THIS WEEK'S EPISODE: Chelsea & Nick Hurst‼️🎉
June 29, 2021

John Cooper of Skillet

On this week’s episode of Trevor Talks, we dive into the life story of John Cooper, frontman of the platinum selling rock band Skillet! John gives us the inside scoop on a brand new Skillet song due out later this year, shares why he felt called to write his KLOVE award-winning book Awake & Alive to Truth, and even takes us deep into his personal testimony and the origins of Skillet. The conversation is a powerful moment of personal connection with one of the music industry’s most enduring leaders.

On this week’s episode of Trevor Talks, we dive into the life story of John Cooper, frontman of the platinum selling rock band Skillet! John gives us the inside scoop on a brand new Skillet song due out later this year, shares why he felt called to write his KLOVE award-winning book Awake & Alive to Truth, and even takes us deep into his personal testimony and the origins of Skillet. The conversation is a powerful moment of personal connection with one of the music industry’s most enduring leaders.


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Trevor Tyson  0:01  
Thank you for tuning in to Trevor talks podcast where we talk to real people about real topics and real stories. Today we have a guest that I know that you all know and love because he's the most requested interview that we've ever had. He is a father, husband, author, and most notably the frontman of the Grammy nominated Rock Band skillet. He recently released his first book awaken alive to truth, finding truth and the chaos of a relativistic world. Ladies and gentlemen, we've got John Cooper in the house. John, thank you so much for being here. This is awesome.

John Cooper  0:36  
Yeah, what is I'm a real person with real stories. So I'm glad I'm glad to be here.

Trevor Tyson  0:43  
We, it's just mind boggling. When we first started the show, I put out a thing saying, what guests do we want? Like, who do you want to hear from and the most requested guest was John Cooper. So here we are a year later, we just celebrated the one year anniversary, and we've got John Cooper on the show. So there we go.

John Cooper  1:00  
Wow, that is actually I'm shocked to hear that. But congratulations one year, man, it's a lot of work is a lot of work doing these things. So it's wonderful that you've been persevering, getting the message out helping people I'm sure it's been a huge encouragement to people, especially during such a hard year. It's been a revolutionary year in lots of different ways.

Trevor Tyson  1:23  
Yeah. And within the last year, you've started a podcast as well, you've got Cooper stuff. And you've made a lot of headlines recently, with your new book, you got a que level award for your new book. Congratulations on that. But I really want to touch like, not as much on the accolades. But you as a real person, like, what prompted you to write this book?

John Cooper  1:44  
Yeah, sure. Let's see, you know, there's a really long version, I'll tell you the medium, like, give me the medium version? Well, because it actually is kind of pertinent. Because the truth is, is that, you know, the idea for the book started a couple of years ago, about three years ago. But really, it started back in 2012 2012, is when I began noticing all of the crazy shifting that was happening in culture, you know, all of the you turn on, you turn on the news, or even a preacher, or you go to church or you hear a Christian influencer. And you would begin to hear these words and phrases that you hadn't really heard before. And you weren't sure if they meant something? Or is it just that I just don't know the cool new words? Or when somebody says, I shared my truth? does that actually mean something? Or is that just a new cool way to say, I told my story, you know what I mean? Is that just is that is that mean anything, and I started getting the distinct feeling. This actually means something. I just don't know what it is. preachers are saying things that were beginning to be very clouded that they kind of sound like truth, but they kind of sound clouded and new terminologies. And I just had a sense that something was off. And so in 2012, I began studying a lot, reading a lot, trying to get to the bottom of what I felt was happening in culture. And it was around 2016 15, when I really began to go, Okay, I think, I think I figured out what's going on for my brain anyway. And I remember I ended a book, I was in bed, finished a book and I closed it. And I looked at my wife, Cory, and I said, core. I can't believe it took me four years to figure this out. But we live in a world that does not believe in truth anymore. I didn't know that it shouldn't have taken me four years, but it did. I didn't know we live in a postmodern world. And I began to understand all these different facets. And that is when I started thinking, What can I do to encourage Christians in their faith? So they're not thrown to and fro. Now there's a really emotional element to this as well, to be honest, which was that part of the reason I was so obsessed was not just because I was confused what was happening. Part of the reason I got so obsessed is because it had an emotional toll on me. I had friends fall away from their faith in Christ that I never thought would fall away. I never even crossed my mind. It was a possibility. I had friends who left their wives had an affair. I had friends who did not leave their wives, but both the husband and the wife walked away from Christ and decided to start an open marriage. I have another friend from my church that fell away from Christ and started a cult in her own house started her own religion, because God came to her in a vision with new revelation. I don't even know where to start. It's so bananas. So I took a personal toll on me. And I wanted to write a book to hopefully help people along the way. But and to talk about the truth of the Word of God, that never changes. It's the reason everybody's thrown to and fro. If you anchor in, if you anchor into the Word of God, you will be unshakeable. Because the word of God never changes. And that's what the book is about.

