Some music just sounds like the place that birthed it, and Seth Samuelson Cocquit's new solo single, "Old Timer," sounds like the gravel Midwestern roads, acres of farm land, and local history that runs through everything in places like Peoria, Illinois, Cocquit's hometown. People are part of the land, and the land is part of the people who call it home. Cocquit, who also has played and recorded with Harvest Sons, makes music that draws from those people and the place to create a song that is as comfortable and comforting as an old quilt -- it wraps around you and makes you feel like you're where you're supposed to be. Featuring a who's who of Nashville players who work with folks like Cole Swindell and Little Big Town, "Old Timer" is an earful of Americana-country goodness. Roughstock sat down recently with Cocquit to talk about "Old Timer."
Roughstock: Hi Seth! Thanks for joining us today. We love your new song, "Old Timer." What is the story behind this song? Why did you write it?
Seth Samuelson Cocquit: “Old Timer” is a song dedicated to the life of my grandfather, Richard Samuelson. I used to call him that as a joke for being old. I still call my dad old timer when we’re on the phone. “Yo, what’s up, old timer?” In the refrain I use the line “talking about Jesus and John Deere, storing treasures in heaven cuz pretty soon he’s leavin here” to get across that he was a man who was down-to-earth and always had his eyes on eternity. I just took bits and pieces from conversations with my great uncles and grandma, and things I remember my grandfather for. I was 15 when he passed, but ya know, my first set of wheels was his old pickup truck, and I still have an old leather key chain on my keys to this day just to remind me of him. It gets me thinking about sometimes where we come from, and Lord willing if I get old enough, what kind of legacy do I want to leave behind.
Roughstock: What kind of a vibe were you going for on this song when you recorded it? Do you think you ended up with a song that sounds like you expected it to sound? If so, how so, and if not, what's different about it?
Seth Samuelson Cocquit: I was listening to Brent Cobb and Tyler Childers pretty religiously about the time I was getting ready to record this song. I told Clint May (my brother-in-law and song producer; he plays with Cole Swindell) that it needed to sound like I was singing it from the kitchen in grandpa’s old farmhouse. He started working with slide guitar after we got the vocals and acoustic part down, and I could see where the song was going. It’s a real honor to work with Nashville players like Clint. I learned a lot from the process. He was also able to call up a few colleagues, if you will, from the Cole Swindell and Little Big Town camps of touring musicians. Hubert Payne’s drum part and Adam Cunningham’s bass lines really gave it new life in a way I never imagined. The icing on the cake was Josh Schultz’s piano and organ parts. All the elements used were organic, and the song is a tale of fresh ears taking their own course. What you get is a song with a life all its own. So long story short, no it’s not what I expected, but I'm damn happy with the end result.
Roughstock: How does "Old Timer" fit into the overall vibe and themes of your music in general?
Seth Samuelson Cocquit: I’m laid back, so my music comes off that way, and I like to use the same instrumentation we’d use in a live setting. Most of my writing is about where I’m from, and place has a way of making you write a certain way. Also another reason why I need to probably get out of town more, ha ha, so it doesn’t end up sounding too mundane because this place can become mundane for sure. I don’t want my music to become stagnant.
Roughstock: Was this a music-first or a lyrics-first song for you? Which way do you tend to write in general, music or lyrics first?
Seth Samuelson Cocquit: This one was a guitar and notepad. This one honestly wrote itself. The only rule I gave myself was to keep it simple. Usually it’s a notepad in front of me and an acoustic guitar and voice memo, and just sitting around working through ideas. My voice memos are getting out of hand, though. I always wonder how other songwriters keep that stuff organized. I’m terrible at it.
Roughstock: You have a cohesion to your sound that is so organic and natural. How did you settle upon the Seth Samuelson Cocquit "sound"? For the Roughstock readers who are just meeting you for the first time now, how do you describe your music to people who haven't heard it before?
Seth Samuelson Cocquit: There are limitless possibilities with the music toolbox these days. Why not use it? I could have made myself sound like a mix of Fergie and Jesus if I wanted to. Well, maybe not, but for me I just wanted to record something I know my band and I can go out and perform live on any given night. I’m influenced by a two-lane highway and a summer night with the windows down, as much as I am hearing my favorite band at a music festival. I just try to keep it in a wheelhouse I’m comfortable with, knowing that simplicity can be great, too.
"Old Timer" started at the kitchen table like many of my songs do, and I performed it live for three years before it got recorded. What started out as a folksy, bluegrass song eventually evolved into this version you hear today. I grew up on a gravel road, so my music is always going to sound country. You can’t take the country out of the boy, as they say. Related to what I said earlier, when I started working with Clint on this track down in Nashville, I showed him some of what Brent Cobb and Tyler Childers had just released to start painting the musical landscape for the song. He kind of took it and ran with it once I got the guitar and vocal part down.
Roughstock: How have you been connecting with fans during the pandemic?
Seth Samuelson Cocquit: 2020 was a depressing dud. I stayed connected by doing livestreams. I really miss playing live, and seeing shows, and going to music festivals. It honestly feels like we’re starting from scratch in 2021.
Roughstock: What’s up next for you?
Seth Samuelson Cocquit: Look for another solo release in May with “Midwest Stars.”