FROM THE FRONT seat of a float in an R U OK Day march, alternative country singer James Van Cooper reflects on his own journey through addiction and depression.
The Australian artist has just released his debut album Coming Home, and he’ll be performing a live, free show in Tamworth at the end of the month.
He became an ambassador for R U OK Day around a year-and-a-half ago.
“I’ve been able to share my story and talk openly about my struggles with addiction, depression and mental illness,” van Cooper said.
“I’ve dealt with this every day for my whole life, my family has dealt with mental illness and for me it gives me the opportunity to remove some of the stigma attached to it.
“In the music industry there’s this whole romanticised image of the dark broken poet and I don’t think that has to be the case.”
The make-up clad, wide brimmed hat wearing singer isn’t your typical country artist, the inspiration for his new album was more about finding himself and his musical direction.
Recorded in Los Angeles, the album flirtatiously hints at van Cooper’s rock band past.
“People jump to the conclusion that I’m going to be all edgy, but I have a greater love for Hank Williams than I do for most rock bands,” he said.
“I grew up loving country music although as people are aware I spent some time in rock bands because I was an angry teenager.
“I always loved country music and wanted to end up doing it but I got lost along the way, I had one too many beers and ended up in a rock band.”
The lightness of this album is a reflection of van Cooper’s own personal journey through struggle, and coming out the other side.
For him, connections to friends and community were so important in his recovery from addiction.
“In an emotional sense I’ve figured out where I stand in my life and the world and I think musically I’ve figured out where I am,” he said.
“I’ve noticed a lot early on that people didn’t know how to take me but at the end of the day it’s just a bit of makeup and a hat – it’s not that scary.
“I’m hoping that this album will be more fun, I do talk about certain things I’ve gone through in my life but this album I want to be more fun from them all, if they take away anything I hope it’s that it can get better.”
James van Cooper launches his album Coming Home at a free gig at the Tamworth Hotel on September 22.