Trevor Tyson  5:23  
And it's, it's almost as if it's a written just for real people, you know, it's so easy to read, and even the title awake and alive to truth. When you read it, you're just like, Huh? What kind of truth is this guy talking about because of course, you've got the rock star. Look, people, when they see you, they're probably not, oh, he's a Christian. But then when they see your actions and the way you speak, and you just in tune with the Holy Spirit, and for me, like even reading the book, and listening to some interviews that you've done on it, it really does make sense that we do live in a world where people are letting their emotions dictate them over truth. And even in my personal life, I've seen people just starting to create their own version of Christianity, if that makes sense. And they, they feel, Oh, well, this is how I feel. So this is how I'm going to live. And this is how I'm going to preach to people as well, because it makes me feel good. So it must be true. And it's just simply not true. And for you to come out and say, you know, like, you have a very successful career in the mainstream. And in the Christian world, you do headline festivals with Slipknot, and everyone else. And then you'll also do winter jam, and God's using you in that way. So for you to come out and say like, Hey, this isn't correct. Like, it's really humbling to see somebody actually standing up for truth. And with the pandemic happening over the last year, for the first time in 23 years, you were forced to stay in for a whole year from touring from all of those things. How did that affect you? Are you excited to get back out? What do you feel like God used that the Grow Your family even stronger? I can imagine like being on the road so much with your family. You're not used to being in those close quarters? All the time?

John Cooper  7:16  
Yeah. Yeah, it definitely is definitely different. You know, I think for me and Cory, we got very involved in our church, local church. Now, we've always been involved in our local church, which is something that I've always been kind of quite vocal about. Because I do think in the Christian music industry, not just the music industry, but even the Christian what would you call an itinerant pastor or preacher, in what I mean by that, of course, for anybody listening doesn't know what I mean. I mean, people that have ministries that aren't tied to a local body, right, to a local body of, you know, church, if you will, and they go out and they do ministry, and this the other, but but they're not really rooted into relationship, and community. That's a real danger. And I've always been outspoken about that. Because what happens is that you become an island, you know, you get out there and you do your own thing. And then you start to only listen to your own voice rather than having other voices in your life. So I've always been a big believer in the local body. But because we were home, as you said, for a full year, I was like, Okay, we're here. I want to be used by God. And we just threw ourselves into our local body. And I really enjoyed it. My wife and I, we, we lead our young adults group at our church, and there was a need there. And I was like, well, we're hoping we can do it for five or six months. And we saw so much fruit, it was so exciting. Another good thing about the break for me, was just kind of removing my skillet, my skillet hat if I can, and then putting on my sort of culture, Warrior hat for the kingdom is that where we're at a real fault lines, a fault line, earth shattering situation, in the church in America. And a lot of these fault lines, they are theological, but they're really not being driven by theology. They're, they're being driven by politics. They're being driven by more what I would call I would call social justice, ideology. Now, I don't mean Christian social justice, because there is biblical social justice. But but we're not talking about that. We're talking about social justice ideology, which is more of a movement, more of a religious movement, actually. So with all of that, coming into the church, that shaking was ramped up in a huge way, not just by the by 2016 election, but then as things progressed, we obviously had the pandemic. And the pandemic reveals a lot of, of the intersection of social justice ideology, then you had George Floyd, then you had the BLM protest. And then I will say, as a separate event, some people wouldn't say it's separate, you have BLM protests, but then you have the, what I would call the more of the riot side of the BLM protests. So it's hard to keep some of these things separate. But some people get offended if you don't say certain things. So some of those things turned violent, you have that whole thing. And then you have a new election. So presidential election, there's so much being involved in there, that it was a great time for me to be off the road to be honest, because I could really delve into more study and more reading than I would have had a chance to do. And I think that that we're finding the church being shaken up in incredible ways. And as you said, I do believe there's a church split happening in America on lots of different fronts. And one of those major fronts would be what I would call progressive Christianity, as you kind of alluded to, you just kind of said, almost like starting out, well, that's not the way that I read the Bible. Yeah, that's not the God that I know, I kind of like this better. And then they're kind of creating a new religion. That's not really Christianity, that's happening all over the nation, all over the world to a degree. But But America is the most, I guess you would say, Christianized nation if you want to look at it in that way. So it's been a very upheaval time. And there needs to be a revival in the church, we desperately need a revival within the church of Christians, who realize that we have not as a body, built our lives on the Word of God, if we can have a revival in the church of true repentance, I believe that revival will spill out into the society in the culture,

