Jason ‘Rowdy’ Cope, Co-Founder of Country-Rock Band The Steel Woods, Dead at 43

by Emily Morgan

While 2021 has hardly started, it’s unfortunately reminiscent of 2020: taking cherished country music icons away much too soon. 

Jason “Rowdy” Cope, a co-founder of the country-rock band, The Steel Woods, has passed away at 43. On Saturday, his bandmates delivered the sad news via social media.

While his bandmates couldn’t offer further details about his death, they marked the tragic news “with a broken and heavy heart.”

“We are writing this still in a state of shock and kindly ask for your prayers for the family, friends and band at this time,” read the statement, paired with a photo of Cope inside the Ryman Auditorium. “We take comfort in knowing he is in a better place now and his passion for music and art will live forever in the work he has left behind.”

“RIP Rowdy,” the band concludes, “you will be forever and greatly missed.”

Cope Remembered For Time With The Steel Woods

Cope began his musical career when he started playing guitar and writing songs as a kid. He grew up listening to Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and rock bands like Led Zepplin.

After a decade of working in Los Angeles, he packed up and moved to Nashville in 2007. After ending his time with Jamey Johnson’s band, he co-founded Steel Woods with Wes Bayliss after the two met, playing in a cover band. 

Later, the two recruited bassist Johnny Stanton and drummer Jay Tooke, putting the final touches on the Steel Woods’ lineup (Isaac Senty replaced Tooke in the band in 2020).

In 2017 the band released their premiere album, Straw in the Wind. Two years later, they followed it up with Old News in 2019.

Cope’s Friends And Colleagues Offer Condolences Via Social Media

In addition to his work with Johnson and the Steel Woods, Cope also collaborated with other artists. He produced Lindi Ortega’s 2017 EP ‘Til the Goin’ Gets Gone.

He’s also featured playing guitar on her 2013 album Tin Star and the Secret Sisters’ 2010 self-titled album.

“I lost a friend today,” Lindi Ortega wrote in a stament. “It serves to remind me that we should never take our friends for granted and we should reach out while we can. Time slips away… call a friend you haven’t talked to in a while and tell them you love them.”

Widely known for their Southern rock style, Cope’s talent as a songwriter was well-respected within the country music community. His ability to collaborate with artists across the musical spectrum leaves a long list of friends and colleagues morning the loss. 

“He was one of the kindest, funniest most talented people I ever knew,” producer Dave Cobb said at the news. Cobb and Rowdy teamed up together on numerous projects throughout the years. 

Before the news, The Steel Woods was preparing to release their third studio album this year.