Classification and Categorization

This page attempts to technically describe Scott Cooley's music - that is, original Scott Cooley songs, as recorded by Scott himself. Headings, subheadings, and bullet lists provide easily-consumable music classification attributes by category to convey an excruciating amount of detail about what Scott's music sounds like. Writing and recording is fun, but then breaking through the noise of a million new songs per day on streaming services that you are theoretically competing with requires describing the music, which is always difficult and dreadful for artists and yet is a necessary evil. Here goes:

Summary Points

  • Americana solo artist, acoustic garage rock

  • singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist

  • primarily rock, with some folk and blues

  • occasional styles include reggae and country

  • love is the predominant subject matter

  • other topics include Michigan, the great lakes, skiing and sailing

  • more artistic than commercial

  • focus on lyrics and melody vs. vocal and instrumental performace

  • emphasis on songwriting over production value / recording quality

  • more acoustic than electric

  • minimalist rhythm section

  • preference for real instruments vs. virtual

  • analog sound with nominal usage of digital effects

  • no use of auto tuning or quantization

  • frequent use of bridges and melodic solos

  • acoustic guitar is the primary instrument

Brief Description

Scott Cooley's recordings of his own songs have an overall sound that can best be described as real. There are no fake drums, fake bass grooves, loops, virtual instruments, auto-tune, or synthesizers. There are no fancy electronics or effects to mask skill/talent levels. What you hear is pretty much how it would sound live - if there were four or five other Scott Cooleys playing all of the instruments Scott plays at the same time. There is a lot of spirit and intimacy behind this acoustic music, and you can feel like you're right there with him, along for the ride. You wonder if Scott himself thought the same part of a song was cool for the same reason you did when he wrote it, recorded it, and then listened back. He probably did. Instead of being great at one thing, Scott is competent at many. Using your imagination, you can see how rewarding it must've been for one person to write the songs, play all the instruments, sing, and record/engineer/produce it all with total freedom and control as intended. In this way, you're listening to one person's vision that has become a reality.

Lyrical Content

    • Abstract Lyrics

    • Ambiguous Lyrics

    • Cash-Obsessed Lyrics

    • Clean Lyrics

    • Defiant Lyrics

    • Empowering Lyrics

    • Explicit Lyrics

    • French Lyrics

    • Great Lyrics

    • Heartbreak Lyrics

    • Heartbreaking Lyrics

    • Humorous Lyrics

    • Joyful Lyrics

    • Lyric-Centric Aesthetic

    • Lyric-Centric Composition

    • Lyric-Centric Performance

    • Lyrical Melodies

    • Lyrics about Partying

    • Lyrics that Tell a Story

    • Narrative Lyrics

    • Political Satire Lyric

    • Positive, Upbeat Lyrics

    • Romantic Lyrics

    • Sad Lyrics

    • Socially Conscious Lyrics

    • Storytelling Lyrics

    • Surreal, Stream Of Consciousness Lyrics

    • Tight Lyrics



    • Breathy Male Lead Vocalist

    • Clear Pronunciation

    • Distinctive Male Lead Vocal

    • Dominant Vocal Hooks

    • Emotional Male Lead Vocal Performance

    • Emotional Vocals

    • Exaggerated Enunciation

    • Laid Back Male Vocal

    • Smooth Male Lead Vocalist


    • Subtle Use of Vocal Harmony

    • Blending of multiple tracks to produce chorus

    • Occasional female backing vocals (Lenore Cooley)

Structure / Composition

    • Basic Rock Song Structures

    • Musicianship: evident natural talent as opposed to classically-trained skill

    • Melodic Songwriting

    • Minimalist Arrangements

    • Subtle Buildup/Breakdown


    • Mixed Minor & Major Key Tonality

    • Mixed Major, Minor & 7th Chords

    • Instrumental Solos Featuring Blues and Pentatonic Scales

Ostinato (repetition)

    • Acoustic Sonority

    • Chordal Patterning

    • Occasional Use of Acoustic Fills & Vamping Riffs

    • Melodically Phrased Acoustic Instrumental Solos

    • Knack for Catchy Hooks

    • Overall Meditative Sound

    • Repetitive Chorus

    • mirrored yet separate, widely-panned dual acoustic rhythm guitar tracks

Rhythm / Meter

    • Slow, Mid-tempo & danceable uptempto Grooves

    • Mild Rhythmic Syncopation

    • Varying Tempo and Time Signatures โ€“ usally 4/4 w/ some 3/4

    • Rhythmic Intros


    • Varying Rhythmic Feels

    • Laid Back Mid-Tempo Shuffle Feel

    • Occasionally Romantic and Danceable

    • Occasinally, A Reggae or Jazz Waltz Feel


Describing this warranted its own page:

