How Brad Cox translates life stories into chart-topping country anthems
Brad Cox was sleeping in his car in the Northern Territory, fencing and harvesting on cattle stations and doing big drives across the Nullabor when his fellow farmhands started urging him to give up the campfire lifestyle and take his music further.
His time in the Territory, along with his youth growing up in the Snowy Mountains, meant his country songs were enlivened by vivid experiences and characters.
Cox is the son of two swimming coaches, and learned piano, guitar and drums growing up. By the time he was 14, he was playing cover gigs.
And when his self-titled debut album came out in 2018, it instantly found a global audience – 14.8 million streams worldwide, and 9.1 million streams in Australia.
By the time of his second album My Mind’s Projection in late 2020, the colour patterns were wider and the characters more diverse.
“I wrote My Mind’s Projection over two years, even before I released the first one,” recalls Cox, who now lives up on a hobby farm in tropical Far North Queensland enjoying the solitude and the fishing to help inspire the songs.
“I started doing co-writes in Nashville, the live shows were getting bigger, and things were starting to kick off for me.”
The record features the #1 country radio singles ‘Give Me Tonight‘ and ‘Drinking Season,’ and a collaboration with Adam Eckersley, ‘Remedy’.
There were exhilarating guitar-shredding moments such as ‘Short Lived Love’ and ‘Wasted Time’ that balanced the record out and had reviewers raving.
My Mind’s Projection reached #12 on the ARIA Albums Chart with 12.7 million streams, making it a bonafide ARIA Awards contender. It also spent more than six months in the top 20 on the ARIA Australian Country Artist Chart.
‘Drinking Season’ and ‘Short Lived Love’ reached #1 and #2 respectively on the TMN Country Airplay Chart.
‘Give Me Tonight’ also topped the same chart and was nominated for two Golden Guitars.
My Mind’s Projection was finished before COVID hit – in fact, he flew back from America just weeks before the live sector closed.
The album’s release was then delayed some months.
Unable to tour, Cox returned to farm work, helping out fencing at a friend’s property in Bourke, on the tractor for up to 17 hours a day.
But longing to get back to performing, Cox partnered with Triple M Country for the ‘Drinking Season Virtual Tour’. That was followed by the ‘Drinking Season Unplugged Tour’, which saw him play sold-out shows in NSW, ACT and Queensland.
He toured throughout 2020 and 2021, playing unplugged acoustic shows in socially distanced rooms. Sixty of the shows were sell-outs.
In May, he released the EP What’s Your Favourite Country Song? with acoustic renditions from his two albums.
His success also gained him his own radio show on Apple Music Country where he struck a deeper connection with fans, exchanging yarns, and sharing songs and artists that inspired him.
It was obvious that Cox’s musical tastes were much wider than the commercial country he’s best known for. He listens a lot to what he calls “the country weird stuff” and also alt-rock, jazz, rock and blues.
How does he look back at the 23-year-old who won the 2018 Toyota Star Maker competition that kick-started his career?
“I had my head screwed on. Maybe I was a bit obnoxious, probably still am, a little arrogant, but that’s not always a bad thing.
“But I always backed myself, always trusted myself. It makes me proud of who I was then at such a young age.
“I’ve always known what I wanted to do, but not how I would do it.
“But there was one direction I wanted to go and I worked my ass off to try and head as far in that direction as I can.
“I’m still doing it, working very hard and taking every opportunity.”