Lucky for Cobb, he’s had a few key people open doors for him — in especially serendipitous ways. Cobb, 31, grew up in the small town of Ellaville, Ga., in a musical family: His dad used to open shows for Chubby Checker and George Jones, and his uncles on both sides played in bands.
“It was in the blood,” says Cobb, who performs with his band Them at DC9 on Saturday before opening big venues for Chris Stapleton this summer and fall. “It was always treated as a trade like anything else, like going to school for heating and air. I always thought that maybe I’d pursue it but I didn’t know how.”
When Cobb was 17, his great-aunt died. A distant cousin who happened to be a record producer in Los Angeles flew in for the funeral, and the two met for the first time.
“Being the skeptical Southerners that we are … I asked him what he had produced and he said Shooter Jennings’ ‘Put the O Back in Country,’ and it floored me, man,” Cobb recalls. “To this day, it’s one of my most favorite records. When he said that, I just couldn’t believe it and I wound up giving him a six-song acoustic demo. A couple days later, he called me up and he had Shooter on the phone and I flew to L.A. to do a record.”
Produced by his cousin Dave — who has since helmed Grammy-winning and critically acclaimed albums by Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell and Stapleton — Cobb’s debut, 2006’s “No Place Left to Leave,” didn’t kick-start his career in the way he hoped, but that era was still fruitful. After spending time living in L.A., he moved back home and played in a band called Mile Marker 5. The group opened some gigs for Luke Bryan, then a singer still making a name for himself on his way to superstardom.
One morning, Cobb and his dad were drinking coffee before work when Bryan’s video for “All My Friends Say” came on TV. “My daddy was like, ‘You oughta hit him up. He really acted like he was interested in working with you and helping you somehow,’ and I kinda shrugged it off: ‘He’s probably too busy now; I don’t wanna bug him,’ ” Cobb recalls.
His unobtrusive nature nearly got the best of him. But as fate would have it, Cobb says, “the next morning he had called and left me a message: ‘Brent, this is Luke Bryan. You need to call me and come up here and write.’ ”
Cobb spent a week at Bryan’s Nashville home, writing and meeting industry people. A few months later, he made the move to Music City, where … he took a job at Walgreens for a year.
Finally, he worked up the nerve to call a publisher, got a deal with Carnival Music and started working on Music Row, co-writing material for Bryan, Miranda Lambert, Kellie Pickler and more. “I was finally getting paid to write songs,” Cobb says.
On Music Row, Cobb worked regular hours and wrote as much as he could — some songs on his third album, “Providence Canyon,” due May 11, even date back to those days.
As a songwriter, Cobb is direct and plain-spoken, mostly writing about himself, even when the material is for someone else. “I don’t know what the problem is but I just can’t wrap my mind around something that doesn’t come from myself,” he says.
Having experienced both sides of Nashville — the poppier, radio-friendly tunes from Music Row, and the musicians who are bringing country back to its roots — Cobb prides himself on writing songs that mean something to him rather than just aiming for hits.
“You can tell the difference between a song that’s written for money and a song that’s written for emotion,” he says.
DC9, 1940 Ninth St. NW; Sat., 9 p.m., $15.