"Bad" Qualities

    • Intentional low fidelity

    • Insufficient and/or dated production quality

    • Unbalanced and/or over-processed mixes

    • Unintended distortion / clipping

    • Editing issues (abrupt endings, intros or splices)

    • Tuning issues

    • Overly offensive and/or inappropriate content

    • Noise or hiss / poor signal-to-noise ratio


The task of defining the Scott Cooley sound can perhaps be aided by an overview of Scott's musical influences:

  • Singer-Songwriters who play acoustic guitar:

    • the sensitivity of a James Taylor or John Denver

    • the classic rock influence of John Fogerty and Neil Young

    • the world music influences of Jimmy Buffett and Paul Simon

    • the classic country influence of Willie Nelson

    • the folk and blues stylings of Bob Dylan

  • The Acoustic Rock sound popularized by the early 90s MTV show "unplugged":

    • Violent Femmes

    • R.E.M.

    • Nirvana

    • Kiss

  • The entire Garage Rock subgenre:

    • Bands from the late 60's (The Kingsmen, The Kinks, The Grateful Dead)

    • Michigan bands throughout the 70s (Question Mark & the Mysterians, Tommy James & The Shondells, Iggy Pop & The Stooges, The MC5, Grand Funk Railroad)

    • early punk (Ramones, Patti Smith), and the "revival" years (White Stripes, Jack White)

  • The Heartland Rock subgenre:

    • Bob Seger

    • Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

    • John Mellencamp

    • Steve Earle


    • Traditional, Blues, Folk, Americana & Roots Influences

    • Hard Rock and Rock & Roll Influences

    • Motown, Soul, Funk, and R&B Influences

    • Cajun, Creole, Zydeco, New Orleans Influences

    • Caribbean, Mento, Calypso, Ska, Reggae, Surf & Hawaiian Influences

    • Mexican & Latin Influences

People, Bands, Artists, Places

Some of the bands, solo performers, recording artists, songwriters, writers, poets, places, things, etc. that have influenced my music are (in no particular order):

    • Every artist in the Sound-Alike Comparisons section

    • Grand Funk Railroad

    • Mark Twain

    • The Beach Boys

    • Booker T. & The MG's

    • Beatles

    • KISS

    • Smokey Robinson

    • J.D. Salinger

    • Van Halen

    • ZZ Top

    • A.C. Weisbecker

    • Dick Dale

    • Robert Frost

    • Hank Williams Sr.

    • Ted Nugent

    • Mt. Holly

    • Chuck Berry

    • Violent Femmes

    • Talking Heads

    • Boston

    • Robbie Robertson

    • Elvis Presley

    • Leftover Salmon

    • Dr. Andrew Weil

    • The Grateful Dead

    • New Orleans, Louisiana

    • Paris, France

    • Vail, Colorado

    • Ernest Hemingway

    • Isle Royale National Park

    • Muddy Waters

    • The Meters

    • Bob Marley

    • Led Zeppelin

    • The Monkees

    • Mitch Albom

    • Elvis Presley

    • Elmore Leonard

    • Buddy Holly

    • Mark Farner

    • Alice Cooper

    • William Faulkner

    • Jimi Hendrix

    • Hunter S. Thompson

    • Ramones

    • Stevie Ray Vaughn

    • Nirvana

    • White Stripes

    • Spinal Tap

    • Tenacious D

    • Beach Boys

    • Carpenters

    • Crosby, Stills & Nash

Sound-Alike Comparisons (Artists)

What? No way... The popular recording artists, bands, solo performers, musicians, etc. that people have said I sound like are:

    • Jimmy Buffett

    • Counting Crows

    • Jack Johnson

    • Jack White

    • Jack Black

    • Jeff Tweedy

    • Jeff Daniels

    • Tom Petty

    • Tom Waits

    • John Mellencamp

    • Steve Earle

    • John Fogerty

    • Neil Young

    • Bob Dylan

    • Paul Simon

    • James Taylor

    • Bob Seger

    • Willie Nelson

    • Barenaked Ladies

    • Gordon Lightfoot

    • Beck

    • John Denver

    • Violent Femmes


    • Acoustic Rock Instrumentation

    • Spirited Instrumental Prowess

    • Demanding Melodic & Instrumental Part Writing

    • Rare use of Electric Guitar Instrumentation

    • Occasional Emphasis on Instrumental Performance

    • Mixed Melodic Instrumentals & Improvisational Instrumentatls

    • Mellow Rock Sounds and Instrumentation

    • Unique Instrumentation โ€“ accordion, marimba, harmonica, acoustic hawaiian lap steel



