Scott Cooley is just some guy from Michigan who likes to write songs and record them in his house, like millions of other guys. A self-taught musician, he knows he can't sing or play instruments very well, but he does it anyway. Maybe he stands out both because he has the guts to make his music available for web consumption, and because he has refused to give up for so long. As of 2022, after almost two decades of doing this, he's seriously considering throwing in the towel. If so, what will remain of this unsuccessful music career is ten studio albums, over one hundred songs, and a few photos that might stay findable on the web for a few more years, but probably won't.
A side hustle that never panned out, it has nevertheless proved to be a fun hobby for Scott, who will begrudgingly cave in to reality while still holding on to a slight sliver of hope - that a great singer and performer will one day record a great cover of one of his songs that becomes popular, giving validity to Scott's belief all along that his songs were better than anyone ever realized due to his delivery shotcomings, which would then lead people to seek out more of his songs, and perhaps even enjoy his own recordings of his own songs well into the future. That potential still exists.
Everyone's favorite topic is themselves, right? The intimidating sea of text that follows is an ongoing rough draft of Scott's attempts to describe himself as a musician, primarily because he has this web site and has albums for sale in online music stores, and it just seemed like something he should do, in case it would entice people to buy or write about his music. Someday, he plans to synthesize all of this into the ultimate story of a guy who learned a few chords on a guitar, wrote some lyrics on pieces of paper, and then started putting them together and recording them as things that might pass as being qualified to sound like actual songs. If you're impatient and not much of a reader, scroll down on this page to view some quick graphics and bullet points that summarize what Scott's all about. If you enjoy reading and any of this sparks your curiosity, you're in for a real treat, so read on:
Cooley, Scott Richard (born June 21st, 1967 in Flint, Michigan) is a completely self-taught songwriter, singer, multi-instrumentalist musician, and solo recording artist. He consistently keeps releasing studio albums out into the world, whether the world is ready for them or not. Having learned a few chords on an acoustic guitar in an intro class during his last year of college, he's used the little knowledge acquired to write and record a lot of songs. Although he hasn't progressed much since as a player, due to being a fan of rock music that also features bass and drums, he taught himself to play those a little too so that his recordings could sound more like those made by a band.
He is an artist who makes most other artists sound pretty good by comparison, particularly since he doesn't have much of a singing voice. The quality of his home recordings leave a lot to be desired too. Just a couple decades ago, you'd never be able to buy music like his, but things changed - anyone can cheaply record music now and try to sell it online. So, he knows he's not that good at any aspect of being a musician or singer, but he does it anyway because he likes it. If there's anything impressive, it might be the songs themselves - some people think that some of them are pretty clever, fairly well-crafted, and even entertaining.
Scott does not regularly perform in front of live audiences, and therefore, there is little press coverage about him from independent reliable media sources. It is because of this that not much has been written about Scott Cooley, and what does exist, as with what you're reading now, has been written by Scott himself. See also the Bio page, which contains similar auto-biographical information.
He uses his web site, blog, and twitter to announce his record releases, but otherwise, does not intentionally seek publicity. He does, however prepare official press release documents for his albums that are available online, should actual press have occasion to seek out such information.
Emerging from a poverty-stricken area known for violence, unemployment and a lack of potable water taught Scott survival skills that have served him well in not giving up on a music career that has enjoyed slow but steady, organic growth with no promotion, marketing or advertising. The only thing that might qualify is this web site, which started by using his songwriting/recording hobby as pretend content to practice Web design with, and which has now evolved from a "fake it 'till you make it" thing, into a somewhat legitimate online presence as a solo artist.
Although he has self-released via aggregator distributors several albums and many songs, none have ever appeared on any major music charts at all, let alone achieved any official sales certification levels. His albums have not ever been affiliated with any type of record label - whether it be major, important indie, or non-important indie - other than his own, Scott Cooley Records.
