Scott Cooley is a songwriter and recording artist who was born in Flint, Michigan in 1967, and currently resides near where he grew up. He began releasing self-produced studio albums of original songs in the early 2000s. His music might best be described as Americana, since it includes rock, country, blues and folk played on acoustic instruments, and also since he has written many songs about life in the part of America where he is from. Aside from accordion played by his wife Lenore on a few songs, he is the only performer heard on his recordings, with each song being a blend of multiple vocal and instrument tracks to achieve the sound of a full band. A true do-it-all-yourself solo artist, he is self-taught in every aspect of the writing and recording process, in addition to being self-taught in singing and instrument playing, which includes rhythm, lead and slide acoustic guitar, acoustic bass guitar, drums, percussion, harmonica, marimba, ukulele, and piano. As of 2022, Scott has released 10 full-length albums containing over 125 original songs that are available as CDs from online stores like Amazon, and also as album or individual song downloads or via streaming radio subscription from web music retailers like Apple Music, Spotify, and YouTube Music.
Standalone, non-performing songwriter from Michigan
Winner of prestigious Billboard Song Contest award
Has self-released over 100 original songs on 10 albums
Clever lyrics, internal & conventional rhyme schemes
Deep, heartfelt stories/conversations w/ light humor
Subject matter w/ fresh takes on universal themes
Rebellious perspective, topics of love, nature & fun
Great lakes-oriented imagery & midwestern values
Tightly arranged, fast & mid-tempo, w/ a few ballads
Verse-chorus, some pre-chorus, a few AABA forms
Short intros/instrumental breaks; in 4/4 & 3/4 time
Mechanical, synch, & streaming licensing available
Warm/soothing baritone vocals w/ clearly-understood lyrics
Well-placed harmony, background and chorus vocals
Flat-picked and finger-picked rhythm acoustic guitar
Improvised and melodic lead guitar solos on acoustic
Ukulele and slide guitar on Hawaiian acoustic lap steel
Acoustic 4-string bass guitar with occasional bass solos
Understated drums featuring brush snare and djembe
Bongos, hi-hat, tambourine, washboard, shaker & cowbell
Improvised harmonica (blues harp) & instrumental breaks
Marimba solos and occasional melody notes in choruses
All vocals and instruments by Scott Cooley, except:
Accordion, flute, keyboard & bg vocals by Lenore Cooley
Online-only digital solo recording artist with home studio
Self-produced, arranged, mixed & mastered recordings
Independent micro-label (netlabel) Scott Cooley Records
Ten self-released full-length (LP) studio record albums
All records recorded in Michigan and made in the USA
No synthesizers, programmed drums or autotune used
Real acoustic instruments w/ minimal usage of effects
CDs high-quality stereo 44/16 WAV format, FLAC, MP3
Genre-agnostic songs w/ commercial/crossover potential
Acoustic, garage, roots, heartland, lo-fi, rock, Americana
Direct distribution to Amazon for compact discs & Bandcamp
Also distributed to Apple Music, YouTube Music & Spotify
Timeline: Three Decades of Music
Early 90s - learns guitar, plays live, writes first songs
Scott Cooley took Intro To Guitar his Senior year at Albion College in 1989 and learned a few basics, although he learned more from friends outside class. After getting his bachelor's in English, during which he particularly enjoyed creative writing and poetry, he moved to a ski area in Colorado where he gravitated toward other musicians. Jam sessions with such friends in living rooms, basements and garages evolved to open mic nights at bars and coffee houses and then to bands who played some paid gigs opening for other bands.
These types of activities culminated in Scott landing the coveted headlining apres-ski gig at a slopeside saloon as half of an acoustic duo with Steve Cobb playing blues and classic rock cover songs. Typically, since he had learned the pentatonic scale, Scott served in a lead guitarist role, occasionally singing backing vocals. Being in his early 20s and single, the attention he got from young ladies after each show cannot be underestimated as a major factor in his decision to continue with musical pursuits. Simultaneously, and beginning in 1990, Scott wrote the first of what would become hundreds of original songs, some of which he would occasionally try out at open mic nights to both polite and genuine applause.
