Being a folk musician at Moscow High School shouldn’t seem like such a daunting task, but when you realize one of the school’s most notable alumnus is acclaimed singer-songwriter Josh Ritter, it’s surprising any Moscow teen has the guts to perform in that shadow. But if 17 year old Cooper Trail is experiencing any sort of anxiety about living up to expectations, he doesn’t show it. Performing under the moniker Misé, Trail is one of the more impressive musicians in recent memory from the small Palouse scene to begin performing and recording. His debut EP titled Little Mountain was released this past Monday on a brand new label, Woolly Records, run by friend and fellow musician Luke Taklo.
Little Mountain is a short collection of songs well beyond what you’d expect based on the age of the creator. And while the instrumentation and orchestration of the swirling tunes are mature, the lyrics are like glimpses of daydreamed young love. On the power-pop swinger “Barcelona” he sings “When we get married on some random day in July / We’ll fire rockets we bought with real money into the summer sky.” Elsewhere on the albums eight-and-a-half minute closer “Mark IV”, he showcases a sophisticated storytelling ability much akin to the previously mentioned he-who-shall-not-be-named. Over the course of it’s modest 26 minutes, Little Mountain showcases a phenomenally talented young local musician just getting started. Cooper was kind enough to answer some questions over Facebook this week for us, just following the release of his new record. You can stream Little Mountain below for free, as well as purchase a CD for $5 at the Woolly Records website.
KZUU: First off, what’s the name Misé mean?
CT: Well, it’s a long story. My name, “Cooper,” means barrel-maker. Like a cooperage; it’s where they build barrels for beer and wine and gunpowder and whatever. Anyway, the French call the process of barreling wine “mise en rose,” pronounced something like “meez on rose.” I wanted a simple name, and I thought the mise part of that phrase sounded cool. I stuck an accent on it to make it “me-zay” instead of “meez.” So there you go. Funny enough, misé turns out to be the past participle of miser, the verb (also in French) for gambling. So technically, the name means “It was a gamble,” which I think is kind of coincidental, because it’s completely true: this whole thing is a gamble. My intention was to have a sort-of-meaningless-but-pretty-sounding name, but it turns out to have plenty of meaning.
KZUU: I hear some pretty distinct styles in your music, especially the sort of wistful, worldly work by Zach Condon from Beirut or the booksmart lyrics of Colin Meloy. Who are some of the musicians you look up to?
CT: Funny you mention those two artists. Beirut was a big influence on me during the recording of Little Mountain; Zach Condon’s story is pretty amazing, if you don’t know it. His romanticized writing and singing styles really intrigue me. Colin Meloy’s work in The Decemberists has also been really influential in my writing. The Crane Wife was one of my first albums I heard about when I was in junior high through one of my sister’s mid-2000s-hipster high school friends. That album really introduced me to modern folk music. Josh Ritter is probably my biggest influence lyrically…he is a true master of the ballad and the metaphor, two of my favorite artistic devices. Conor Oberst’s emotional, dark, grasping songwriting has made a big impact on me, especially on Digital Ash In A Digital Urn. Other artists that have influence my writing include Simon & Garfunkel, Ben Gibbard, and Jack White (especially his work in The White Stripes). The list goes on and on and on, but those are the important ones.
KZUU: You’re still in high school, right? Do you have any plans to continue music through college as a potential career? And are there any plans to record a full-length record in the near future?
CT: Haha, that’s right. Yes, I’m a senior (I’m 17….I can’t even smoke with the cool kids after a show). All my plans revolve around the pursuit of Misé. I mean, I’ll get a job or go to school, but yeah, I plan to pursue music as a career. My plans do involve an LP, which I hope to record/release during 2013. I’ve written a lot of songs for it already, but I need to spend time supporting Little Mountain before I move on to that.