Copyright © ℗ 2016 by Scott Cooley. All rights reserved. Music and lyrics for all songs written by Scott Cooley. Studio album released June 21st, 2016 on Scott Cooley Records, catalog # SCR07. Produced, recorded, mixed and mastered in Michigan, USA by Scott Cooley. Album art by Scott Cooley. Lead and background vocals; rhythm, lead and slide acoustic guitars; acoustic bass guitar; harmonica; marimba; drums and percussion performed by Scott Cooley. Accordion on tracks 4 & 12 performed by Lenore Cooley.
Background, Inspiration and Concept
The background for this one is that I had a few leftovers (weed-outs) from past recording sessions that I decided to improve upon by either slightly or completely rewriting the lyrics for, some of which became candidates for release on this album, and then some of those I rewrote yet again, and some made it through past the final cut.
The older songs are Burn Your Candles, Baby Please Come Home, and Hell On Earth, each of which went through several name changes and iterations along the way; and So Shy and Where There's Smoke, which were oldies-but-goodies each rewritten only once, so that gave me five songs to start with that ended up making it through the final weed-out process. The other eight are all new recently-written songs, some of which may have had their beginnings prior to the 2014 album, but were finalized for this release, but others written entirely in the last half of 2014, 2015, or the first half of 2016.
The inspiration was to just write some more songs I liked, not following a particular theme. However, I think I consciously wanted to have this group of songs be at a faster average tempo than usual, and if possible, be a little more upbeat as far as the subject matter goes, and it indeed turned out to be a batch that was arguably positive. I always seem to unconsciously gravitate toward love/releationship subject matter, like many a songwriter does, and there's more of that than anything else. The motivation was to bring you the best songs available, rather than waiting to group similar songs together.
If there's a concept at all, it is that these also had to pass the lovely wife Lenore test - a process in which I make her sit and listen to at least the first half of a song and get her initial reaction serving as an informal blessing of release-worthiness. It's a factor I always take into consideration among many others in my overall decision process, and it turns out to be valuable despite the veto power I retain and occasionally exercise.
The subject matter comes from the usual places, parts of songs or ideas for songs come from personal experience, observation, reading, thinking, overhearing conversations, etc. Some are from a fictional character's perspective, while others more directly reveal my own beliefs or opinions. Some are positive, some are sad, some are funny. I'll let you decide if they're inspirational, charming, witty, or clever. The main thing with me is that they are authentic without being too fancy or intentionally trying to impress anyone. Some tell stories, some are more conversational, some complain or preach, others provide aside commentary, some offer encouragement or solutions, some are celebratory, some about people, some about places, some about love and relationships, the environment, some about eating. You know...the usual fare.
The title comes from a couple different things. One was that I had taken the cover photo years ago of a well-known building mural in Flint that depicts gnome-like people, the largest of which is taking a nap. Another is the fact that as I experimented with the track order, it made the most sense to me to have a couple of the longer songs as the last two on the album, which made me think this would potentially put some impatient first-time listeners into a sleepy state.
When I brainstormed what an album with such a cover would be called, then took those two things into consideration, I also thought about the fact that I was ready for a break from all this songwriting and recording stuff. Putting me over the edge on the album naming decision was the fact that one of the last songs I weeded out was one that had the words "rest assured" as part of a line in a verse. You might see that one resurface on a future release but it wasn't quite ready. Anyway, the title stuck, and fit the imagery that I expanded on in the CD packaging.
Composition, Lyrics and Genres
Starting with the tempo is as good a place as any to begin to describe music. Only three songs on the album are below 100 BPM, one is very close to 100, and the remaining 10 are all above 120, so it's safe to say that there are a couple ballads, one mid-tempo song, and the rest up-tempo. From those tempo statistics, it's true to say the album's composition is fast-tempo, with all songs believed to be in 4/4 time signature.
More are in the key of A than any other key, but keys also represented include F, D, G, C, E, and B - wow, just realized I covered them all! Some are major, some minor. All of the songs include at least 3 chords, with 6 being the most, some with 7ths and minor 7ths, some with flats and/or sharps in there too. As for song lengths, two clock in at less than 3 minutes, two have playing times more than 5 mintues, two have durations over 3 minutes, but less than 4, and the rest are over 4 minutes, but less than 5. The average song would probably be about 4 minutes long, I'm guesstimating, and the total length of the album is around 55 minutes of music.
The forms the songs take vary between those with only two verses and one chorus, to those with pre-choruses and bridges, and several variations in-between. They typically have brief instrumental intro sections the length of half or one-quarter of a chorus section, for example, and solo instrumental break sections over a full chorus or verse. One might summarize this by saying they are tightly-composed and without long ad-lib jams. The solos typically include melody notes played on acoustic guitar, sometimes employing a slide, with one using a harmonica and another a marimba instead of guitar, while only a couple songs feature improvisational riffing that differs from the sung melody for that section.