A former honorable mention t-shirt winner of the now-defunct international songwriting contest sponsored by Billboard magazine is his only award to date. He has made one television appearance that aired on an episode of the Songwriters On The Road series on a local community access station in Ann Arbor. Otherwise, there aren't many boast-worthy accolades or public appearances to speak of, other than the released studio album catalog.
The do-it-all-yourself home studio recordings are somewhere in between a rough songwriter demo tape and polished product from a professional studio and producer. So some minor imperfections and a somewhat amateur quality keeps it refreshingly real compared to the slick, fake-sounding mainstream music of today. Scott records quickly, rarely venturing beyond a second take for any track, intentionally avoiding hiding behind the electronic digital effects and miscellaneous software bells and whistles available to home studio musicians these days, and using only acoustic instruments played into microphones to capture the most "intimate" sound possible.
A focus on songwriting from someone raised on the popular music of the late 70s and early 80s with a great appreciation for America's best singer-songwriters overcomes any lack of auto-tuning, programmed drum loops, or virtual instruments. Each song gives you a raw version in which you can hear great potential that involving pros and investing money might realize; and yet somehow, fans grow to appreciate and even prefer these under-produced versions just the way they are.
The arguably higher songwriting quality makes up for the lower recording quality and lower vocal/instrumental performance quality; and yet these songs are so surprisingly authentic that their raw quality is a big part of the appeal. Fans believe they are better when heard in the lo-fi analog home recording style than if they were digitally perfected with software as fans of major-label mainstream artists are used to.
While he subscribes to the anti-establishment and DIY ethic that emerged from garage and punk rock scenes, his songs lack the electric fuzz and are generally slower and have more sophisticated lyrics. That said, his brand of acoustic music is less serious and lacks the fingerpicking style of a typical house concert folk performer.
Scott’s unique style has proven difficult to categorize - a little too acoustic and mellow for age-appropriate bars where only loud classic-rock covers will do, while too rebellious and rocking for the baby boomer coffee house scene that tends to welcome more traditional folk stylings. Cooley’s songs are most appealing to an adult audience and are far from those you’d find marketed to teens on today’s music TV and FM radio stations.
You're going to hear aspects of rock, blues, folk, country that might be described as soft due to the use of the acoustic guitar, but can surprisingly rock hard. Although there's a strong middle-American influence from his rust-belt roots, it is also easy to hear aspects of America's farther reaches, such as the music of New Orleans, Hawaii, California, Mexico, and the Caribbean.
Cooley's somewhat laid back, mellow music reflects a side of his personality that shines through pleasantly enough for those casual listeners not paying much attention to enjoy the overall relaxing vibe, but it can become exciting, powerful and deep once a song hooks you into listening intently. The albums mix calm escapism with hope and joy. There are clever elements of lighthearted sarcasm that can make you laugh, of heartbreak that can make you sad, and of storytelling with a perspective that can be thought-provoking.
So whether it's the attitude, the acoustic-only thing, the genre flavoring variety, or the smile moments during his songs where you know he must have liked that same part for the same reason as you when he wrote and recorded it, there's a lot to like, and you are in a growing group of supporters who like Scott Cooley and are proud to have his music in their collections.
Since his style isn’t limited to a specific genre, as a result his albums hold the listener’s attention and appeal to a broad spectrum of tastes. Like the albums themselves, Scott’s appeal is the total package rather than his being great at one aspect of being a musician. He doesn’t sweat the details too much, and that’s part of the appeal - the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
With a noticeable competency in his craft, Scott's focus has always been on putting together interesting songs over practicing to become a great live performer. Rather than try to impress with vocal chops or guitar wizardry, the pleasure of coming up with new material is what motivates him, and it is songwriting that dominates his free time. That motivation has shaped his approach to recording as well. He prefers efficiency over perfection, producing recordings that are only adequate enough to represent his vision of a song so as to maximize time spent on writing.
A minimalist of sorts, it is the clever lyrical content delivered with an admittedly mediocre vocal ability combined with sparse instrumentation and production that makes for an overall sound that is addictive. Without hiding small mistakes, there's a truth to this music that can be a welcome way to consume good songs. Whether the music makes you laugh, cry, or think, it touches you in some way, and it is through simplicity Scott Cooley does his job as an artist well.
