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Frequently Asked Questions with Answers

Contents

  1. 1 Read the Q's and A's
    1. 1.1 How's it going, or How are you doing?
    2. 1.2 What is your deal anyway?
    3. 1.3 So do you think you're good or something?
    4. 1.4 What kind of solo artist are you?
    5. 1.5 When did you start writing songs?
    6. 1.6 Which do you write first, the music or the words?
    7. 1.7 How do you come up with your ideas for songs?
    8. 1.8 How often do you write songs?
    9. 1.9 What do you use to write with - word processor or tape recorder?
    10. 1.10 Who plays the instruments on your records, and what instruments are they?
    11. 1.11 What kind of equipment do you use to record your songs?
    12. 1.12 How often do you practice a song before you record it?
    13. 1.13 When did you start playing guitar?
    14. 1.14 What makes a song a good song?
    15. 1.15 What advice do you have for new songwriters?
    16. 1.16 Why don't you perform your songs live?
    17. 1.17 How and why did you become a recording artist?
    18. 1.18 What makes Scott Cooley albums so different from other songwriter's albums?
    19. 1.19 Why do you have a website?
    20. 1.20 What is the deal with the sailboat logo?
    21. 1.21 What is my end goal?  
    22. 1.22 What do I care about, not as an “artist”, but as a person?  
    23. 1.23 What do my “fans” care about, as people?  
    24. 1.24 What level of transparency am I comfortable with?  
    25. 1.25 What visual aesthetic do I identify with?  
    26. 1.26 What will phase one, two and three of my live show look like?  
    27. 1.27 Is my current music actually the first impression I want to make, or should I keep writing?  
    28. 1.28 What kind of experience do I want to create?  
    29. 1.29 Why is Vail such a great place to ski?
    30. 1.30 Who is the best tennis commentator?
    31. 1.31 Why is sailing a cool sport?
    32. 1.32 What are your all-time favorite movies?
    33. 1.33 Are there any products you recommend to people?
    34. 1.34 Do you actually get asked all these questions frequently?
    35. 1.35 Do you know who your fans are or anything about them?
  2. 2 Ask a Question
  3. 3 Related Information

Read the Q's and A's

How's it going, or How are you doing?

Probably the most frequently asked are variations of these.  How much time do you have?  is always a funny response, but I never seem to remember to say it.  Instead, I usually assume people are looking for the standard "fine thanks, how are you" or "good, how about you", so that's what I usually go with.  Sometimes I have been known to actually tell someone how I've been doing, going on and on about real things that I have recently done.  Usually this is met with that glazed over look or a mid-sentence yawn.  I'm definitely not one of those people who put the word "well" in my answer.  Don't know why really, guess it's just not my style, or maybe I think those people are a little too fake-sounding.  Delivered by the right person with the right timing and under the right circumstances, I enjoy hearing other people answer these with "It's goin" or "same old, same old".  The "same old" one can really crack me up sometimes.

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What is your deal anyway?

My deal is I like to write songs.  I also like to record them.  To see if any might magically be discovered without advertising, I now make those recordings available for sale.  I don't market myself or play live at all.  I have no idea who is buying my CDs and MP3s, except a few past acquaintances I've socially networked with online.  I do it because I really enjoy it, and admit the meager sales have made it a hobby where I've been able to recoup some investment in instruments, microphones and computer-related recording equipment.  I don't want to be rich or famous.  However, I also admit I would be excited if the sales and fan base keeps increasing. 

Most of all though, my deal is I'm a songwriter from Michigan who will be continuing a quest to have a popular recording artist cut and release one of my songs on an upcoming album, and to have one of my songs be placed in a film soundtrack.  My overall deal includes a lot more than what you'll find here - I was an English major in college, I write for a living in my "day job," and I also write poems, stories, blogs, etc. in my free time, some of which you can also enjoy on this website.  For more detailed information about my deal, see the About Scott page.

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So do you think you're good or something?

I think I'm a good songwriter, above average guitar player, mediocre rhythm section, and below average singer, engineer, producer, publisher and label.  I literally figured out how to do all of these things on my own and haven't spent much time practicing any of them.  I don't know how to read or write music.  So as a self-taught, do-it-yourselfer, I don't claim to be particularly skillful with any of the above, but the knowledge is ever-increasing.  Noticing little improvements in these areas over a long period of time is nice, but my focus will continue to be on writing songs, recording demos, pitching them, and once in a while, releasing a few of them.

