There is an element of Cooper & Gatlin’s dynamic as a duo that instantly resonates with listeners – making you feel as if you’ve known them forever when, in fact, they’ve only just released their third single.
The Tennessee born, LA based, brother-sister alternative-pop team captivate their audience with their fresh and spirited ability to connect through storytelling in their music that stems from a powerful mutual understanding.
The duo called heirwaves from Gatlin’s L.A home and opened up about their latest single, “Fragile,” the emotional music video for the song, and their journey in the music industry.
Growing up in a creatively stimulating environment, with their dad as a music producer and their mom as a touring musician, Cooper & Gatlin were no strangers to the industry – Gatlin even admitting that she learned to walk on her mom’s tour bus. “We were just always around it,” Cooper says, “We’ve been able to look at our parents as examples for people that are hardworking, and creative, and just great at what they do.”
From the young ages of 10 & 12, the siblings, who got their start as young actors, were often asked on Disney auditions if they were able to sing and dance on top of acting – little did the producers know they already had a teen-pop album ready to go courtesy of their mom in preparation for their big break.
When Cooper began playing the guitar in his teens, Gatlin approached him with a song she had written – which in typical cool big brother fashion, wasn’t taken all too seriously. “I kept trying,” Gatlin says with a laugh. She came back to him with another song – a more depressive piece about a shipwreck, which was taken more seriously. “It was a realization for me,” Cooper says, adding that he wasn’t initially keen on songwriting. “We have compatible talent, and we have the same love for music, but we got there in different ways that work together really well,” he explains.
That unique brother-sister dynamic was the element that allowed them to work so seamlessly as a duo. “We’ll be writing and we start to sing a melody, and the other person will finish the melody…” Gatlin says of their “sibling telepathy.” The only downside? Perhaps being a bit too comfortable in giving feedback. “I’ll play a chord and she’ll be like, ‘never play that chord again’,” Cooper jokes. “We don’t ever fight, although we did bicker right before this interview about who’s house to do the call from. I’m at Gatlin’s house so I’m the bigger person,” he says causing them both to erupt in laughter.
Most recently, Cooper & Gatlin have released an intoxicating new ballad, “Fragile,” which captures the chaotic elements of a struggling to open up in a relationship when you are terrified of feeling broken or vulnerable.
Just fake a smile and keep moving forward, Cause I know it won’t help looking back // I’ve learned it’s safer to keep my distance, So far away you can’t see the cracks.” – Cooper & Gatlin, “Fragile”
“Fragile is a fun one,” Cooper begins. “We started writing, it was just the two of us and a guitar,” Gatlin adds. “After a whole week of writing sessions, we just kinda sat down and we were like, ‘what are we feeling?’ and I was like, ‘well, I’m not really feeling anything.'”
Gatlin compares that draining experience to being on a “songwriting conveyor belt,” that had her hoping it was a feeling that wouldn’t last. “I was like, ‘oh no, is this what it’s going to be like forever? Am I gonna lose that creative spark?'” She asked herself, as an artist hoping the effervescence of songwriting never fades. “You get to your 3rd or 4th session in a week and you’re like gosh I have no idea what to write about,” Cooper continues.
The vulnerable state of being emotionally drained became the inspiration for the duo’s third single, “Fragile.” “I just wanted to write something vulnerable. So fragile came out of this…” Gatlin says. “I think everybody’s fragile,” Cooper says, adding that the lyrics stemmed from the risk of getting hurt that comes from letting people in, and the fear of embarrassment or judgment that coincides with opening up to someone. “It’s a song about asking someone to love you in that fragile state,” Gatlin explains.
“I think there’s something cool in just being honest with each other,” Cooper says of the cathartic feeling that comes from sharing your fears and emotions out loud, and being honest about your vulnerability and shortcomings. “You think that might push somebody away,” Gatlin says, “but if it’s the right person, they hopefully that will bring you guys closer together, which I think is the ultimate goal.”
The music video for “Fragile” features Cooper & Gatlin singing in a large, empty room with rays of light radiating through the surrounding windows, leading into a stunning and wildly emotionally dance by NBC’s World of Dance stars Kaycee Rice and Sean Lew.
“We wanted to do something different,” Cooper explains, crediting Gatlin’s husband Austin with the idea for dancers. “Sean choreographed the whole thing, so he was the mastermind,” Gatlin says – “In like 4 hours!” Cooper exclaims.
Neither Cooper or Gatlin saw the stirring dance until the day of the shoot, which lead to an extremely emotional reveal for everyone involved. “I was on the phone with my wife,” Cooper says, “and I walk into set and, literally, everyone is crying. I was like, ‘oh, I have to call you back’.” “Every take I had the most dramatic single tear fall down my cheek,” Gatlin adds, adding how brilliant the experience was for her to see the song brought to life.
Ending with an emotional cliffhanger, the video closes with the fate of a relationship that was laced with chaotic immensely vulnerable moments being left unwritten – unsure if he will open a door and let it all begin again. “I thought it was such a cool ending,” Gatlin says, adding that the hesitation and uncertainty at the end is a parallel to the reality of the situation. “We want it to always be that he’ll open the door again,” she continues, “but sometimes, you don’t, and maybe it’s for the best. And so I like leaving that open ended to interpretation and whatever the person watching wanted to feel.”
The pair explains that they are extremely grateful for their acting backgrounds as it has helped them immensely in some aspects of their music careers. “Gatlin brings her acting hat into our music a lot,” Cooper elaborates, “The last song we put out, “Like You,” wasn’t even about our own experiences, so when you’re performing you’re kind of acting. There’s a lot of crossover.”
Being able to convey the same emotion that they felt the first time they sang a song, and the 100th time they sing that song is where ability to act it back to life comes into play – especially with songs that have a more narrative and less personal background. “Sometimes after you’ve sung it for years you forget where it came from, and what the original emotion was,” Gatlin says. “Music is made for sharing and there’s something in the sharing and performing that brings out new elements as well.”
Having released three immensely powerful singles, Cooper & Gatlin are ready for more. The duo has plans to release a new song every 2 months or so, and are consistently tapping into their creative sides and brainstorming new art and video elements. “We’re Just really excited, it’s been a long journey for us to be able to put stuff out,” Cooper concludes.