Greg Copeland

Singer-songwriter Greg Copeland is a Southern California native whose depth of feeling for music—and natural ability to conjure it up with spare, graceful melodies and lyrics that are plainspoken poetry—has been inverse proportion to his body of work. That balance tipped when he put out an album in 2008, Diana and James, following a 26 year hiatus after his 1982 debut, Revenge Will Come, produced by Jackson Browne. He picked up the pace a bit to release a third album, The Tango Bar in 2020. And now, the spiral is circling in and Copeland is set to release his Empire State EP in Spring 2024.

Greg Copeland grew up Orange County California and was a high-school friend of Browne in the 60s. Copeland co-wrote some of his early songs, such as “The Fairest of the Seasons,” which was on the Nina Demos and Nico‘s album Chelsea Girl in 1967. He co-wrote “Buy for me the Rain” with Steve Noonan, which was a huge hit by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in 1967. They also covered another Noonan-Copeland composition, “Tide of Love,” on their Ricochet album. Copeland co-wrote the song “Candy” (with Browne and Wally Stocker) which appears on Browne’s album Lives In The Balance (1986).

Copeland didn’t release an album of his own until 1982, at the urging of his cohorts, with Revenge Will Come on Geffen Records. RWC was listed in Time Magazine’s “Ten Best Rock Albums 1982” (alongside Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Elvis Costello, Ry Cooder, Lou Reed). Although the debut received many accolades, it was over as it took off. Unfortunately, this album has never been reissued on CD.

Boston Globe’s Steve Morse called RWC “an angry, ruthlessly honest debut by a poet-turned-songwriter…The album teems with political imagery about the tenement landlords, money-grabbing businessmen, El Salvador oppressors, limousine-owning snobs, pimps, and exploiters of all kinds. As the title track declares, ‘Revenge will come for every man kept down’ … The music, a smoldering blend of slide guitar rockers, R&B, rockabilly, and achingly personal ballads (proving that political music doesn’t just have to come from new wave rockers), is also startling.”

First released on Copeland’s 1982 debut, Copeland’s songwriting credits include “El Salvador” which Joan Baez recorded in 1989, and the song “Revenge Will Come” covered by David Lindley.

After a 26 year hiatus, he was persuaded back into the studio and reemerged with his second release, Diana and James, produced by Greg Leisz on Browne’s label Inside Recordings.

During Copeland’s long hiatus from music-making, he and his wife raised two sons. He started songwriting again in 2000— “I could feel it coming. The odometer clicked over and it was like I came out of a deep freeze. Songs just started pouring out. It took me a couple of years to really trust it. After a while, I was leaving one job and starting another, and I decided to give myself a hundred days to do nothing but write. Most of the songs on this record appeared in a rush of bits and pieces during that period, and it took me nearly four years to sort them out.”

Then it was another 12 years before The Tango Bar [Paraply Records] was released in 2020, essentially the same moment that the world shut down with Covid. It was produced by Tyler Chester and features Inara George and Caitlin Canty (guest vocals); Greg Leisz (guitars); Tyler Chester (piano, keyboards, and guitar); Jay Bellerose and Don Heffington (drums); Val McCallum (guitar); Davíd Garza (piano and harmony vocal); Rob Burger (accordion); Stewart Cole (horns); Anna Butterrs (acoustic bass); and Madison Cunningham (harmony vocal).

Americans Highways, Bill Bentley wrote, “Now that he’s back, it’s like Copeland has never been gone. His songs have plenty of Southern California atmosphere… There is such an elemental level of power in ‘Scan the Beast,’ ‘Coldwater Canyon,’ and ‘Lou Reed,’ this music comes across as a primer for a future Los Angeles, one built on the essence of Jackson Browne crossed with Charles Bukowski, and laden with an undeniable ennui.”

“Having proved he can create [with Diana and James], Copeland has loosened his grip; the results are exhilarating. Even better, he has more songs ready, and promises a follow-up won’t take another dozen years to complete…” writes Local Rhythms’ Michael Witthaus (2020 The Tango Bar).

Stay tuned for more information on Greg Copeland’s Spring 2024 EP release.

Artist Update

“Greg Copeland is many things – distinctive, intriguing, iconoclastic and worthy of a listen. Thankfully, it appears we won’t have to wait another twelve years to hear his next one but, in the meantime, there’s much to savor here [The Tango Bar].”
Glide Magazine, Jim Hynes (2020)