Trevor Tyson  11:57  
man, and y'all had some pretty violent stuff happened about three blocks from your house. And instead of I mean, you put out a video sharing about what was going on. But then you were out in the community, some band members were out painting over some of the boards, and such and really serving the community. So you stood your ground, you said what needed to be said. But then you also went out and made sure the community was safe. You're protecting your family, but you were also making sure everyone else felt loved? Where was the transition for that? Because I know, you were probably pretty defensive when that stuff started happening. So close to your house, where was that line for you? Like you had come? But you also were like, I'm ready to protect my family, if that's what needs to happen.

John Cooper  12:46  
Yeah, yeah, all of this stuff. The Christians are very divided on a lot of these things. And I can understand that to a degree. But what I do think that we have not done very well, in America in the church, I think partially because we've never had to is that we haven't really done a great job of teaching what the civil government is supposed to do. What the Bible says that, you know, right now that a lot of Christians say things like, Jesus says, we're supposed to help the poor, and so the government needs to whatever, they don't understand that there they are crossing incorrect theological lines. And some of those theological lines would be for instance, Jesus does care about the poor, the church has a mandate, okay, a mandate from God, to care for the poor. That is not an option. That's a command, you do it. If you're a Christian, the church is supposed to do that. But that's not for the civil government, to care for the poor. That's for the church to do. And so you have all these different things that we haven't really discussed within Christendom, honestly, in a couple of centuries, to be honest, because we haven't had to. And part of that also is, is the idea of violence and defending your family. And this, that and the other and I, I've tried to be consistent about it. For instance, I called out the BLM violence, because I believe it's wrong. But I also called out the January 6, violence as well, because I believe it's wrong. It's about having principles that are based on the Bible. So for me, it was compassion that you don't, it's compassion for people who are truly hurting, but you also cannot endorse chaos. You can't endorse lawlessness. That's actually what the devil promotes. I mean, I know that might sound sound trite, but it's true. That's what the devil promotes God is the God of order. And Satan comes into God's order and he distorts it a little bit, so that it goes outside of God's design, and then it becomes something that is disorderly and if it is outside of God's design, than it is, by nature, say Titanic, right? God's rule versus Satan's rule. So, I look at these things and say, Hey, I don't want anybody to get hurt, but we've got our city being burned down. And a lot of Christians supporting it, frankly, a lot of Christians saying, You got to understand, you know, that's not people's property. That's the, that's business and, and then some Christians are saying, Well, God doesn't want us to own property. And I'm just like, Dude, I love you. But you need to read your Bible, and understand the thing before you start running your mouth. God would not have given us a commandment not to steal. If it wasn't okay to own something, you can't. There is no such thing as stealing. If you don't own a thing, it's just read your Bible. Understand that thing before you're so quick to start speaking. That's something that really frustrates me about culture today.

Trevor Tyson  15:52  
Guys writing their own truth. Now, what do you feel about the book that is most resonating with people? When people come to you now hopefully, at shows, and in airports and such if they bring up the book, what is what's the biggest thing that you feel that they're grasping onto?