Sometimes you love doing something you know you're not so good at, and so you do it anyway.  As a music fan and consumer myself, I know there's a lot of music out there for sale or being played live that is simply terrible, yet somehow popular anyway.  I also know there's music in my collection I can never come close to on so many levels - but my songs, recorded with pro vocalists, session musicians and engineers may come close.  I'm a realist in that I'm not someone who necessarily believes the kind, polite, positive feedback I've received from family and friends, and so I am careful to not have an inflated opinion of myself (though admittedly this website could give one cause to refute that).  I'm definitely not good at advertising or marketing, yet would love to have my songs reach a wider audience.  That's an area where you can help -see the Volunteer page for more information.

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What kind of solo artist are you?

It's hard for me to describe how I sound, and hard to draw "sounds like" comparisons to other artists.  If you're looking for the American Idol contest finalist sound, you're probably not going to like my music.  If you're a fan of Bob Dylan or Neil Young, it's way more likely you're going to like some of my released recordings of my songs I've recorded myself.  There, I named a couple of artists to feed everyone's hunger for this type of information, even though I do not in any way claim to sound like either.  I recommend you read some of the listener and fan reviews online, buy the music, form your own opinion, and post your own reviews.  For a more in-depth description of the Scott Cooley sound, see the Records or Demos pages.

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When did you start writing songs?

Soon after I took Intro To Guitar my senior year in college and purchased my first guitar at a pawn shop in Flint, MI in 1989.  I probably didn't write the first song until 1990 though.  At first, I learned cover songs.  I learned more from friends than I did from the class, where the approach was learn to read music first.  I know the open chords A through G, a few minors and 7's, a couple moveable barre chords, a pentatonic scale for lead playing, and that's about it.  I just wanted to learn enough to play songs I liked, and never aspired to be great at guitar playing.  The class didn't cover lyric writing, but that came easily to me.  I was an English major, and took Intro To Poetry, which might have helped.  The first song I wrote had three chords and tons of verses, sort of like a Bob Dylan song.  I wrote it when I lived in a trailer in Edwards, CO on a yamaha acoustic and wrote the lyrics on a piece of notebook paper with a pen.

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Which do you write first, the music or the words?

I've done both, but tend to write words first.  The primary reason is that for over a decade now, I've had jobs where I had a computer and word processing software handy (but no guitar), and while taking a break from the everyday grind,  type up a song.  I end up with a stockpile of documents with lyrics and then at a later time sit down with them in front of me and with a guitar at home, put music to them.

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How do you come up with your ideas for songs?

Recollection of past experiences, mostly, but also occasionally from conversations, reading, watching television, thinking about the future.  I have to have uninterrupted quiet time alone with my thoughts to get the creativity flowing.  Sometimes I've started with a title, and in fact maintain a "title brainstorm" list where I jot down names of songs I think sound cool, but I have mixed results with all of my techniques.  Usually, the best ones flow out of me quickly and might only require a small amount of tweaking.  Sometimes I've started with an artist in mind, in which case I make a list of keywords that serve as attributes from which to build, things like common subject matter for that artist, their style, genres, audience, etc.  Usually, the best songs flow out fast as if I'm just the messenger, and later I can't believe I actually wrote them.
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How often do you write songs?

There are spurts of five songs in one night, and there are droughts of five months.  Generally, I end up with about ten good songs per calendar year I consider keepers.  When very busy with my day job, where I work evenings and weekends, or where it consumes my thoughts, the focus on my livelihood takes precedence, and the songs take the back burner.  Usually, when I'm really entrenched in an everyday grind going through the motions, the muse is absent, but in periods of great emotion - be it elation or depression, the songs are flowing.

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What do you use to write with - word processor or tape recorder?

As previously stated, I usually type them in an electronic document file, but for the first five years or so I wrote them the old fashioned way on paper.  After I write the music, I usually remember to write down the chords on the document.  My process involves recording first or second takes on a cassette, using a recordable walkman, and when the casette is full of approximately ten songs per side, I listen back and end up crossing off three or four on the j-card I wrote the titles on as definite throw-aways, meaning I will not waste time tweaking them.  I will also then rate the rest, using circles, stars, or some sort of rating notation, to indicate full and partial keepers.  There are usually about three to five full out keepers per cassette that are ready to record digital demos of, and the rest need tweaking of either the words, music or both.  Sometimes the rewriting of these produces a keeper, but more often than not, it doesn't work out, but I've learned to trust my judgement on those.

