On episode #212 of his podcast, the BobbyCast, Bobby Bones chatted with Naomi Cooke, the lead singer of country trio, Runaway June. The interview took an in depth look at Naomi’s upbringing, which included living on a bus and traveling around the country for four years.
“We lived in National Parks, and we explored, and we played outside,” Naomi told Bobby. “We did schooling a few hours in the day, and then we were just out. We just played in the woods.”
While living on the road, Naomi says she and her siblings would often sleep outside. Her mother, who was a midwife, would travel to seminars related to midwifery, while her dad worked handyman jobs on the road. Her family also sold tie-dye items at festivals. It was during this time in her life that Naomi found her passion for music.
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She lived in a bus with her family for years. She worked on a fishing boat in Alaska. She brought a weird drink to my house: it’s @naomi_cooke from @runawayjuneofficial . Great one! . Check out the latest episode of the BobbyCast. An hour long interview show with creatives . Search BobbyCast wherever you podcast.
“There were times when we were completely broke and couldn’t put gas in the bus, and I would go out and play my guitar, and we’d get 30, 40 bucks, and we’d be able to move on,” says Naomi. “That gave me a lot of confidence as a kid. I was like, ‘Wow, I can help my family.’ Looking back, I’m like, ‘That’s a little gnarly,’ but at the time, I knew I’d do this forever.”
After life on the road was over, Naomi’s family landed in Tennessee, and later moved down to Florida, where she started playing gigs at restaurants. Naomi says she thought about moving to Nashville to pursue being an artist, but didn’t believe it was a legitimate option at the time. Instead, she took an offer from her stepfather to become a deckhand on a salmon boat in Alaska.
“I had no idea what I was getting into,” she says. “This the gnarliest, hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I’m glad that I didn’t know what it was because I wouldn’t have gone. So, I did that for a summer, and then when I came back, I felt really clear — like, ‘Okay. If I can do that, I can move to Nashville. I can play music.’”
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I went back to a house that built me yesterday. This was this first house that we lived in when we decided to bring our bus journey to an end. We had one bathroom for 11 people including my parents. A wood stove in the living room for the winter. No AC in the summer only a couple fans in the windows. I remember sleeping on the trampoline a lot with a couple of my siblings in the summers because it was cooler outside most nights and we loved it. My youngest sister Talehya was born in this house. We ran wild in the woods and rode farmer Gilly’s horses all over these soy bean fields. My brother Christian spent a whole summer here with us before he died. We had nothing and we had everything. Going back to where I come from, mentally or physically makes me feel so grounded and strong when I’m feeling defeated or lost or discouraged. I’m reminded of what really matters in life and It takes away some of my fear of failure and it gives me strength to keep going. I’m so grateful for my life and the chance to keep living and creating my own ultimate adventure.
When she made it to Nashville, Naomi started playing gigs at both the Tootsie’s on Broadway and the airport version of the bar. She also cleaned houses to earn money while still writing songs. She says her “big break” came when she co-wrote the Tyler Farr single, “Better In Boots.” It wasn’t long after that Naomi formed Runaway June with Jennifer Wayne and Hannah Mulholland. The group has since released four singles, including their Top 20 hit, “Buy My Own Drinks. Naomi says people often ask if she can believe she’s made it so far, and the simple answer is yes.
“I think I’m surprised that I’ve gotten here a lot of times, but also, it’s like I’ve worked really hard,” she says. “People ask me, ‘Do you pinch yourself?’ And I’m like, ‘No.’ I know exactly what it took to get this. I don’t wake up and go, ‘How did I get here?’ I freakin’ know. It was a lot of hard work and sacrifice, and it still is.”
To hear more from Bobby’s interview with Naomi, including more about how Runaway June was formed, check out episode #212 of the BobbyCast.