John Cooper  16:11  
I think I would say there's two things. You said earlier that the book was readable, I'm glad to hear that I hear that from most people. And I'm personally happy about that. I'm not an intellectual. I'm not. I don't have a college degree. I don't have a Bible degree. I'm not an academic person. But I love the Bible. And I tell people that this book, is I call it theology for dummies. Because I consider myself to be a little bit of a dummy. But you don't have to be smart to understand the word of God. You don't have to be intellectual for God to give you wisdom and insight. That's an amazing thing. That is very different about Jesus, right than what the religious elites were like, the Jesus is like, you know, hey, come follow me, you know, fisherman, is that choosing the smartest, most religious elite people, and you don't have to be intellectual to understand the Bible, God, in fact, the Bible says, The Holy Spirit, namely, course Holy Spirit is God. But the Holy Spirit will lead you into all truth. That's something that God will do, whether you think you're a smart person or not. So my book, I hope, it's just a way for normal people to understand the Bible, I would say the two most impactful things are, you mentioned one of them, which would be the idea of not trusting your emotions. And now that doesn't mean that we can't get emotional about God, I love to get him I am emotional about God I was every time I talked about him. And it doesn't mean we can't shout and dance and get loud for Jesus, I love all of that stuff, right? It just means that you don't build your truth upon that emotion. Because there may be times when that emotion wanes and whatever. I don't mean that I have faith that my emotion for God will wane, you're gonna have ups and downs in life, and your emotions can lead you to really bad places, right? So your emotions have to be submitted to the Lordship of Christ, through the word of God. And I think that I did an okay job of explaining that in the book. And I've had a lot of people talk to me about that. Probably also was people know that I am charismatic, I do believe in the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit. Having somebody that is charismatic, say, hey, put your emotions in check, is probably helpful. For some people, maybe more than more than a sensation is saying, Put your emotions in check. Like I'm on the team. I'm on your team. But we need to get our emotions in check under the Word of God, I think the best thing that I did in the book, frankly, I have a chapter about original sin. I think it's the best chapter of the book, because I think a lot of Christians have not been taught that you were born into sin. That's that that's just the way that it is you have a bit towards wickedness, and you are going to do wicked things. Without without the Holy Spirit without redemption without being made brand new in Christ Jesus, you are going to do wicked things. In fact, everything you do is going to be wicked, you will be driven by a pursuit of your own flesh. And that's something that frankly, that the, in my opinion, that the Reformers had an incredible grasp on. I think the Reformed theology I am reformed in my theology as well. I guess you'd call me reformed and charismatic, probably. I think the reformers have the best understanding of how wicked the heart is. And I think a lot of Christians have not been taught that and they don't understand that and if you don't have a deep understanding of your wickedness, then You can't have a deep understanding of the grace of God that has set you free with something that you did not deserve, that you could not earn. And he has made you a brand new creation. So I think the more deeply you understand that sin, the more deeply you had joy in the work of Christ in your life. And I think that I think that's probably the best chapter in the book, in my opinion,

Trevor Tyson  20:24  
a men and I as well believe the Holy Spirit still moves to this day. A prime example of that is when in 2010, I was flipping through cable, and I saw a WWE commercial, and it was for an event called Hell in a Cell. And it had a monster playing on it. And that was the first time I was like, oh, that sounds great. And I remember going to like desktop in the house and typing in on YouTube skillet monster clean, because I was like, it's so good. There has to be some kind of cussing in it, right. And I, it was before awake came out, and I fell in love with it. And I was in a crossroads moment in 2010. So it was either I was going to walk in a way that pleases the Lord, or I wasn't. And I'm only 23. So I was a child, then I still am, to a certain extent. But I had that moment. And God really use that as an intro to show me the ministry that you and your wife and the rest of the band have in it personally impacted me in such a way. I would say for the past decade, like even being reminded of the message and having the nostalgia of like, I remember I'd be mowing the lawn, and I'd have a wake playing on a loop. And I'm pretty, I funded the kids college fund and mercy, allowance and such. And the first concert I got the pick to go to was Atlanta fest just to see skillet. And that was like, I knew from that point, like, I went to winter jam to see you guys. And Nick Hall was speaking. And I was like, Mom, I think that's what I want to do. I feel like that's what I want to do. And from that point, I started following Nick. And then I ended up interning with poles for three years and up into together 2016. And I, like started having panic attacks my senior year of high school, right. And so I'm touring with poles in high school. And then I started having panic attacks, and I just put a hard stop on everything. I let the enemy attack me. For three years of my life, I deleted all social media, I quit touring to promote and I didn't do any blogs, videos, nothing, I just let the enemy attack me in that way. And I started working for AT and T and put that whole side of my life on hold. And then in 2018, I had a very, very, very clear revelation with the Holy Spirit. And it's like, you really want to live this way for the rest of your life. Is this. Is this what you feel like I've called you to do? And I'm like, No. And then some very dear friends were like, yeah, like maybe, maybe you should press into that press enter that challenging me. And God brought me through it through therapy and really just seeking the heal from traumas, and the kick the enemies but, and ever since that point, you know, I still struggle with that mental health aspect. But at the same time, because of the seeds that were planted in my life. As a young kid, I know that there's an overcomer story there. I know that everyone's always rooting for the underdog, even when you are the underdog and you feel like you can't pursue these things in life because you have depression or anxiety. And I hate it when people say, my depression, my anxiety is not your assess demonic. It's a spirit. Like, rebuke it, it you don't have to live that way. And it's not like Benny Hill is gonna come slap you in the face one and done, you're healed. Of course, God and the Holy Spirit can do that. But it doesn't mean that's going to be what happens every single time. But all that to say I know firsthand that the ministry that you guys do on a daily basis impacts people because it was one of those keys that the Holy Spirit used to lead me on this path that I'm in now. And even throughout the pandemic and the protests and everything a perfect anthem for that would be the album rise. Which just kind of summarizes like we're living in a very dark world at this standpoint. And how can we get through that like tonight we rise like, let's go. We're sick of it, throw it in the air, you know? And so your ministry just from like, now being able to interview you I call my mom was like, Hey, John Cooper is finally gonna be on the show. And she's like, the skillet guy. And I was like, yeah, and she's like, Well tell him he owes me some money for all those concerts that took to you. I was like, I'll do that. But, but all that to say like, God's used you so much even in my life.