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Who plays the instruments on your records, and what instruments are they?

My lovely wife Lenore plays accordion, keyboards, and sings some vocals on a few of the songs, but otherwise, I do.  I play acoustic guitar, rhythm guitar, lead guitar, slide guitar, acoustic bass guitar, drums, percussion, marimba, harmonica, lead vocals, background vocals, hand claps, whistling, etc. - whatever you hear, I made the sound by singing or playing an instrument myself.  The Gear page of this site shows most of these instruments.  I use a few digital effects like reverb (although not well), and even on the rare occasion the guitar sounds electric (like on the song Shred Betty), it's really just me playing an acoustic guitar with effects applied afterward.  All of the instruments are acoustic, played into a microphone for all of the recordings on all of the songs.  See the individual song pages to read which instruments were played on each track - a good place to start is the Albums page, and then navigate from there.

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What kind of equipment do you use to record your songs?

Sony cassette recorder for first takes, Focusrite Saffire for digital with Adobe Audiiton software for demos.  AKG and Shure microphones.  See the Gear page for complete equipment details.

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How often do you practice a song before you record it?

I don't.  I maybe play it through once before hitting record on the cassette, and then maybe once more prior to digital, but only to temporarily re-learn it.  I never really learn my own songs, I just write them and record them and never play them live at all.  Some of my released "hits" I've only played two times total, just to record them.  Some tracks take several takes to get right, however.

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When did you start playing guitar?

1989, when I was 21 years old.  A lot of people, particularly non-musicians, will ask how long someone has played an instrument because it's something they want to know to form a judgement, but I always think it's relative information.  If I've played since 1989, but only played about ten hours total playing time in all those years, the meaning can be misconstrued.  It's useful to keep in mind also that someone can log five hours per day for years, and not be as good as someone who has only played for a year.

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What makes a song a good song?

A good melody and good lyric with a good performance.  Less than having all three can work too, but that's the basic recipe.  A good melody is one that gets stuck in your head, a good lyric can have different meaning to different listeners and evoke emotions, and a good performance is entertaining, makes you move, and has a good sound quality.

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What advice do you have for new songwriters?

The best way to learn is to listen more carefully to music you like.  Study what it is about an artist, album or song that you like.  Learning a little bit about which chords go well with other chords helps, and learning a little bit about song forms helps too.  Don't feel pressure to learn to read music.  Don't get caught up in reading too much about the craft, instead, your time is better spent writing.  You have to write a ton of songs to wind up with some that are good.  Accept a low keeper ratio, and don't let that deter you from continuing to write.  Know some common fundamental techniques and rules first, then break them.  You have to like doing it as a fun hobby, rather than looking at it as a chore.  Seek feedback from a variety of people because you will be surprised that others love songs you only kind of liked.

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Why don't you perform your songs live?

The short answer is I'm not a great performer or guitar player, and I'm a terrible singer.  I have performed my songs live, both in bands and solo, during paid gigs and at open mic nights to audiences of varying sizes, and as both headliner and opening act.  I did this throughout my twenties and early thirties, usually while in the role of lead guitarist.  Although I enjoyed it at the time, I've since found that writing songs and recording/producing demos of them is what I like best.  If money were no object, I'd focus on writing full time and hire professional engineers, session musicians and vocalists to record my demos; and hire someone else to handle pitching them for me.  Since that's not yet the case, I do the publishing and marketing work myself as well.  There is a certain satisfaction I get from doing it all myself, but it doesn't allow time for playing live.  The bottom line is I don't claim to be a great singer or instrumentalist.

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How and why did you become a recording artist?

While I'm primarily a songwriter, people who heard my self-made demos encouraged me to release them for sale.  It just so happened that at around the same time, significant changes were happening in the music industry and with internet technology that made it very inexpensive for a do-it-yourselfer to make this happen.  With a microphone, computer audio interface, recording software, instruments, and a computer, the investment was minor.  Not only was I able to create and host a web site for free and get my songs in online stores for a ridiculously low cost, but I was also able to acquire a fan base rather easily with the social networking trend.  The timing was such that the popularity of Facebook was taking off, so my family, friends and acquaintances visited this web site, then discovered the albums I had for sale in stores, and bought them.  This is still happening now, and surprisingly, it is covering my cost with little effort on my part.