    • Very Light Guitar Effects

    • Mixed Finger & Flat Picked Acoustic Rhythm Guitar

    • Acoustic Guitar Layering

    • Acoustic Guitar Riffs

    • Well-Articulated Acoustic Guitar Solos

    • Acoustic Lap Steel Slide Guitar


    • Very rare use of electric/acoustic guitar through amp



    • Accordion Accompaniment (Lenore Cooley)

    • Prominent Accordion Solos (Lenore Cooley)


    • Subtle Use of Acoustic Piano


Contrabass (Acoustic Bass Guitar)

    • Prominent Role for the Acoustic Bass Guitar

    • Symbiotic Kick and Bass

    • Slow Moving Acoustic Bass Lines to Riffing & Soloing

Electric Bass Guitar

    • Occasional use of amplified electric/acoustic bass guitar

Drum & Percussion Sections

    • Sparse Djembe Kick Sound

    • Dry Snare w/ brush

    • Acoustic hi-hat

    • Latin percussion/ Hand drum fills

    • Light Drum & Percussion Fills

    • shaker & tambourine

    • Wood slit drum

    • Hand Percussion Layer

    • Rhythmic Hand Clapping


    • Mallet Percussion

    • Use of Marimbas (Lenore & occasionally Scott Cooley)


    • Subtle Use of Harmonica for Accompaniment & Solos

    • Occasional flute (Lenore Cooley)

    • Whistling

Other โ€“ in rap song only:

    • Spoken Word

    • Synth Bass Riff & Synth Drums on rap song only

    • Use of Guitar Pick Low E String Scratching As Turntablism

Recording Technique

    • Moist (light reverb) Recording Sound

    • Minimalist Recording Studio Production

    • Vinyl Ambience

    • Unprocessed Recording Qualities

Leanings / Stylings

    • Country Rock Leanings

    • Old Time Music Styles

    • Radio Friendly Stylings

Musical Qualities

    • Alt.Country Qualities

    • Blues Rock Qualities

    • Classic Soul Qualities

    • Easy Listening Qualities

    • Folk Rock Qualities

    • Pop Rock Qualities

    • Indie Pop Qualities

    • Americana Qualities

    • Classic Rock Qualities

    • Caribbean Qualities

    • Roots Qualities

Feelings and Vibes

The feelings and vibes that I want to create or convey with my music are:

    • excitement

    • enthusiasm

    • unwinding

    • refreshing

    • relaxing

    • companionship

    • soothing

    • calm

    • vacation

    • holiday

    • lakes

    • cool breezes

    • enjoyment of the four seasons

    • escapism

    • hope

    • captivating

    • alluring

    • serene

    • peaceful

    • adventurous

    • uplifting

    • moving

Longer Description

Scott Cooley's music is like all music - passionately created by someone with a unique soul. Scott intentionally avoids trying to sound like anyone else, and in fact, if you saw his personal music collection, you would be surprised that it's vastly different music than the kind he writes and produces himself - but that's the thing about his music - it's full of surprises. This page describes more about what those surprises are, and although they may be different for each listener, just as with appreciation of any art form, it is meant to satisfy a basic question that comes to most of our minds when music is recommended to us - what is it like? Maybe you're using the internet on a personal music discovery mission, and a series of links led you here rather than someone's recommendation - nevertheless, you are considering what Scott's music is all about. This site may serve to enhance your enjoyment of his records you've already purchased, while on the other hand it may sway some of you to become first-time Scott Cooley record buyers. Marching to the beat of his own drum, Scott is like a painter who may know some of the techniques and basic rules of painting, but doesn't use or adhere to them very often. Although not so different from anything you've ever heard before that he'd qualify as a trailblazing pioneer in music, most report adjectives such as "refreshing" "sincere" and "creative" to describe it, although we've heard a few "awesomes" as well. If you're someone who needs to know a lot of information about music before you listen to it, this website is the right place to learn more, however, you can cut to the chase and try before you buy by listening online for free here.