Trevor Tyson  25:12  
And several millions of other people, God's just use your ministry. And it's just amazing to see what all he's doing in your life now, like you've grown over the past 10 years, like you've been touring for 23. But it wasn't always the glitz and glamour. Everyone assumes for rock shows, everyone's I want to go backstage and you go backstage, and it's a bunch of brick walls and dressing rooms you don't, there's not really much going on back there. Except for people trying to do their best to live their day to day life and get through the day. I know people in the rock industry that stay depressed all the time that don't know Jesus, and I know people that are just full of the Holy Spirit. You Lacey and Josh Sturm so many people that just let the Holy Spirit lead the conversation and lead the movement lead the music, and you've, you've grown in your mind, obviously, and then to become an author and piece everything into a book. But what's your wife's story? I've heard bits and pieces of it from the challenges you had with losing your mom to cancer and not being able to listen to rock music as a child. What's the whole story behind John Cooper?

John Cooper  26:26  
The whole story? Well, that's such a thanks for sharing all that with me. That's just amazing to me. And yes, agreed. God does amazing things. Right? You could never there's no other explanation for it. It's not rational. It's God doing what God is going to do to accomplish his purposes. And I just think that is so cool. Um, let's see my story. So my parents are Christians. My mom was a like, Jesus freak. Jesus fanatic. My mom would I mean, ever since I was a kid, my mom would talk to everyone about Jesus everywhere we went, Okay. And so, and you know, I remember it all the way back to two, three years old. I just remember my mom praying with me and my my elder brother, Bible study. You know, I had to sit there at the table while my mom did Bible study with my older brother before he went to school when I was what, three years old, just, I just have some of that those memories. My mom was a piano teacher, and voice teachers, there was always music, always preaching, always Bible study, always memorizing scriptures ever since I was young. So I can't ever remember a time where I didn't believe in God. But I gave my life to Christ. When I was five. I was in my room at night alone. I wrote about this in my book. And I basically gave my life to Christ alone in my room. And it was really funny, because the next day, my mom sat me down, she says, John, I want to talk to you about something, I want to talk to you about giving your life to Jesus. And I said, I did that in my room last night. And she was like, John, don't lie. I was like, I'm not lying. I was alone. I heard this voice in my head, this and I had to give my heart to Jesus. And I did. I asked him to be my boss. And, you know, a whole thing anyway. So I don't really remember a time where I didn't believe in God, God has been so great to me. And I always, I always, let's say it like this, I never had a time in my life where I doubted that he was real. And I know a lot of people do. And I'm not saying that makes me better. I just think God's grace in my life was different. It was a different kind of a calling. And I've never doubted that. But certainly, I had really hard times my mom got sick with cancer when I was in sixth grade. And she fought cancer off and on for about three years. And she died when I was 15. That was the hardest time of my life after her death. My dad got remarried. And me and my dad began fighting. And, you know, I just I didn't think anyone understood me. I didn't feel that I had anyone to talk to I felt alone. I would talk to God at night in my room, and I didn't feel that he was listening to be frank. I knew he was listening, but I didn't feel like he was listening. And my life was terrible. I felt and basically, it was at that time that I began, and I wrote about this in the book, there was actually a specific night in which I basically to ask God if he would be a friend to me. And I know that might sound silly to some people, because a lot of us hopefully, if we have good theology, we already know that Jesus is a friend, but I did it. I didn't understand that. Maybe that's a good way to say it. I might have known it was true, but I will wasn't feeling that it was true. I knew he was my Lord. I knew he was my Savior. I knew he was listening. But I didn't feel like he was listening. And that was the night that I began to have Jesus as a friend, that would not leave me, that would not forsake me that I can talk to the he would bear my burdens. For me, it was an amazing thing. And it was a life changing experience. And so when I got really serious with the Lord would have been a few years later, when I was about 18 years old. The week I graduated high school, that week, I graduated high school, my life changed with the Lord. And I began to understand the Bible or read the Bible more. And that is when I was like, You know what, my entire life is going to be dedicated to Christ, whatever I do, I have grabbed hold of the kingdom of God, the kingdom has me and nothing else matters to me at all. And that was when the kind of radical you know, I kind of took on the John the Baptist mantle of my life, whatever you want to call that. That's when that happened. And I was like, nothing else matters to me. And so that's kind of me in a nutshell.