Mid 90s - friend's band plays his originals, which become fan favorites
Gradually, Scott realized his shortcomings as a singer, but also realized his talents as a songwriter, which led him to cease playing in bands, duos, or as a solo act, but to keep writing songs. As a close friend continued along the performance route with a band named The Underdogs that became wildly popular, he arranged for the band to learn a few of Scott's original songs. The band incorporated them into their act, and often they would perform them by request from fans, before which they would acknowledge Scott as the songwriter when announcing them. This proved to be particularly satisfying, validating and encouraging to Scott to keep writing more.
Late 90s - more writing, home recording, learning new instruments
Over a period of several years, Scott found that recording the songs he'd written was also a satisfying pursuit. Somewhat an introvert, he progressed to not only being a songwriter, but someone who was happy tinkering mad-scientist style with microphones and recorders at home after moving back to Michigan. Wanting a full band sound without bugging his friends to play other parts other than guitar, he began buying more instruments and constructing a rudimentary home studio. Slowly, as free time and spending money would allow, he not only upgraded his recording equipment from 4-track cassette to a computer-based audio workstation, but also bought additional instruments such as a bass, hand drums & percussion, and harmonicas that he taught himself to play to achieve the sound a band would make.
Early 2000s - one decade in, begins to release albums online
Progressing from sharing self-produced tapes with friends & family, Scott began to burn his own compact discs. With the ability to record his songs digitally as he envisioned and mix multiple tracks together as if a band had recorded them, Scott was among the first wave of independent musicians to self-release albums online as both CDs and MP3s in web music stores like Amazon and iTunes when such a thing first became possible as a result of aggregator distributors offering digital music distribution services. Nowadays everyone and their brother does this, but at the time, his friends and family were impressed.
2004 - Moon Dreams
Mid-2000s - more writing & recording, new website, social media
With a growing catalog of original songs, arsenal of recording equipment and instruments, and albums for sale in online music stores, a next logical step became creating an online presence in an effort to promote and market the recordings. Just as he had taught himself how to write songs, play instruments, and make multi-track studio albums, Scott taught himself how to register a domain name, and create and host his own website for free (www.scottcooley.com). At about the same time, social media became a thing, so Scott also made sure he had profile pages on sites like MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter to further make people aware of his music.
2006 - Lakeside Landing
Late 2000s - increased blogging, more marimba, posting of poems
Scott's wife, who owned a marimba, let him use it. Although she played marimba (and accordion) on some of his early recordings, he eventually began to enjoy recording himself playing it on his own songs, and it became a part of the signature sound. At around this same time, he also decided to ramp up his blog posts as a way to perhaps increase awareness of his music available for sale online, but also to satisfy his craving to diversify his creative writing. It turned out that his subject matter - the craft of writing songs and recording music - was particularly inspirational to others who were interested in pursuing the same. He also began to publish poems he'd written over the years on a page of his website that have been well-received.
2008 - Drive Time Companion
Early 2010s - songwriting competition, community involvement
After establishing himself online as a solo artist as best he could, Scott made inroads to identify himself more as a songwriter. Winning a t-shirt in a songwriting contest, joining a regional songwriter group, attending a songwriter retreat, and reading books on the subject of songwriting all contributed to Scott's confidence as a songwriter. Learning more about the craft via these opportunities also made him feel more like he was part of a community.
2010 - Sense Of Belonging
2012 - Cherchez La Femme
Mid 2010s - creative peak, addition of videos
With both the song quality and recording quality improving, the volume of output was at its fastest-ever rate during this period. For these reasons, and because of a decline in output that would follow, this was probably the creative peak of Scott's involvement with music. Additionally, Scott figured out how to create a few videos to accompany his recordings with free software.