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What makes Scott Cooley albums so different from other songwriter's albums?

The song diversity keeps your attention.  Load an SC CD, hit play, and even if you're an impatient skipper or fast forwarder, it won't be long before one strikes your fancy.  You'll enjoy noticing an underlying theme or concept to each album that makes the listening experience a good one if you've got a spare half-hour of free time, yet, you'll also enjoy the variety - more in the vein of a Led Zeppelin album than an AC/DC album (don't get the wrong impression - I sound nothing like either of these bands).

The sound quality is refreshingly unpolished.  If there is one thing my recorded versions of my own songs have in common with each other, it is the signature sound of acoustic instruments, sparse percussion, and minimalist production that is somewhere between a stripped-down guitar/vocal demo and a fully-produced one.  Far from songwriter demos that sound almost exactly like the "cut" versions by the popular recording artist, SC records are never perfect, and many prefer them that way.

The song quality bucks popular trends and formulas.  The songs come from inspiration rather than imitation, and have been described as being seemingly devoid of pop music influence.  Uniquely real and from the heart, it's immediately apparent these weren't contrived assignment songs or written for particular recording artists - although I do both.  That is not to say that the completed demos do not sound appropriate for particular artists - they do, but it's only as if by pure accident after completion.

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Why do you have a website?

When anyone wants to record and sell a song I've written, or place a song I've written in the soundtrack of a movie they are releasing, they want speedy service and reasonable terms.  This site makes both possible. 

It is expected by my current and potential clients that they can find me online.  The site allows me to demonstrate my work, collaborate with partners, communicate with clients, and stay competitive by remaining efficient and convenient to deal with.  It also provides me with always-open hours, and a way to be accessible globally.

Visit also the Site History page of this site for related insight into this site's purpose and humble beginnings.

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What is the deal with the sailboat logo?

Several reasons.  I like sailing, and although do not currently own a sailboat, I enjoy an occasional sail on other people's sailboats.  I come from a sailing family.  Being from the Great Lakes region, it is probably the most interesting thing about where I grew up, and anytime you see pictures of lakes with a boat in them, that boat is usually a sailboat.  They are more picturesque.  I am also a big fan of silent sports, and enjoy the serenity and natural propulsion aspects.  It's funny that Michigan is also home of the Motor City due to it being the former headquarters of the automotive industry, so many from this region love motors - building them and fixing them - and have a passion for cars, car-related sports, snowmobiles, jet skis, and speedboats.  I like speed too, but not the noise during my hard-earned free time - all the more reason to enjoy sailing.  When you consider gas prices, it's an economical way to enjoy water and less harsh on the environment - good, additional reasons I chose this to represent what I'm about.  The logo has mountains too.  Although I'm from Michigan and live there now, I lived in Colorado for several years, and enjoyed the mountains, so like having those in the background.  Plus, to top it all off, one of my nicknames has been Cool Breeze, and so with mountains you have the implied cool part, and with a sailboat you have the implied breeze part.  I like the color red, and who knows maybe someday will have a sailboat, and maybe it will be red - you never know.  Lastly, there's a green hill there, which could possibly represent my Irish heritage, or my love of the earth or belief in preserving wild places, although these are afterthoughts.  I've written a few songs that include lyrics or imagery involving hills and lakes and sailing, and hope to write more, but don't necessarily want to be known as guy who writes a lot of songs about these types of subjects.

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What is your favorite kind of music?

Overall, I must say that I really love what I used to call hard rock more than any other music - that is, the hard rock from the 70's and early 80's before it morphed into being called heavy metal and then grunge.  Some bands I've always liked from this period have been (in no particular order) Grand Funk Railroad, Alice Cooper, Kiss, Rush, early Van Halen, Aerosmith, REO Speedwagon, Journey, AC/DC, Cheap Trick, Led Zeppelin, Steve Miller Band, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, ZZ Top, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Boston, J. Geils Band and Ted Nugent, to name a few that come to mind.

All that said, I also like some hard rock bands that came later (Guns & Roses, Nirvana), some rock that came earlier (Elvis, Beatles), some that still endure (Stones), Folk (Dylan, CSN&Y), Country (Willie Nelson, Lefty Frizzel), Jazz (Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck), Punk (Ramones, Green Day), Ska & Reggae (Bob Marley), many that defy easy categorization (Grateful Dead, Talking Heads, The Police, Violent Femmes, Jimmy Buffett) - again, to name just a few.