Trevor Tyson  31:11  
I love that. And when did music come into play for you? Like, I was a piano teacher? When did when did you figure out like, oh, that's probably something I can do. I would

John Cooper  31:23  
say music. My mom was a piano teacher, I began taking piano lessons when I was about four or five. And then I'd already started singing before then my mom was, you know, made me sing at church and things like that. And you know, when you're young, and like your parents tell you, you know, you're too good at, fill in the blank to stop, you know, whatever that may be piano or soccer. I don't know, whatever your story is. My mom would say you're too gifted to stop playing piano because I didn't really want to keep doing it. And I just thought she's my mom. She She says that to everybody. It says it's all of her students. When I first heard rock music, my mom I told my mom about it. And I wrote, No, I did not write about this in my book. Excuse me. I did not I've talked about it in so many interviews I thought I did. And I'm currently writing a new book in which I do talk about this, but I came home singing a Michael Jackson song. I heard beat it at my friend's house. And I came home thinking my mum would love it because my mom loved music. And my mom, she gave me the holiest book weapon of all time for singing the devil's music. And I was like the devil's music. What are you talking about? And so that began this sort of fight with me and my mom about rock and roll music. And so it was years later, when I discovered Christian rock music. My friend gave me a Petra cassette tape when I was in fifth grade, and I thought my mom would like it. And my mom, she was she was more mad at the Christian rock than the secular rock. Because Christian rock was a wolves in sheep's clothing. Wow. So they were they were deceiving. And so it was even worse. And so all of that lasted for a long time. After my mom died, you know, she wasn't there to tell me I couldn't listen to Christian rock music, you know. And I did wrestle with that I began writing my own songs when I was 1516 years old. I was singing in a band at that time. And I was wrestling with that, you know, is it it? The Bible says, Honor your father and mother? What does that mean in this situation? And that was, that was something hard for me. And I guess I would say this, the end of that story, for anyone who wants to know, came down to me reading a scripture because I do believe you should honor your father and your mother, right? That was reading this amazing passage. You remember this passage? When Jesus tells someone to follow him? And the guy says, Okay, I will. But first, let me go home and bury my father. And Jesus says, Let the dead bury their own dead, pick up your cross and follow me like, No, I've commanded you to do something. You let the world do what the world is going to do. And you follow me. I read that scripture. And I was thinking, when I was 18 years old, I was thinking, Is that sort of like what God's calling me to do? Because I have a burning passion in my heart to play music. And I don't think it's just because that's what I want to do. I feel like that's a burning calling on my life, to play music and to share the message of Christ through this music. I know that my dead mom wouldn't want me to do that. Is this an instance of me having to say Let the dead bury their own dead? And I'm going to follow the word of God because Jesus also said, any any man that's not willing to, you know, hate his mother and father is that will that worthy of being called by disciple? I mean, these are, these are, these are really strong words from from our Lord, right. And I think that in the end, and I've really believed that that would be a proper translation of those passages to me, I don't obviously don't hate my mom and my dad. But what it means is that, yes, my mom and my dad have authority over me, but where does their authority come from? Their authority has to be under the authority of the King of kings. That's how he disperses authority. So if you're not willing to say yes to the ultimate authority, then you're not willing to be, then you're not worthy of being called My disciple. I think that was a proper rendering and application of that passage of scripture from my life. And that's what God used to give me a freedom to follow on that path to play music for him.

Trevor Tyson  35:54  
And from that revelation, when did skillet come into play for you,

John Cooper  35:58  
only a couple of years later, I was I was already singing in bands. And I got very serious about singing in a band when I was 19. And it was a Christian band. And I never thought I would do it for a living, I was just very serious about it, you know, because I loved it. And I thought God could use it for this time. And I was in college, and I thought, I'll do this for the Lord while I'm doing it, and he can use it. And we were doing a ton of evangelism skill, it started as a side project of various bands, because God was doing a real work in Memphis, Tennessee, at this time, there must have been 30 local Christian bands all in Memphis, it was like this crazy outpouring of of calling for Christian music. And so it this small church that I went to, there were several local Christian bands, and my pastor and said, Hey, John, I think that you would be good with this guitar player from another band. He said, What do you think about you guys doing a side project and writing some songs? And he said, Hey, it'd be like, cooking, taken all these ingredients from all these different bands and thrown it on a big skillet. And they said, You should call a skillet, that'd be That'd be funny. And I was like, Sure. So that is how that kind of started. And God just blessed it. None of us were expecting God bless it. But within about eight weeks, we were we were signed, we were recording a record. And we didn't even have we didn't have enough songs to make an album at the time. So we were rushing, writing songs, I was about 19 at the time, 20, perhaps. And when that started,

Trevor Tyson  37:43  
do the anointing is real. And from that point, you then went on to make several records before you really found that success. But once you did, somebody gave you an ultimatum, pretty much a, you can be the biggest band in the world. Just cut the faith aspect out of there. What was going through your mind at that point? And how did that shift your messaging? Like? Did you go even harder for Jesus? Or was it just like, keep doing what I'm doing? Or was there any kind of consideration? What did that look like?