2014 - Used To Be Good Looking
2016 - Rest Assured
Late 2010s - new instruments, writing decline, publishing
Ukulele and even piano began to make their way into a few recordings at this time as a means of satisfying curiosity to learn them, but also to provide further variation to the instrumentation on recordings. The songwriting output at this time began to dwindle, perhaps due to some major life event changes. It is also when Scott began to be sure his songs were properly copyrighted and published. Registering with the Library of Congress, adding his catalogue to ASCAP as a music publisher, and also to various royalty collection services were among the more serious ways Scott took more official control of his works.
2018 - Missing The Boat
Early 2020s - more albums, back catalog exhaustion, songbook
The early part of this decade was spent on releasing two more albums that included both brand new songs and older, previously-unreleased songs in an attempt to finally record and release the remaining songs in his back catalog. Some of the older ones had been requested by fans, and in the process of slightly revising them and recording them, a creative spark produced a few new ones as well. Satisfied that all release-worthy songs were written and recorded, this gave Scott two albums "in the can" as they say prior to the start of the new decade. This allowed him to pre-release them ahead of time and focus on properly documenting all of his songs. That led Scott to perhaps the biggest accomplishment of all - his completion of creating a formal songbook, both printed and electronic, with both lyrics and chords, of his best songs - 126 of them to be specific.
2020 - Bluebird Days
2022 - Bluebird Days II
Mid 2020s - actually memorizing a few of his own songs?
With the excuse that his lyrics and chords were never typed up properly or thorough enough gone as a result of the publishing of Volume One of the Scott Cooley Songbook, could it be that Scott will actually attempt to practice all these songs he's written so that he could someday perform them in front of people from memory? Time will tell. Stay tuned....
As a songwriter, Scott is particularly notable for being:
A writer of a few "regionally-popular" songs about his home state: A few notable titles include "Smitten with the Mitten" a folk ballad intended to be considered as being designated as "one of" the state songs for his home state of Michigan; "Mackinac Island" which is perhaps his most popular about a tourist destination in Lake Huron that features light-hearted humor; and "Coney" about an eating experience unique to the area.
A writer of several songs about sailing and skiing, two of his passions: Most notably, these include "Shoreline Miles," "Haul Away On The Halyard," "Big Air," and "Mountain Time."
A writer of songs that demonstrate considerable variety and quality: Despite have a signature sound due to a distinct singing voice and acoustic instrumentation choices, Scott has been able to write songs in a variety of song forms, tempos, time signatures, and genres with a variety of subject matter including serious, humorous, and heartfelt songs about love and relationships. Most are positive and mid or up tempo, and demonstrate an intelligent & sophisticated, yet slightly rebellious perspective with an exceptional command of language due in large part to the bachelor's in English from Albion College he earned that included intense poetry and other types of creative writing, and working in a day job career as a professional writer for over twenty years.
A songwriting competition award-winner: Scott is proud to have won a prestigious award in the annual Billboard Song Contest, a major and prominent contest sponsored by Billboard Magazine. Sadly, it is now defunct, but he has the t-shirt to prove it.
A past member of the Mid-Michigan Songwriters Group: Getting together with some of the best from the area for songwriter-in-the-round style song swapping when formerly a resident of that region of the state.
A past attendee at Lamb's Retreat for Songwriters: Scott was honored to be able to attend, but also to participate as a performer at the premier camp-style event in Michigan that attracts the state's best songwriters such as Joel Mabus and The Accidentals to name a couple. Scott not only played originals to great applause from the discerning audience of top writers, but also successfully delivered the well-received assignment song with accolades on the last day.
A writer with his own publishing company: As the sole songwriter, publisher and master rights holder, Scott set up Scott Richard Cooley Music Publishing to administer his own copyrights, mechanical licences for cover versions of his songs, and synchronization licenses for his recordings. He is also formally established with a CAE/IPI number with ASCAP for performance royalty collection, with over 100 registered songs; and other various royalty licencing services that collect on his behalf for streaming and download sales in online music retail sites and apps such as Spotify, YouTube Music, Apple Music and Amazon Music.