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What is my end goal?  

To have more people become aware of my music and want to buy it.

What do I care about, not as an “artist”, but as a person?  

I care about my family, my friends, the environment, Michigan, my livelihood, my country, the world, the human race, skiing, people finding happiness.


What do my “fans” care about, as people?  

My fans care about indie acoustic rock music like I make, they like the things I like.

What level of transparency am I comfortable with?  

I am honest by answering these questions, I am honest about why I make music in my blog and website, but I don't reveal every aspect of my personal life online.

What visual aesthetic do I identify with?  

The great lakes region, sailing, things that might come to mind for fans of acoustic guitar music - a love of the simple and real and natural things in the world.

What will phase one, two and three of my live show look like?  

Me playing acoustic guitar while singing songs I've written, sequenced to hold the listener's attention, with crowd pleasers saved for phase three.

Is my current music actually the first impression I want to make, or should I keep writing?  

Both.  Yes, and yes.

What kind of experience do I want to create?  

An experience that is people enjoying the way I express myself through music.

Why is Vail such a great place to ski?

The Back Bowls, high-speed quads, and size let you get more fresh tracks after a big snowfall than anywhere else.

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Who is the best tennis commentator?

John McEnroe is by far the best.  Martina a close second.

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Why is sailing a cool sport?

Because it's natural, quiet, and relaxing.

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What are your all-time favorite movies?

Local Hero, Dazed and Confused, Blair Witch Project, The Big Lebowski, Better Off Dead, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, Canadian Bacon, Downhill Racer, Pulp Fiction, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Strange Brew, Godfather II, 

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Are there any products you recommend to people?

Yes. There are many.  Here's one:  Kensington Puck Document Holder.  This is the best device in the world for propping up your song lyric sheets while recording.  It has the weight and feel of a rubber hockey puck.  It has a small footprint.  It doesn't allow the paper to move. It's perfect.  Everyone should have one of these.  Google it, and then buy it.

Do you actually get asked all these questions frequently?

Hell no.  These are at the same time both wishful and preemptive.  I have a theory about humans that they all secretly want to be an authority on a subject, and further, think that is probably a secret motivation for people to become professors.  We also want to be asked questions because our favorite subject is ourselves.  That's one thing, but it's another to do what I've done here on this page of this website.  This is completely crazy, I suspect.

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Do you know who your fans are or anything about them?

Nope.  No one signs up for my mailing list at all - probably since I don't play live, but this still stumps me.  Few people who've purchased my CDs have contacted me, and I don't pay for a service to collect buyer demographic info.   I do have analytics for the web site, and know the visitors are mostly from Michigan, followed by a lot from California for some reason.  I keep thinking I'll have visitors from Nashville, but it rarely occurs.  Few post reviews/blogs about my music online, and although those seem to be slowly growing, they are usually anonymous.

People don't want to admit they read about you online out of curiosity, checking details of your personal profiles on social networking sites or visiting your website, and for the same kinds of reasons, I suspect, they're afraid to admit they bought and/or listened to your music, let alone post a review online.  I suspect Facebook friends figure out I have a web site, and visit it from there, then see I have music for sale in online stores, then go to iTunes or Amazon and buy from there.  There's an anonymity for the digital music consumer, and the discovery and appreciation of indie artists is by nature a more personal and private choice, as compared with popular major label artists marketed on television and radio.  The identification with the region I'm from and based in is an important factor in online search. 

If you are from Michigan and like acoustic artists from Michigan who are themselves influenced by Michigan artists, you're on your way.  Then if you can narrow by subject matter about the great lakes/midwest, and further by Americana/Roots/Folk-Rock genres/styles, refine by words like 'island' and you're getting even closer.  CD Baby has this type of drill-down ability, and although I'm not on there yet, I should be because of it!  In general, people don't have time these days (or money for that matter) to seek out unknown quantities and risk not liking it (although free online clips & samplers reduce it significantly).  My music would mostly appeal to a more mature audience who have established nostalgic favorites and need new artists marketed to them for discovery.  I'm guessing many stream the songs free at various online sites that offer "pre-listens" or whatever those are called, then don't buy.  Some pre, then buy though.

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