Scott Cooley's released albums are compilations of his demonstration recordings, which feature Scott handling all instrument playing, vocals, and production himself. They have an overall sound that is decidedly that of a homegrown hobbyist who is having a blast with his craft - quite the opposite of the professional-sounding demos of most songwriters that sound almost like the released cut versions from the famous major-label recording artists they pitched them to. Common to most songs are: open chord rhythm guitar strumming, acoustic lead guitar, minimalist rhythm section, laid-back lead vocals, understated background vocals, both lighthearted and poetic lyrics, unconventional song construction, retro/lo-fi/analog production quality, all acoustic instruments, hand percussion, competent mixing, and light mastering. What you don't hear is the formulaic songs written on assignment from those who study the number one hits on the charts. Scott's "studying" or instruction comes only from unconscious influence from songs he's liked hearing over the years, and learning only the aspects of music-making necessary to be able to make his creations come to life and be available for others to enjoy.

Missing are synthesizers, drum loops, electric instruments and heavy effects to mask imperfections, which let the honesty and authenticity of the songs shine. Even the most casual music fans will notice that Scott's instrument playing, vocals, and recording work is that of a self-taught musician who, despite not having the advantages of formal training in any of these areas, still manages to come up with some appealing tunes. Without the constraints that lessons and knowledge of theory bring to music writing, Scott is able to play by his own rules and achieve a level of creativity that is real and organic. If some natural talent in any of these areas is evident, it is simply the ability to write songs that are interesting to listen to, although one can only be impressed by his ability to self-educate in several aspects of the process of writing, performing, and recording. Though not a natural entertainer or ham-it-up attention seeker, Scott isn't totally a behind-the-scenes woodshop mad scientist studio type either - he knows just enough of the basics to get his songs out there as he envisioned them.

For someone who never picked up an instrument until well into adulthood, the result can be captivating to the point that comparison to popular major-label artists is a moot point โ€“ a difference distinctly determined by the preference of the listener regardless of top chops, visual appeal and marketing dollars. In an era when sound-alike comparisons, labels, keywords, hashtags and meta-data are so important for recommendation, it isnโ€™t obvious how one would conveniently classify Scottโ€™s music in relation to other artistsโ€™ youโ€™ve heard on the radio or seen on television. The songs themselves are elusive to categorize - perhaps too aggressive, whimsical and simple to be considered serious Folk; maybe too slow, mellow and introspective to be considered Rock; too acoustic and slow and nice to be Punk Rock; not electric enough to qualify as Garage Rock; too much like rock to be considered Country; not Celtic and/or Bluegrassy enough or played technically perfectly enough to be considered Roots; too unconventional to appeal to purists who prefer traditional Blues; and too under-produced, dark and unpolished to pass as Pop or R&B. A variety of genres, styles, structures, subject matter and tempos allows listeners with wide musical tastes to remain interested, and hints of Hard Rock, Motown, Zydedo, Tejano, and Caribbean influences are easy to spot.

As a fan of blues and 70s hard rock, Scott's personal listening tastes don't show themselves easily due to his choice of an all-acoustic sound. While the standard instrumentation of acoustic guitar, acoustic bass, and brush snare drum give all the songs a sameness of sound at a base level, the occasional use of hawaiian lap-style slide acoustic steel guitar, marimba, harmonica, and accordion provides variety from song to song. In a time when the music business increasingly offers belt-it-out vocalists/recording artists who co-write their own material, one might think the calm and soothing qualities of Scottโ€™s voice would make him more of a non-performing songwriter than a singer-songwriter, while his ability to play non-flashy, yet groovy instrumental guitar solos would make him more of a sidekick than a frontman in a band. One might expect the formally-trained finger picking of acoustic guitar, combined with serious political topics when considering the present-day, folk singer-songwriter scene, but Scott breaks that mold with a casual playing style and positive lyrics that don't shy away from universal themes delivered in an upbeat, friendly manner. Professional country songwriters who pitch fully-produced demos with studio musicians on state-of-the-art digital equipment with click tracks, pitch correction, programmed keyboards and drums, with slick production quality might have come a long way from the days when a piano/vocal or simple guitar/vocal would do the trick in Nashville, but Scottโ€™s recordings fall pleasantly somewhere in the middle.

The kick you get out of listening to Scott Cooley albums is that the songs are real, from the heart, played by someone with a true passion for the craft despite not having had any lessons. If you get into the fact that someone who isn't blessed with superior natural talent and years of training goes for it anyway, and winds up making music that is pleasing and interesting despite a few flaws, it's going to surprise you. If you are discriminating to the point that you won't waste time on music that isn't perfectly played and recorded by pros and performed by outstanding, gifted vocalists, then this won't be your cup of tea. If you crave something a little different than what is typically advertised to you in the mainstream, and yearn for good songwriting and honest, enthusiastic delivery by a mere mortal with a lot of spirit and sweat equity behind it, Scottโ€™s your guy.

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