move for his storytelling. He’s only been back for a year, and most of that year has been on the road touring with Chris Stapleton and headlining his shows.
“I do write so much about missing home, and I wonder what I’ll write about now,” he said. “I know it’s personal, but if I’m reading someone else’s book, or reading something by Mark Twain, and I had never seen the Mississippi River growing up, his writing made me want to hang out with Tom Sawyer. And I feel like I want to make sure that I do that even though I’m writing about what I love and my specific place.
“I want to make sure I do it in a way that is interesting to people. It seems like that’s what’s happening. I’m just glad anybody cares.”
One of the new characters Cobb introduces his fans to on Providence Canyon is the late Wayne Mills, who is eulogized in the breezy acoustic Southern rocker, “King of Alabama.” Before the world knew them as the stars they are now, Dierks Bentley, Colt Ford and Blake Shelton all once opened for Mills, a prominent Nashville hard country musician who ran the local writer’s round called the Alabama Line. On the night of Nashville’s George Jones tribute show in 2013, Mills got involved in an altercation with his friend and bar owner, Chris Ferrell, at Ferrell’s bar the Pit and Barrel. According to the Tennessean, court testimony showed they were fighting about Mills smoking inside the bar, and Ferrell grabbed a gun from the bar and fired three shots. One round hit Mills in the back of the head.
“I met a lot of people like Drake White through Wayne Mills,” Cobb said. “Jamey Johnson used to open shows for Wayne. He’d been around forever. He left behind and a seven-year-old son, and two days after all that went down, I was thinking about his son. It was killing me it was hurting my heart because Layne was pregnant at the time with our daughter, Lyla.
Cobb took his song idea to White and they had it completed in six hours. “I didn’t want it to be written for any other reason but for the sake of the song, and for the sake of his son.”
The title track is a real place, too, except it’s the “Little Grand Canyon” to the Cobbs. He says it’s located about a 40-minute drive outside a little town called Lumpkin, Ga., and it’s a place friends go where they won’t get caught experimenting with alcohol, “and stuff.”
“I didn’t even know the definition of what Providence was,” Cobb said. “I know that sounds crazy as someone who works with words for a living, but I didn’t know. And it’s something to the effect of the protective care of God or of nature as a powerful spiritual being. It made me read the lyrics I had written, ‘the night won’t last forever after all,’ differently.”
Cobb is on tour through November. His next show is Friday (May 25) in Denver, Co.