As there are no instrumental songs on this album, they all include music and words. The majority of these songs were composed by writing the lyrics first, then writing music to fit them. However, all five of the rewrites noted in the Background Inspiration and Concept section above were songs in which lyrics were re-written to fit existing music. As most songwriters will tell you though, as songs reach completion, depending on how you want to think about it, there are always some back-and-forth moments in which the music requires changes to fit the lyrics, and vice-versa, regardless of which of the two was more complete to begin with.
There seem to be more genres and sub-genres of music now than ever. It's confusing to categorize, classify and describe music, but you have to do it I guess, so here goes. When I asked my wife what she would say if someone asked her what kind of music her husband writes and records, the word "folk" was the first out of her mouth. When I then asked if she thought the word "rock" should be in there, she surprised me and responded with an emphatic "no!" I've always thought of my music as primarily including more elements of rock and roll than any other type of music, but not according to her.
I try to notate a style category or genre notation next to each song title in an album information document on my computer during the recording process, and for this album, they include Americana, ballad, acoustic rock, folk rock, polka rock, folk pop, ditty, folk punk, Indian rock, zydeco blues, and trad. country. I have no idea if any of these actually conform to any strict definitions of those, but that's what popped into my head for each. The word folk appears almost as often as rock, so for what that's worth, perhaps the wife is right...as usual.
Recording, Production and Personnel
The recording was done by me, in the basement of my home with a cheap computer, cheap audio interface, two different cheap microphones, a pair of headphones, a set of speakers, and some software, with cables connecting it all. I record one track at a time, then blend them together. Included are me playing guitar, bass, drums, miscellaneous percussion instruments, harmonica, and marimba.
The process of recording was basically me waiting until I had a stockpile of songs, then waiting to get the urge to start recording, then having the time to be able to do it. If all those were in place, I'd typically hit record and do them in this order: acoustic rhythm guitar track, a second one, a bass track, a djembe track, a snare track, a couple percussions, then a scratch lead vocal, then background vocals, then re-do the final lead vocal. Usually each track would take the length of the song, plus a little listen-back time, and some do-overs if I didn't quite nail it. I never do punch-ins or use the software to splice stuff or anything, I just do them over and enjoy getting them right in a single take. The lead vocal is the only one where I've occasionally tried a little "comping" I think it's called, which is studio trickery for taking the best parts of multiple takes and blending them into one. I've gotten away from that on this record though, because it can take away from the emotion and tone/feel of a single take.
I also decided how the songs would be recorded, some via trial and error, and I think that also means I produced it. By being my own producer, I directed myself how to perform and record the songs that I had written. Because I wrote the songs, I suppose I also arranged them too, if that means deciding on the structure of the parts of each song, and how to play all the different instrument tracks, what type of singing style to use, choosing strumming patterns, picking good keys for my voice, choosing what type of rhythm section or backing vocal tracks to have, how long the intros and instrumental breaks should be, how fast to play it, etc., -all these decisions are about serving the song, and the arrangement ideas happen quickly after writing a song. Since it was my time and effort and equipment, guess I was the financial support type of producer as well as the creative visionary type of producer.
So, I was the engineer, the producer, and since I was the only performer of 99.9% of the tracks, I was also the personnel. The only personnel other than me was twice when I had "one-take Lenore" listen to my song, and then I either played on guitar what I wanted her to play, or I simply described to her what I wanted her to play on accordion. I sang all the vocals and played all the instruments myself, except Lenore's accordion. Since she made magic happen in her awesome way on those two songs, she co-produced those two with me, in my way of thinking about it. My dog interrupted me during the recording sessions, and you can hear his collar tags rattling in one spot on one of the songs, which almost sounded like tambourine, and obviously I liked it and left it in even though it interrupted an otherwise perfect take, so I suppose Levi gets credit as additional percussionist personnel.
Release, Artwork and Packaging
This is the seventh official full-length studio LP record album to be released in the independent Scott Cooley Records label catalog (#SCR07), released on June 21st (my birthday) in 2016, following a pattern established in 2004 to release on said date in even-numbered years.
The CD artwork included photographs I took myself, of artwork painted on a wall of a building in Flint a long time ago, which was preserved and retouched-up by someone long ago. I suppose I should give them credit, if I knew who they were. You can find out if you want to by contacting the Greater Flint Arts Council. The yellow and green were there in the photo, so I went with that as a color scheme. The cover shows gnomes working rolling barrels near a castle with trees, and the largest, most visible gnome is shown sleeping under a tree.
I also used a free black and white graphic image of a hammock between two trees and another one of a gnome that I found online, then I sort of spliced them together with image editing software to make it look like the gnome was resting in the hammock. This was pretty cool, I thought, in keeping with the theme and title further described in the Background, Inspiration and Concept section above. I also added some color to make the trees brown and green. So, I was a graphic editor and designer of the album artwork for sure, and maybe that means I was responsible for the art direction.
I also made font decisions, and authored and arranged the track listing and liner note credits, logos, etc. I did it all. I did the CD disc face artwork, the tray liner, the insert, front and back, all of it myself. With the digital download I don't think you get anything but the cover photo with the album title on it. Anyway, these get uploaded to the CD manufacturer and printed when the discs are packaged and shrink-wrapped before being mailed to you after you order them.