As a recording artist, Scott is particularly notable for being:
Among the first indie artists to sell music in prominent web music stores: In the early 2000s, Scott was among the very first wave of independent recording artists to sell his music in major online music retailers such as CDs via Amazon and MP3 downloads via iTunes when independent aggregator services first began to offer inexpensive digital music distribution.
An innovator of a signature sound frequently described as "acoustic garage rock": At the very least Scott has been a significant contributor to putting out recordings that feature the playing of rock and roll music on acoustic instruments with drums and bass. Defying existing popular music conventions, Scott has somewhat pioneered a unique overall sound that features a variety of styles of music - mostly what would be classified as rock, but also including hints of blues, Americana, Caribbean, zydeco, folk, reggae, sea shanty, and surf rock - played on all acoustic instruments typically with minimalist drums, percussion, acoustic bass, backing vocals, and a concise instrumental break with tight arrangements in a variety of song forms and tempos. That basic recipe is occasionally augmented by harmonica, marimba, ukulele and piano to add to the variety. Intentionally sloppy, he avoids digital trickery to correct minor imperfections, preferring the real and honest results over computer-generated fake quality. No auto-tune, drum loops or virtual instruments are ever used, and each track is recorded with a single microphone, then mixed and mastered with minimal effects application. Overall you get a style of garage rock as if it were played on acoustic-only instruments, with some overlap with folk-punk, and although the speed and electricity of punk are missing, the lack of virtuosity and rebellious attitude are not.
Consistently prolific: Since 2004, Scott has self-released a new official full-length album every other year in even-numbered years, and as of 2022, the total count of the catalog is at 10 such albums. Each contains at least a dozen new, previously-unreleased originals, so the output offerings for sale have been released at a more frequent pace and with a slightly higer than average track count than the album and song output of more popular mainstream major-label artists.
A do-it-all-yourselfer: Scott writes all the words and music for all of the songs, sings all the vocals, plays all the instruments (except occasional accordion by his lovely wife Lenore), produces all the songs, arranges all the songs, handles all of the recording, engineering, mixing, mastering, label management, CD packaging artwork, publishing, copyright registration, licensing administration, and submission for final distribution. Many solo artists simply play guitar and sing, then hire pros to do everything else, but Scott loves the great feeling of satisfaction of doing it all himself, like many do when they tackle their own home improvement projects instead of hiring pro plumbers or electricians, for example.
As a musician, Scott is particularly notable for being:
A self-taught multi-instrumentalist: Aside from one Intro to Guitar class his Senior year in college, Scott is completely self-taught. After acoustic guitar, which included eventually learning to play lead guitar solos on his own with both a pick and a slide, he quickly progressed to teaching himself acoustic bass guitar, then hand percussion and drums of various sorts to get a stripped-down, yet full band sound. Later he expanded that basic core band instrumentation further to include teaching himself harmonica, then marimba, then in recent years, he's added ukulele to several recordings and even some rudimentary piano, to augment it with sound variety. Rather than practicing a lot and being really good at one or two instruments, he prefers the satisfaction of playing everything you hear.
A unique lead guitarist: With a recognizable flatpicking style, quite a few of his songs include interesting, complimentary lead guitar fills for lyrical gaps to accompany rhythm tracks. A majority of his recordings, however, also include in the arrangements instrumental breaks that feature lead solos, often on acoustic guitar played with a pick, but also sometimes using an acoustic Hawaiian lap steel guitar with a slide bar, while less frequently with fingerstyle ukulele (when not employing harmonica, marimba, or piano). Some stick to a straight melody line, others are more improvisational and often employ variations of pentatonic blues scales, while some include a blend of the two. Scott is a believer in guitar solos acting as a climax of a song and being an important aspect of his overall musical style. Fans regard this as an underrated and exciting part of his recorded music.
