If you're a Christian music fan, you've probably heard of Cochren & Co. I caught up with Michael to talk about his debut album, Don't Lose Hope. I also talked with him about his signing to TobyMac's music label, Gotee Records.
A lot of people have heard your music, but have not heard your story. Tell us about yourself.
I was born and raised in a small town in Indiana (I still live in that great state today). Music was a huge part of my life from early on. My earliest memories are of my dad playing guitar, and teaching my brother and me how to sing harmony. This developed into a love for music as I was growing up. I started writing songs when I was about eight or nine. They were terrible songs. But, my ability to write improved over time. I was part of anything musical in school–choirs and what not.
I had a dream of either being an NBA basketball player or a professional singer. I'm not very athletic, so one dream caved to the other pretty quickly. So, I started pouring my heart and talents into music. And, when I was in college, I started taking it seriously. That was around the same time that God began working in my heart. So, those two aspects of my life converged.
I began working at a church playing music. I also began touring around Indiana and the Midwest. I met more people, doors began to open, and the next thing I knew, I was sitting in a room with legendary artist TobyMac. And, he wanted to sign us–me and the band–onto his record label.
Speaking of which, what has it been like working with TobyMac's Gotee Records?
It's been incredible. When we were taking label meetings in the spring of 2018, we met with so many incredible people in the industry. There's a lot of jaded things that you hear about the industry. You hear that you can't trust anybody, and everybody's out to get you. But, that was just the opposite of what we discovered.
There are so many kind-hearted people in the Christian music industry that want the best for the artist, and the best for the listener. So, it was hard to choose a label to go with, but we ended up going with Gotee, and it's been great.
Toby is a wise guy who has so much experience, and so much wisdom to pass on. He's believed in what we were doing from the start, so it's been great to see everything come together. Gotee isn't afraid to let artists be the version of themselves that they see themselves as being.
You released your debut hit single, "Church (Take Me Back)." What's the story behind that song?
The song is the story of my life. I was raised in the church, but when I got into middle school and high school, I wandered off. I may have called myself a Christian, but everything about my life looked opposite to what Jesus taught. I became very bitter with the church. I would go when my grandparents wanted me to just make them happy, but I really didn't want any part of it. It wasn't until the beginning of college that God began to work in my heart and draw me to Himself. Oddly enough, He used the church to do that. I began going to a Bible study. And, I began to see people living out their faith in a way that was genuine; something I hadn't seen before in my peers.
I wanted to write a song that lifted the church. A song that pointed people to church. People who may not have been part of it before in their Christian walk. Not everyone's church experience looks the same. We're broken people. You can't find perfect people in a church, because they don't exist. But, everyone's after the same thing; that is the perfect Savior. We all need each other. And, you're gonna find that fellowship in the community of the church.
Your debut album, Don't Lose Hope, is releasing on January 22, 2021. What's the inspiration behind that project?
Hope has always been the biggest thing I try to write about in all my songs. Hope is what sees me through every day, knowing that no matter what happens, I know that we have hope beyond our circumstances.
We can have joy, no matter what our circumstances are because Christ has already won our battles for us. Even if we go through tragedies as Paul says in Romans 8:18 (NIV): "Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." I wanted that to be the theme that plays through this album.
There are light-hearted songs on this record, there are songs about life, and there are also songs that go deep. Songs that talk about tragedy and suffering. But, all music centers around this idea that in the good times and the bad, we have a hope that will carry us through. Don't lose hope, because, after every storm, the sun always comes out. We're going to see the light again.
What's your favorite song from the new album?
My favorite is either the title track "Don't Lose Hope" or "Whole World." "Don't Lose Hope" is such a great representation of where I love to be musically. I love songs, like that one, that has a soul feel to them. I also love "Whole World." The lyrics of that song came from a personal place. It was written during a very intense time in my life. So, that song continues to serve and minister to me every time I play it.
How has the pandemic affected you and your music? Has it been difficult not being able to tour?
Yes, it has been. Back in March 2020, when we came back from TobyMac's Hits Deep Tour, we thought this pandemic would only last a month. We thought, "Okay, we'll let this pandemic settle down, and then we'll go back to normal and continue touring."
April came, then May, and then June. Then, reality hits us: we didn't know when we'd be able to tour again. It was an opportunity to put our money where our mouth is. As Christian artists, we're out there all the time encouraging people to trust in the Lord. It's easy for us to say when we're on a tour, riding on a bus. It's great. We're living our dream. But, are we still going to give the same messages when our world comes crashing down?
This was a great time to hop on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram to connect with fans on live streams and whatnot. We wanted our fans to know that we're trusting in the Lord with them, even in this hard season. We still 'toured' in some respects; we just didn't leave our homes. We still tried to play for people and serve our fans. Do the best that we could to minister to them.
Finally, how can we be praying for you?
Pray that I can continue to trust the Lord. It's an easy little catchphrase. But, it's hard in the day in and day out to truly rely on Him, and believe that He's going to carry us through. So, that would be my prayer, to continue to rely on the Lord.
Grace Chaves has been a fan of all things Christian music since 2016. She is one of NRT's youngest writers. Homeschooled, Grace is an author, loves Jesus, concerts, and road-trips.
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