Scott Cooley's music is an example of the art of songwriting in a rudimentary yet resonant form. He has become a master at a simple signature sound and at describing predicaments people can relate to. Scott can be introspective yet universal when dealing with heartbreak or wanderlust, providing an escape into a world guided by both an exciting spirit of adventure and at the same time a calm joy for life.
The instrumental breaks can really be a fun listen in an era in which the guitar solo is a missing ingredient in popular music. Whether you’re lost in deep contemplation or charged with fist-pumping adrenaline, listening to Scott Cooley’s music offers many of those knowing “smile w/ head-nod” moments in between, where you’re going to know that certain points of certain songs probably caused the same reaction with many a listener out there, just as they did for Scott himself.
His distinctive baritone voice, which has a real and natural quality, can be confident and authoritative but at the same time it has been said that it can also have a calming effect on the listener. By many accounts there is agreement it is as a lyricist, however, that Cooley really shines when considering all of the different aspects of songwriting and recording. Using his songwriting/recording hobby as the pretend content to learn about how to create a website, Scott took the "fake it 'till you make it" concept farther than originally conceived, becoming more serious along the way.
Cooley is an atypical GenXer who, while his peers listened to 80’s new wave and then hair metal, was rediscovering the classic rock of his youth from a decade earlier. His guitar hero was Stevie Ray Vaughn. His all-time favorite live band while a Colorado resident, Leftover Salmon, was a band that defied easy description, labelling their own music as polyethnic cajun slamgrass.
His personal music listening tastes include a wide swath of Americana, so you'll hear hints of the Greatful Dead, the classic country of Willie Nelson; the gulf and western of Jimmy Buffett; the Motown sound; the folk rock of the likes of Crosby Stills Nash & Young; the earlier rock and roll of the Beatles; the harder rock of Led Zeppelin; the heartland rock of Tom Petty, John Mellencamp and Bob Seger; and even the sounds of Jamaica, Hawaii and New Orleans.
Influenced by the first wave of Michigan garage rock bands such as the Stooges, MC5, Question Mark and the Mysterians, and Grand Funk Railroad in the 70s, and the all-acoustic folk punk sound of the Violent Femmes in the 80s, Scott's recording career reflects riding on the coat tails of both the popular MTV show Unplugged from the 1990s, in which rock musicians play on acoustic instruments, and the Detroit-based garage rock revival bands of the early 2000s such as the White Stripes.
Scott's songwriting and music style heard on his albums have proven to be influential to others as well, in particular to other songwriters and independent home recording hobbyists, and to some musical acts who also specialize in acoustic garage rock music. Generally, Scott has received feedback from other amateur songwriters who've attempted home recording that they are impressed with the sound quality he has achieved on his own. Keep in mind this was in the early 2000s before everyone and their brother began to create perfect-sounding electronic music on their laptops as is possible today.
His small fan base is primarily in the Midwest, likely due to his lyrical subject matter about the Great Lakes region. One such song that is perhaps his most well-known is titled "Mackinac Island." Another called "Smitten With The Mitten" was said to be a candidate for consideration of being designated one of the state songs for the state of Michigan, and further, for consideration of use in public elementary school music classes for the purpose of teaching children the state symbols. He has also penned several songs about both sailing and skiing, two of his passions that are also popular in the area.
Being into Scott Cooley is being into the music first and foremost, and it's a discovered taste someone can't really coax you into. It's either for you or it isn't, and many fans blew off that shared song link for a long time before finally getting around to it, perhaps because of the lack of accompanying visuals or publicity. Once they hit play a few times though, most were "all-in." What makes Scott Cooley stand out and earn a special place in the minds of his fans is his cleverly poetic, relatably irreverent lyrics that are at once intelligently sophisticated and blissfully simple.
