10 Questions with ... Waterloo Revival
July 26, 2015
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Waterloos Revival consists of Cody Cooper and bandmate George Birge, who met in middle school while growing up in Austin, Texas. The duo continued to write songs and play together through high school, but parted ways so the guys could pursue an education. Cody headed to the University of North Texas in Denton, while George stayed in their hometown of Austin to attend the University of Texas.
After graduation, George found work in Austin's commercial real estate scene, while Cody had a full-time job in mortgages in Dallas. The pair, who'd remained close through college, would play together during Cody's visits back home. By 2012, their musical chemistry was undeniable and George made the hard sell, convincing Cody to leave his 9-to-5 and return home in order for them to focus all their energy into music. Waterloo Revival was soon born and in 2013, the pair was able to raise the funds to record a five-song EP.
Birge and Cooper channeled their entrepreneurial musicianship into more writing sessions, commuting to Nashville over the next year to hone their craft and acquaint themselves with Music City. "Hit the Road," a product from one of their first Nashville sessions, encompassed both Cody and George's quest to spread Austin's music scene across the country. It was only fitting that the two set out with this song to take the next step in their careers. Through a chance connection, George arranged a meeting with Toby Keith's manager, TK Kimbrell, who promptly signed the boys to TKO Artist Management after hearing "Hit the Road."
Waterloo Revival began sampling tunes during Nashville songwriter showcases, adopting Music City as their new home. They soon caught the ear of Big Machine Label Group President and CEO Scott Borchetta and inked a deal with Big Machine Records a week later. "Hit The Road" cracked the top 50 on the Country singles chart and now Cooper and Birge are back with "Bad For You," already in radio's hands and set for an August 3rd impact date.
1. Where did you get the name "Waterloo Revival?"
Cody: We came up with Waterloo Revival b/c we grew up in Austin Texas. The music scene there is very prevalent and the reason why we got into music to begin with. It's what gave us the drive to do music professionally. Austin was originally called Waterloo when it was founded; it was later renamed but as you go around Austin there are a lot of things paying tribute to the original name. And also because Waterloo Revival sounds a lot cooler than Austin Revival.
George: And it was a way for us to say we're carrying the torch for our home town.
2. You met in middle school and started writing songs together back then. Can you remember the name of the first song you wrote - and, would it ever make it to a set list now?
George: Yes and no. We both smiled, because we absolutely do remember the name of that first song, it was called "Security." We'd like to think we've gotten a lot better since then. We've always said if that work tape somehow surfaces, we'll make sure and burn it. As to the second part, no, it would never make it to a set list today! But it was definitely cool as a first step for us.
CC: We were very proud of the work - as eighth graders.
3. You drifted away from each other - and music - for a while. What kinds of music were each of you listening during that time?
George: Man, a little bit of everything. We've been radio junkies our whole lives. It's how we discovered a lot of music and still is. It's one of those things - even though we went to different colleges, we were still introducing each other to new music. I think that's a big reason we have such similar ideas when it comes to the sound and direction of the band. We grew up on the same music. I was listening to 90s Country; Cody was listening to more Rock heavy stuff. I was showing him the Garth Brooks and George Strait's of the world while he was playing me the Allman Brothers and stuff like that. We listened to records together all the time, so we both developed each other as far as that goes. When we were in college, it was that collection of music we grew up on, along with radio. Anytime we do anything we still have the radio on. No matter the genre, we're top 40 junkie across the board.
4. You're from Austin but now have made the move to Nashville. Both cities are considered vibrant music towns. How would you compare the music scene in each city?
Cody: There are a lot of similarities. Nashville of course has a very strong industry base to it - songwriting, publishing, labels and all the resources connected to those. Professionally, both cities have amazing players and a huge range of music. You can walk into one club and hear Country, then another will have rock, or whatever you're looking for, really. It's fun having lived in two different cities that have such a strong live music feel to them.
George: I would second that, but add that the big similarity is the big energy of these cities. There's always people willing to collaborate. To songwrite, to build bands and for new artists it's great to be able to immerse yourself and learn from other people's writing or live performance styles. For us, we were going to shows every weekend in Austin. I feel like we learned a ton watching bands play all the time; I feel like the same kind of stuff goes on in Nashville. The move here was helpful because there is so much of the industry based in Nashville. We were able to get the label and management support that we needed to dive in head first.
5. Your new single, "Bad For You" has what feels like a number of musical influences running through it - from, your perspective, what are they?
