Tonight, Tonight’s show will feature a musician who about three weeks ago was ready to start looking for a new job. Thad Cockrell will perform his song “Swingin ‘”, with remote accompaniment from the Roots, in a performance reserved because Jimmy Fallon was buying a switch at the right hardware store at the right time.
The Unexpected Reservation is one of those classic rock and roll fairy tales: over the past two decades, Cockrell has worked as a musician, releasing several albums under his own name and as Leagues, while still plying his writing profession. -professional composer in Nashville. He’s been through countless ups and downs in his quest for this great breakup, but at the end of 2020, after releasing his sixth album, If in case you felt the same in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, Cockrell admits he was ready to call him.
“[The album] comes out and, you know, it does what it can, but it’s as flat as anything can be, ”he said Rolling stone. “I’ve been doing this for a long time, but to do it at a sustainable level enough people need to sign up for the conversation.”
In a story he shared on Instagram that has since gone viral – and which Fallon repeated on Tonight’s show last week – Cockrell spent the first few days of 2021 writing down his goals and intentions for the New Year. This included finding a way to release all the music he had recorded during the pandemic, but also, “Look for a new career.”
He wasn’t sure exactly what he would do: he had obtained his master’s degree in family therapy and counseling and could always come back. An avid cook, he was also considering working in a restaurant or finding a way to bottle and sell the homemade hot sauce he had been making for friends for nearly a decade. “I was just trying to understand,” says Cockrell.
When Cockrell sent his list to his management team, he was already predicting that they were ready to drop him anyway. But over the phone, he was greeted with the news that Fallon had heard ‘swingin’ ‘and had booked it for. Tonight’s show.
“It’s hard to explain,” says Cockrell of the whiplash. “Like, maybe night and day do, but the sun is shining somewhere.” I couldn’t speak. I was like, “Are you all fucking me?” And they said, “No”. And I just started to bawl my eyes.
Fallon’s story took place at the end of last year.
A light switch in his house had broken and he ventured into a hardware store to collect the necessary supplies. “Oh, I know how to do this,” Fallon said. “I think I learned it in basic electricity or something when I was in high school. Cockrell’s song came over the speakers, forcing Fallon to stop shopping and immediately pull out his phone to identify the lead.
“He had that George Harrison-y, or ELO, Jeff Lynne-like vibes,” says Fallon. Rolling stone of “Swingin ‘” by Cockrell. “I just stood there and listened to the whole song. I was hypnotized… I just continued to listen to him. It’s a great song to get in the car on the way home.
Fallon sent an email soon Tonight show music booker Julie Gurovitsch, asking if they could get Cockrell on the show. It wasn’t until after Cockrell was confirmed and shared his story on Instagram that Fallon learned that his musical guest was on the verge of a career change.
An aura of fate surrounded If in case you felt the same practically since its creation, although it was not until this month that it came to fruition. The album is a few years old, and its creation and release was largely spurred on by Cockrell’s friend, artist Becca Mancari, who performed some of Cockrell’s tunes for her Bermuda Triangle teammate Brittany Howard. Howard fell in love with Cockrell’s music and linked it to ATO Records, which released the album last June; she also lent her voice to the album cut, “Higher”.
Cockrell started working on the album in Nashville, then traveled to Los Angeles to finish it. Although he couldn’t connect with his dream producer, Blake Mills, he ended up working with Tony Berg – who had just shared a studio space with Mills. Even though Mills, an accomplished solo artist and full-fledged producer, does little session work these days, he still contributed a bit of guitar to If in case you felt the same.
Cockrell describes If in case you felt the same like “a love letter to all the music that obsessed me growing up.” Each song pays homage to a different set of artists, and he adds, “It sounds like a mixtape because it’s supposed to. I was a song person, not a genre person. I don’t write “Swingin” without David Bowie and Arcade Fire. “
“Swingin ‘” sums up the fighting spirit that Cockrell has learned to adopt over a career that has taught him a lot about disappointment and perseverance. “I think that’s what connects the record,” he says. “Because even if you didn’t make any money doing something, if you make a record like it makes you a millionaire – I think that’s the only way to do it. It is as if you are fighting against your own cynicism.
That way, it makes sense for Fallon to hold on to “Swingin ‘.” As Cockrell himself put it in his viral Instagram video, Fallon is the ‘king of the incynic’. Her number is all about big tent laughs; it’s broad, awkward and sincere, a little sardonic and cheeky, but never misanthropic or disenchanted. It is perhaps not surprising that music – a generally more serious and sincere form than comedy – has always been such a large component of his career.
“I was doing group impressions, and it was good for me because I was able to open up to a lot of them,” Fallon recalls of his stand-up days. “I opened up for Monkees and Air Supply, Counting Crows, Fiona Apple. I played Woodstock! I think all comedians have this rock star thing somewhere in their brain like, ‘Dude, I wish I could go out there and do that.’ “He adds:”You just want that reaction, and I think that’s what music gives you – a great reaction.
While Cockrell may be the first Tonight show A reserved guest thanks to a chance trip to a hardware store, Fallon has always kept an ear open for newcomers and lesser-known acts. In 2011, his Late at night celebrates Odd Future’s national television debut (it ended with Tyler, the creator jumping on Fallon’s back), while Nathaniel Rateliff and the Nightsweats, Alessia Cara and Julia Michaels all made their debuts at the late night television. Tonight’s show (Rateliff and Cara in 2015, Michaels in 2017). Last year Irish post-punk band Fontaines DC performed Tonight’s show after Fallon heard them on Seattle’s famous radio station, KEXP.
For Fallon, these performances provide a unique joy, a joy that Cockrell will be able to experience tonight: “These are the moments when you say to yourself: ‘Yeah, man, I know it’s hard, the grind is hard! Said Fallon. “But it shows, don’t give up.”