John Cooper  38:18  
Yeah, I wrote about this in the book. It's in the kind of prologue session section. And, you know, I don't I shouldn't say as an ultimatum, because he said, like, it's not that he had the power to give me all those dreams. All right. But he did say that he's like, look, this is what I believe this is what a lot of people are saying, You, we think you could be the next biggest band in the world. Now, look, I don't believe that I could have been the biggest band in the world. But that's what he was saying. But you need to start talking about Jesus so much. What was really confusing, but the conversation. And again, I shared this in the book is that he wasn't saying, Hey, John, deny Christ. He wasn't saying deny your faith. Don't ever talk about Jesus. He was just saying, stop talking about it so much. Don't do Christian shows. Don't do Christian interviews. When somebody asks you what a song is about, don't start saying it's about my faith in Jesus. At the time, we had a song called Hero, which, you know, because you regress to it, apparently all the time. So, he wrote, people would ask me on these mainstream interviews, so who is your hero? And you know, they, they'd expect me to say whatever I say, Oh, my heroes, Jesus Christ, and I would explain it and he said, Stop doing that because it's hurting your fan base. So, but then he added a twist on it. And he said, if you think about it, John, you can do more for your faith by listening to my advice, because as your audit, you start talking about Jesus, and as your audience grows, you can begin to You know, imagine what you can do for the poor, if you become rich and famous. Imagine the influence you could have, if you become rich and famous and yada, yada, yada. So that was the only aspect of what he said, there is some truth to that, right? There is an element of truth to what he's saying. And I did think, okay, I need to weigh this, I need to say, Is God actually using this secular person? Is he actually speaking to the secular, you know, unsaved person, God can do that, right? So I thought about it for a few hours, and I talked to my wife, I was like, This is what he said, it just didn't feel right to me. And my wife is like, Nope, doesn't feel right to me. And God made it so abundantly clear, that even though there is an element of truth, maybe there is an element of prudence. It's not the Lord's wisdom. You know, it might be a little bit of earthly prudence. But that is not the Lord's wisdom. And that was a defining moment for me. Not because I was considering denying my faith or never talking about Christ. But it did make me think, Could I could I be smarter about this? And so it was, it was a good. It was a good time for us to put our feet down in the ground and say, No, we absolutely know who we are. And to not talk about Jesus, then there's no point to skill it. That's the entire point of me playing music is to share my faith in Christ. That's all it is. You know, the Bible said, the disciples said it like this, how can we be silent of everything we've seen and heard? Remember, that's what the disciples said, How can we not tell the world what we seen with this man, Jesus, that we, he died and rose from the dead, He did miracles, and He healed the sick. And he, he even told somebody that he forgave their sins? How can we be silent about this? And you know what, no way we're going to be silent about Jesus. So it was, it's a defining moment. And I wrote about that. And certainly, we become even more vocal as the years have progressed.

Trevor Tyson  42:06  
And and as a direct result of that, you write so much about finding hope and the struggles of life, including mental health and suicide, from comatose to the last night hero not going to die, and so forth. You and your band, wear your heart on your sleeves. Have you ever struggled with mental health? And how did you get through it?

