HENRYETTA, Oklahoma – A Tennessee man was traveling through the small town of Henryetta when he decided to stop by what was once a church.
Drawn by the crowded parking lot that Saturday night, Jonathan Bond walked in to find Winnie Cooper singing one of her original gospel songs and was immediately blown away.
Cooper had Bond’s attention when she finished her set with her band, Mended by Grace. He immediately showed her a song he had co-written called “I felt God today,” initially intended for country music legend Emmylou Harris to sing.
“He really liked the way I expressed my music,” Cooper said. “He decided to give me a chance.”
She sang for him there in the tiny hometown theatre, and he was sold.
“I didn’t really know what to think,” Cooper said. “I had never had an opportunity like this before.”
Cooper recorded the song for Bond and His Choice Music/BMI to be distributed on multiple platforms.
She claims the song is still “in progress” in its editing stages before release.
During a visit with Mvskoke Radio on June 15, Cooper sat down with her acoustic guitar and sang a part of the song on the show live.
The self-taught guitarist and singer/songwriter strums the guitar playing an angelic melody as she looks up, then the song’s words come out as she drops her chin to sing. Her sound is a soulful, captivating feeling when she sings.
Cooper knew she could perform Bond’s song, which would be her opportunity to get her name out there.
During an interview with her mother after a Saturday night theatre performance, they both agreed that the catchy song would be Cooper’s way of entering the industry.
She derives a lot of inspiration when writing songs from her faith, but she claims not to be limited to the gospel, calling her genre-type “indie gospel.”
“I’m not sure on genre-specific. That’s why I go with the “indie” label,” Cooper said. “I’ve written country music, folk music, a little bit of blues, just a variety.”
The 21-year-old has made some notable appearances in her time, including opening for Vince Gill.
Cooper landed Gill’s gig when she was doing a singing contest at an FFA State Convention.
“I think I sang At Last by Etta James,” Cooper said. “I don’t think I placed, but some guy called my FFA teacher trying to get ahold of me needing entertainment for a big auction sale.”
Cooper was off-put by request initially but was excited to perform even though she had no idea who she was opening for until arriving on the day of the show.
“It was like, oh my gosh,” Cooper said. “I never would have expected to get an opportunity like that out of an FFA Convention.”
She has also performed in Disney World, opened in Branson and Nashville as a part of the singing group Oklahoma Kids and other various groups in her youth.
The young lady with the old soul dressed in black said she loved Aretha Franklin and the music of that time.
Her husband Tyler Hampton claims that when Copper is alone is when she sings her Aretha at her loudest. “You should hear it,” he said.
While at the radio show, Cooper sang a part of her original He left the 99 for 1, a song about addiction, including her personal struggle with alcohol, even though she meant to write it from an outside perspective.
After writing the song, the words resonated deeply with her own story.
As Cooper sings, she looks up again as if she goes somewhere else with each song.
“It takes me to a point in my life where I just really gave up on everything,” Cooper said. “I didn’t want to admit that I was struggling.”
Cooper claims she has struggled with depression and anxiety most of her life and isn’t great at communicating.
Her mother said kids at school would call her stuck up because she didn’t have lots of friends and didn’t talk to many of her schoolmates. The timid and shy girl is the opposite of what her schoolmates once called her.
She uses music to communicate how she feels while also bringing awareness to topics such as addiction and other adversities the world faces.
“I’m the kind of person I just play what I feel,” Cooper said.
From time to time, Cooper will cover a song and add her twist to it. She uses this time to incorporate some Native American sounds into her music with the knowledge of the Mvskoke language or culture she was taught.
She played one of her covers on the radio, “I’ll fly away,” and she claims to have put a native twist to it with the guitar.
With humility, she leads the Tulledega Hill Gospel Theatre music ministry and her husband, who both play in the band every Saturday at 7 pm.
Cooper is currently waiting for her song to release and see what happens from there.
Those attending the Muscogee Festival may have gotten a chance to see Cooper as she performed for the gospel-singing portion that Saturday.
Cooper is open to scheduling performances and can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or find her Facebook at Winnie, her band at Mended by Grace, or the theatre Tulledega Hills Gospel Theatre.
Catch the full Mvskoke Radio Show interview at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jc4mTtBqWu0.