As a performer, Scott is particularly notable for being:
A former member of notable groups, duos and stage-sharer with prominent musicians: The "performed with" list includes duos Cobb & Cooley -who landed the coveted headlining apres-ski gig at a slopeside apres-ski bar the Sundance Saloon in Vail, Co; with singer/guitarist Eric Whirley, and Marr & Cooley who played together sporadically in prominent venues in both Colorado and Michigan; bands The Bus Drivers, Surreal, the original Lake Effect, and Acoustic Jones; and formerly playing with now-established solo artist J. Scott Thompson, to name drop a few. In each Scott was typically relegated to lead guitarist without many vocal duties. Other associated acts include alternative Michigan band OraMusicTrax which also featured Rich Marr, and the New York-based jam/Caribbean trio Acoustic Circus which featured former collaborator Corbin Daugherty.
An occasional festival performer with wife Lenore: Scott has on occasion performed his originals singing and playing guitar with his lovely wife Lenore on accordion and marimba at the annual Schmoopiepalooza festival in northern Michigan on the shores of Pickerel Lake. As the featured act, together they have collaborated with the Petosega Players percussion group and also with the U of Norton Choir vocal group as backing musicians.
A one-time television performer with a video presence: He did appear once as a featured solo artist playing live and solo on an episode of a show called “Songwriters Open Mic On The Road” taped at a songwriter retreat in Harbor Springs, Michigan that aired on the community access TV station in Ann Arbor. Without the looks, vocal chops, and software-generated perfection most artists with music videos have, let alone the live performance footage, visuals have not been a priority. That said, there are a few self-produced videos featuring his music on YouTube - a lyric video, a picture video or two, a live stage performance or two - all of which he produced himself via free self-education available online. Scott is aware the lack of a strong video presence online is an area for improvement, since it's an increasingly popular way people prefer to consume music these days. On the other hand, Scott is an artist whose primary focus has always been on the quality of the songs themselves, with a secondary focus on the listening experience of the studio audio recordings.
Decidedly unseasoned for a recording artist: It's perhaps unusual that a prolific songwriter and solo artist with so many released records does not regularly perform in front of audiences. With a preference for writing songs and recording them in available time, Scott has transitioned from playing in various bands and duos with both opening and headlining paid gigs in bars and coffee houses to someone who intentionally limits his performances to only a few appearances per year at most - a songwriting retreat, an annual festival, a private party or two, an occasional house concert, or even an open mic night to try out new songs on live audiences - but these are increasingly rare. Memorizing his own songs is an issue he could overcome with dedication to practice, but chooses not to. It's not that Scott can't entertain an audience with great stage presence, banter and sizing up then reacting to hold attention - he's done so on numerous occasions to great applause. Nor is it his lack of singing ability, or overweight appearance - both of which he's admittedly a little self-conscious about when playing live. It's simply that the songwriting and recording aspects of music he loves most are in his opinion the best use of his time due the intense passion he has for them.
As a singer, Scott is particularly notable for being:
Unafraid of the vulnerability that comes with making his singing public on recordings: A warm relaxing baritone speaking voice known to have a calming effect on people translates interestingly to singing with passion and spirit. Maintaining confidence in delivering his own songs with an admittedly unconventional vocal quality such as the way Bob Dylan does despite a lack of natural talent or formal voice training is something Scott is adept at. In this way, it's highly possible cover versions of Scott's original songs by other artists may be more palatable to some listener's tastes who prefer a more mainstream, commercial style of vocal, but Scott never lets that reality deter him from singing on his own record releases. Many fans find it to be more than adequate enough to deliver the gist of each song, and because of this have encouraged him to perform live more often.
Author's note: Technically, this is an autobiography, written in the third person as if someone else wrote it about me. I wrote it in this manner with the hope that it would sound more professional and official. While I'm at it, I hereby admit absolutely everything you read on scottcooley.com was written by me, Scott Cooley. ~Scott