John Cooper Says Skillet is Making Progress on New Album: 'I Feel Really Inspired'

Kate Glicksberg
Skillet performs at the Billboard Studio

Most bands with 15-18 songs together would figure they have their next album ready. But Skillet's John Cooper figures that "we're probably only halfway there."

The hard rockin' quartet, currently co-headlining the Christian rock Winter Jam 2015 Tour Spectacular, is working in earnest on material for its ninth album, the follow-up to 2013's Rise -- Skillet's first platinum album which debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 and was the group's second consecutive No. 1 on the Top Christian Albums chart. "We're planning on recording this summer," Cooper tells Billboard. "June will mark two years for Rise, and I would like to be releasing a record this year. So we're working toward that goal, and even if we don't we'll release it early next year."

Skillet: Billboard Session

Cooper adds that "the good news is I feel really inspired" as he and wife and bandmate Korey Cooper work on the song ideas. "I haven't been this excited about writing a record in, like, seven years or eight years, and it's just been kind of a joyous time, actually," he says. "I've been signing autographs on the tour and meeting tons of people, and when I meet people like that it inspires me to write and I'm feeling inspired and just excited to still be making music and hopefully write songs that people can relate to and can make them feel better about themselves or help them through hard times."

In that regard, Cooper acknowledges, the new material so far isn't quite as topical as the songs on Rise. "That really was a record that was almost start to finish birthed out of watching the news or reading the news on my iPad and just going, 'Man, the world is changing so fast," Cooper explains. "That record was very much, 'Alright, there's a lot of important things out here that need to be said right now.' But this time I feel like I'm moving in a different direction -- but having said that, I'm only halfway done with the writing, so that can change."

One change Skillet has made this time out is returning to producer Brian Howes, who worked with the group on 2006's Comatose, after recording Rise and 2009's Awake with Howard Benson. "Comatose was our first big record and Brian has remained one of my closest friends in this world; even on the record he didn't produce I would call him and say, 'Hey, what about this lyric?' or something," Cooper says. "And right now I feel like I'm kind of in that place I was when I wrote the Comatose record...this feeling that the sky's the limit and I can make a really meaningful album. So we thought Brian might be a better fit for that. And he said, "Man, I really want to do the album,' so we're gonna go back and hopefully repeat history. That would be nice."

Skillet Talks 'Rise' At Billboard Studios

Skillet still has plenty of road work on tap this year, according to Cooper. The Winter Jam tour wraps up March 29 in Peoria, and Cooper says Skillet is planning to play South Africa as well as North American festivals and radio shows during the spring and summer. "It's going to be a very, very busy time to be recording and doing those gigs," he says. "But to tell you the truth, I'm looking forward to it. I think it's going to keep me nice and frosty, y'know?"