George: So, there's a little bit of Cody with The Doobie Brothers guitar lick intro in there; There's some Maroon 5, which is what I grew up on. We both listened to a ton of R&B growing up - some Isley Brothers and that. But it still has a base tribute to Classic Country. Growing up, my dad had five CDs in his car that played on his changer. For 10 years he never changed those albums! It was Willie, Merle, Waylon, Leanne Rimes "Blue" - those are just burned into my brain, so you have your pedal steel and mandolin mixed with some pop and soul influence. We love that we're able to bring that classic sound with some modern elements too. We feel that's where the genre is going; it's pushing boundaries and a collaboration of multiple genres. It's fun to try and capture all of that into a song and we're really proud of how that turned out.
6. Both radio programmers and listeners seem very open to all those sounds you just mentioned in the music that's popular and working well today, but have you ever been worried about pushing the envelop too far?
George: Well, let me start by saying that what defines Country music more than anything as a genre is the storytelling. It's the one genre where you can't get away with a bad lyric. You have to paint a picture and tell a story for the listeners and that's what is so cool. Outside of that, as long as you maintain that, you're allowed to push the envelope a bit. It has made Country as strong as it is right now. It's very inclusive and you have fans coming in from everywhere, which is a really good thing. And I'm saying that as a guy who grew up listening to traditional Country music and have been a fan of it my entire life. I like the direction it's headed, but we should pay attention to where the genre came from, but like all music, it pushed forward and you need that to maintain a fresh sound.
7. Your last single "Hit The Road" was a top 50 single but maybe didn't get appreciated as much by radio as you'd hoped. Did you ever get concerned that your "sound" was maybe not the right fit for radio?
George: Our main goal going into this was making music we could be proud of in 10 years and when we look back, we can still stand behind what we've done. We feel like we can so far. "Hit The Road" was our debut to Country music and it did crack the top 50. For a new band who had literally released the song by ourselves - no management or label or anything - that's absolutely mind blowing. When we got signed we pulled the song and eventually re-released it. It became our intro to Country radio and our foot in the door to meet all these stations and programmers. Radio wants to invest in a product they feel is sustainable; we had to go meet these guys and show them we were people they could be comfortable and interact with. Country radio supports great music but they also support great people. We definitely aspire to chart higher with this next single, but we were proud of how "Hit The Road" did for two guys who had no idea what they were doing and on their first-ever record deal and song.
8. Before your radio tour, how much working knowledge of how radio operates did each of you have?
Cody: That whole thing was an eye-opening experience for us. It was all foreign to us. We'd been playing around Oklahoma and Texas as an independent release and had a few radio relationships that we established; people who liked and backed us because they liked the song. We didn't know anything about the structure or any of the pressure each station gets from all the labels. There's so much new and good talent and so many songs each station can play. It was totally new thing for us to learn, but one of the most fun parts too. We got to meet so many people and make a lot of new friends along the way.
9. What instrument to you each play and rate yourself on them.
George: I am the lead singer and play acoustic guitar. I'd give myself about a 2 out of 10 on that. Cody taught me how to play guitar, so I blame him.
Cody: I do guitar and some harmony. I'd rate myself about a 7 on guitar. I grew up playing and love it. I'm more of a rhythm player it but it's also how I write music. I consider myself pretty good at harmony. I can play a little bit of some other instruments too. I grew up playing alto sax and a little piano but pretty badly.
George: Oh yeah, we both play piano and a little banjo
10. Austin's slogan is Keep Austin Weird. How have each of you done your part?
Cody: No Comment!
George: It's a super inclusive environment and people can feel free to pursue their passions. I think that results in some of the coolest art you'll ever see. We try and do our part by contributing to the live music scene. We never wanted to be a cover band; we wanted to create our own art. We were able to see everybody else doing that in Austin, which enabled us to draw our inspiration. We crafted our groove as songwriters and the city was huge influence on giving us the guts to not be a cover band and create our own music.
Can you tell us the one city that has given you the biggest "Oh Wow" moment during your travels for radio promotion and shows??
Cody: It was the fourth of July recently and playing with Brett Eldredge in Dublin Ohio for "Brett White & Blue." We were playing "Hit The Road" for a couple thousand people and at the end of the fist chorus, and I held the mic out to the crowd on a whim because it seemed like they were into us. A couple thousand people sang "Baby Let's Hit the Road" back to us. Seeing everybody know the words was about the most amazing feeling we've ever experienced. It was a show for WCOL/Columbus and those fans were just amazing.
Where were you when you first heard your music on the radio?
George: We were in a shuttle service car in Virginia Beach, driving back to the airport after opening for Hunter Hayes, which was the biggest show we'd ever done in our lives. That was a lot of stimulation for one day.
Cody: The Uber driver told us, "Oh yeah, I've heard that song a lot." This was before we signed a record deal or anything. Unforgettable.