Entertainment Music Country At 22, Kolby Cooper Is a Husband, a Dad of Two Girls — and Country Music's Newest Badass "I'm doing everything possible to slow it down just a little bit so I can just take everything in, appreciate it and make a good impression out there," he tells PEOPLE By Tricia Despres Tricia Despres Instagram Twitter Tricia Despres is a writer for PEOPLE digital, covering everything from country music to pets to that love story that will have you shedding some tears. Since graduating from Northern Illinois University with her Journalism degree firmly in her hands, the wife of one and mother of two has written for publications such as the Chicago Sun-Times, Taste of Country, and several state mags across the Midwest. When she is not at her laptop, she remains in a state of mourning over the demise of Rascal Flatts. People Editorial Guidelines Published on August 12, 2021 09:20 PM Share Tweet Pin Email It was the last day of the four-day Windy City Smokeout music festival in Chicago, and Kolby Cooper had no idea if anyone was going to show up. It had been pouring for hours, and as a relatively new presence on the country music scene and one of the first artists to play on that dreary day, the Texan silently doubted anyone would stand out in the rain just to listen to him. But there they were, a multitude of fans with their hair drenched and their ponchos soaked, ready to take in the music magic that they have heard about, magic that seems to seep from the pores of this country music powerhouse. "I was pleasantly surprised," Cooper, 22, tells PEOPLE with a slight laugh. Kolby Cooper. Gabriel Muniz But he shouldn't be, because Kolby Cooper is on fire at the moment. Amassing over 120 million on-demand streams to date, Cooper finds himself as the current buzzworthy artist in country music, blazing a trail to stardom via rock-hard anthems and sweet sentiments backed by the scream of electric guitars. "Sometimes it feels like life is moving at a billion miles an hour," Cooper says in an interview done just days before the Aug. 6 release of his first EP as a signed artist, Boy from Anderson County. "I'm doing everything possible to slow it down just a little bit so I can just take everything in, appreciate it and make a good impression out there." Granted, one should never trust a first impression, especially when it comes to Kolby Cooper. On the surface, the somewhat scruffy-looking kid with the knock-down voice and the somewhat dirty mouth seems as if he's looking to follow in the deep footsteps of his country rebel heroes that came before him. Kolby Cooper. Courtesy Broken Bow Records "I grew up in the middle of nowhere, so I was very country," Cooper says rather emphatically. "I had rules growing up and I knew what to do and what not to do. And that was instilled in me pretty hard." But just when you think you know Cooper, he displays another side to himself. He smiles as he sings a love song to his wife Jillian, who he met when they both were in third grade. He talks about his father, whom he lost to brain cancer when he was just 14 years old. He gushes over the two children who call him dad. "My favorite thing to do is literally anything that they want to do," Cooper says of his 3-year-old daughter Josie and 9-month-old daughter Charlee. "Just getting to spend time with them is what means the most to me. We play hide and seek a lot." Shane McAnally and Kylie Morgan Collaborate on 'Growing Young' — a Song Born from a Real-Life Couple's Love Story Luckily, both sides of Cooper currently make their way on Boy from Anderson County. Over the course of six tracks dripping in a whole bunch of Texas twang, Cooper begins to tell the stories that he has long wanted to share. "I would say that if a true fan looks at everything we do, there is not much they don't know about me," says Cooper, who snagged the attention of many via the release of his debut album, Good Ones Never Last, back in 2019. Kolby Cooper. Gabriel Muniz "At least, that's always been my goal. I think that comes from me meeting some people when I was younger that were people I looked up to, and then I met them and realized I never really knew them. I want people to know me well enough through my music, through social media, through articles, through everything…that they can come up to me and be like, 'Dude, what's up?'" And to hell with the doubters. "When we graduated high school, we got pregnant about six months later. I was supposed to finish college and blah, blah, blah," he admits with a laugh. "There were all sorts of people that told me I was stupid for pursuing music. I think they were wrong."