It all started with the strumming of a guitar, country radio and a little push from his dad.
Head Yell Leader and construction science senior Keller Cox will be releasing his debut single “California Cowgirl” on Thursday. Available on all platforms, the single is the first of a series of songs he plans to release in the coming months.
Picking at guitar strings since the eighth grade, Cox said his motivation to move forward with music was inspired by his dad, who pushed him to play for anyone that would listen.
“I’ve always played, whether that be in church or for my family and friends,” Cox said. “I was never necessarily comfortable with it until my dad would make me play like three songs for people then I just started liking it more and more.”
Growing up on mainstream country radio, Cox wasn’t introduced to the genre of Texas country until he landed in Aggieland.
“I always grew up listening to regular country like your George Straits, your Alan Jacksons and all that stuff,” Cox said. “We grew up listening to country radio all the time, but I had never really heard of Texas country music and the way that it tells more stories. And then when I came to [Texas] A&M and learned this thing called Texas country, I was like, ‘Man, this is cool.’”
As he grew more comfortable with the Texas country scene, Cox said the songwriting process came naturally to him.
“I didn’t really think much of it, I was just living and then two summers ago, going into my junior year, I wrote my first song,” Cox said. “I started singing it for different people and people were liking it so it was kind of like, ‘What in the world? This is kind of crazy,’ and I just kept writing and writing.”
Looking up to artists like Cleto Cordero of Flatland Cavalry and Parker McCollum, Cox said he used their experience in the industry to fuel his songwriting obsession.
“Something I learned from Cleto is he always says, ‘If you don’t have anything to say don’t say it,’” Cox said. “Something I really take from that is you can’t just sit down and write a song. Songs just kind of have to write themselves and then you get to put the pen to paper.”
When it came time to record, Cox said Texas’ stay-at-home orders were a blessing in disguise.
“I really wanted to record and kept wanting to get in the studio and then quarantine happened so I thought I might be able to give some more time to music,” Cox said. “I’m excited to release something I actually had time to do that I might not necessarily have gotten to do if it wasn’t for quarantine. I think it’s kind of cool how good things can come out of a bad situation.”
Cox said in making “California Cowgirl,” his ties to College Station were prevalent, with Hurricane Harry’s being the main inspiration behind the song.
“It’s about a girl from California but is as Texas as they come,” Cox said. “It definitely explains the Harry’s scene a little bit. There’s a line in [the song] about going out on Thursday nights and you know, not everyone goes out on Thursday’s everywhere else. When it came time to decide if I should keep that line, I was like, ‘Of course I should keep it’ because it’s College Station and that’s what we do here.”
As such a prominent part of A&M tradition, Cox said this release is helping him gain the confidence to branch out while still maintaining the Spirit of Aggieland.
“As Head Yell Leader, my goal is leaving Texas A&M better than I found it,” Cox said. “In a year, my time at A&M will be gone. Yell Leader is an incredible platform to share the Spirit of Aggieland and bring people joy, but music is another way I’ve found to do that and hopefully continue to do down the road.”
For now, Cox isn’t sure what his future might look like, but said he’s excited for his debut release and more to come.
“It’s just super exciting to see that there’s something else outside of A&M,” Cox said. “And you know, I don’t know that it’ll work out necessarily, but I couldn’t be more stoked.”