John Cooper  42:26  
I have never struggled with mental health problems. And I say that to be really clear on the front end. Because we live in a society. Let me say this, I have a lot of compassion for people who do. And if you listen to my music, one would assume that I have, because I have a lot of compassion. So don't take this the wrong way, what I'm about to say, we do live in a society that prizes. Let's see, what has it pride, it gives a certain sort of prize to victim status. And we live in a society where people want to say that they struggle with mental health, even if they don't, because it gives them a certain sort of identity or special, you know, whatever it deserves, it deserves a special empathetic response. So I always want to be clear with people from the beginning. No, I have never struggled with what I would consider to be mental health problems. Having said that, in today's standards, people would probably say, yes, you have it, I just grew up in a different generation. But when I was 15, after my mom died, me and my dad fought, I used to not be able to sleep at night. Because I would be going through situations in my head. This is going to be Dark Hope you don't mind me sharing some of my darkness on the air. I will be going through situations in my head where I would be hurting people. Or I would be causing literal physical harm against people who had been bad to me. People that I thought deserved it, frankly, people that treated me in certain ways. I wanted other people to feel what I was feeling. And I'm sharing that not because I'm proud of that, that is demonic. That is the flesh. That is not the new nature in Jesus Christ. And I used to come up with these scenarios. You want to hear something even darker than that. I used to sometimes pray that someone in particular I will share who I used to pray that that person would try to physically hurt me so that I could hurt them in a really deep way. And I used to fantasize about how I would do that. And I think that that's not a that's pretty dark. stuff. I, in my songs I draw on that experience, and that intense loneliness that I felt, because I felt abandoned after my mom died in my relationship with my father, I felt abandoned with my father. No one can none of my friends knew what I was going through my friends loved me, but they just didn't understand how can they. And that is the reason that I draw on that. And I write so many songs about loneliness, when you feel that not a single person in the world understands what you're going through. I write about that, because it was in my bedroom at night alone, in those fantasies, that God began to do a work of the Holy Spirit in my life, that literally took those fantasies away, that literally destroyed the work of the enemy in my life, and gave me a joy that I never thought I could have to be honest, I never, I never thought I would live without that sort of anger and rage, frankly. And that is the work of the Holy Spirit. That's what Christ does. The Bible says, righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit is the kingdom of God. Whoa, full I feel the anointing now. Come on, that's the word of God. So I always want to be clear, no, I didn't struggle. I am a natural optimist. I am a natural extrovert. I'm happy most all of the time. But I had a dark season in my life that I'm not proud of, but I do feel was incredibly demonic. And God saved me from it. And I still to this day, in fact, I

John Cooper  46:41  
have a new song coming out this year. This is the first interview I've shared this in, no one else knows it. You're hearing it right here. I'm Trevor talks. And I'm gonna get emotional. And I say it because I always get emotional about the Lord Jesus. But one of the lines in the chorus of the song says, I'm free of all the rage, I thought would never leave. That's what Jesus did for me. And that's what Jesus will do for you people listening. I don't care where you're at, I don't care, the rage, you are feeling the hopelessness, you are feeling the despair you are feeling. That's why Jesus died on a cross. That's the oppression that he died to save you from that is the oppression of sin and the flesh and demonic activity. That's the work that Jesus died for. And he already bore that burden for you. He'll do the same thing for you,

Trevor Tyson  47:35  
man. I feel it too, man. Dang, man, that's awesome. But God's using you in such an amazing way. I feel like the best way to make you happy would be to give you a Dr. Pepper and a comic book or something. But yes, of the same pastor right now. But John, I want to honor your time. Thank you so much for joining us and really being open to do this interview. I know you're on tour right now, thank God and have several projects probably in the works. I'm super excited to hear what music God breathes through your band and even fight the theory, some more metal lisco. Just keep keep it up. Like if there's any kind of encouragement that I know that myself and your fans that will listen in, like, we value you We cherish everything that all the sacrifices you've made with taking your family on the road. And living life on a bus I know firsthand, it's not the most glamorous thing in the world, and you make that sacrifice 90% of the time, it seems like So praise God for what he's doing through you, within you within your family and all the wives that you're able to impact. It's truly an inspiration. And we're thankful for you.

John Cooper  48:52  
Well, I appreciate that so much, Trevor. Thanks. And she had a great time chat. And I should tell everybody listening, if you do want to get the book, The it's very hard to find the best place to go is still my website. John L John L You can get it on Amazon. It's just tough to keep them stocked there because we're such a small business. So check Amazon, or more than likely check my website and I sure had a great time chatting with you today, man.

Trevor Tyson  49:22  
Definitely we're gonna have the link in the description as well as your social media platforms to where if for some reason someone lives under a rock and never heard of skillet. It'll be there but everybody that's listening in thank you so much for tuning in. We want to say a special thank you to new release today for making this episode happen. And I feel like it'd be dishonouring to not say thank you to Josh Sturm and Billy Halliwell for helping connect this interview and we will talk to you guys next week.

Transcribed by

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John Cooper

John Cooper is the lead vocalist, bassist and songwriter/producer for Skillet, one of the best-selling rock bands of the 21st century. The two-time GRAMMY Award-nominated 12x platinum band was recently invited into Pandora’s Billionaire club after garnering 2 billion streams, received a pair of GRAMMY Award nods, sold over 12 million albums worldwide, taken home a Billboard Music Award and more. Their breakout single “Monster” remains “one of the most-streamed rock songs of all-time” with 285 million global audio streams. Between selling out arenas on four continents, Cooper has found time to launch his own podcast, COOPER STUFF PODCAST, a beard care line with Hawk & Hatchett, available at and partnered with Z2 COMICS to create Skillet’s first Graphic Novel, EDEN, out now. Their tenth full-length project, Victorious released via Atlantic Records on August 2nd.