In an area where most people are obsessed with the loudness of the city, motors, car shows, violence, crime and rap music, Scott instead seeks out the quiet of his home state's woods and lakes, enjoying sailing, skiing, and strumming an acoustic guitar. Needless to say, in his music you'll get the get away from it all escapism with an appreciation for the best the midwest and Great Lakes region has to offer.
As the songs and praise for them began piling up, Scott originally intended to make demos and pitch them to established music acts looking for songs to record. This developing songwriting passion, combined with the purchase of some affordable home recording equipment as the 90s drew to a close, brought forth the making of demo recordings he later was encouraged to offer for sale in online stores, and a foray into being an independent solo recording artist was born.
As computers and software drastically lowered the cost and ability of those from modest means to record music, the web brought about more drastic changes to the music business - including how music is distributed and consumed - with social networking changing how it was marketed. Starting in the late 90s, Scott was also among the first wave of people to self-educate enough to figure out how to create and maintain his own website as another means of potentially marketing his music - all with free advice and tools he was able to find on the web. What started as a hobby turned in to example content for web site practice, scottcooley.com has since steadily evolved to be a somewhat serious site and side hustle with an actual audience for his music, something he never would've imagined possible in the beginning.
It is worth reiterating that Scott is self-taught in all aspects of music - which include songwriting, singing, playing several instruments, arranging, producing, recording, mixing, mastering, and distributing his music online. With his own home studio and independent record label, he has managed to gain a small and slowly-growing audience for his music primarily through web recommendation and word-of-mouth advertising. It's also worth reiterating that Scott knows he's not very good, and yet continues to write and record anyway out of a true passion for the hobby. It happens.
As a self-contained solo recording artist, Scott was among the first wave of musicians to self-educate enough to get his music – from the song idea to the finished product - in online stores single-handedly. In the late 90s, as recording equipment and personal computers became more affordable, and as the internet and social networking became more widespread, purchasing digital music on the web became popular with portable devices like the iPod and stores like iTunes.
Just as he was one of the first to successfully burn CDs of his own original albums, Scott was poised to be among the first to learn how to get his self-produced music in online stores via inexpensive distribution and at the same time use the web for self-promotion via a personal website - which he also created himself. As such, he was one of the first non-performing songwriters and home recording hobbyists to get people to notice and buy his music without touring or the promotional support of an established record company.
Uncommon at the time, the fact that he was able to figure all of this out in and of itself was notable, but then to do it all with such a modest investment was perhaps even more so. In this way, Scott was a DIY pioneer in the early 2000s, not only as a songwriter and recording artist, but also in helping to define a signature sound sometimes referred to as acoustic garage rock.
Major Life Events With Graphics
Born in Flint, Michigan, USA ‘67
Graduated from Grand Blanc High School, Grand Blanc, MI in ‘85
Co-Captain of Ski Team in 84-85 season –Divisional, Regional & League Champions, 5th in State meet.
Tennis Team – Big 9 Champion #2 Singles
Bachelor of Arts (A.B.) in English from Albion College, Albion, MI in ‘89
President of the Goodrich Club (non-profit cooperative fraternity), 1988
Sailing Team, 1987
Lived in Vail, CO from ’89 – ‘95
Jobs included Ski Instructor, Restaurant Manager, Pizza Delivery Driver, Bus Driver, Bar Tender, Customer Service Representative, and Water Operator.
Moved back to Michigan in 1995, where employment included being an Auto Worker for Chrysler Corporation.
Attended Cooley Law School in 1997. Dropped out in 3rd semester.
Began Technical Writing career in 1997.
Got Married in 2003 to the lovely Lenore Louise.
Bought first house in 2006.
Resided in East Lansing, MI from 2006-2015.
Moved back to Grand Blanc in 2015 to be closer to family/friends.
For similar and additional information about Scott on other pages within this site, see these more lighthearted pages SCDb and ScottipediA, and for a humorous take on this site's history and ongoing evolution, see the About page. For more related information about Scott, see the Bio, and Press Kit pages. See also the FAQs page, where you can learn a lot more about Scott as well, and for a detialed description of his musical style, refer to the Music > About page.