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Thursday, April 12, 2018

Ramping up to release time, kind of a big deal


Someone accused me of resembling fictional anchorman Ron Burgundy played by Will Ferrell recently when they saw my 70's style haircut parted on the side and wearing a jacket and tie in a photograph - an unusual look for me, but a bit of a stretch comparison-wise since I wasn't even sporting a moustache .  In that movie, among many memorable lines by the lead character, he said something like "I'm kind of a big deal," which was certainly memorable for me because it was funny.  Although I don't have the same ego, I do need to toot my own horn from time to time, particularly when I want my music to reach a larger audience.  You have to tell the world something is available for sale in the first place if you're going to have any chance of making a sale.  The ego I do have makes me selfishly want to sell my creative musical works, rather than just being satisfied with creating art for art's sake, without anyone needing to know it exists.

For the songwriter/recording artist who doesn't play concerts or shows, the event of most importance to both the artist and their fans alike is the almighty new album release.  I'm Scott Cooley, and although I'm not a big deal (yet!), releasing an album is kind of a big deal to me.  When you don't perform live much let alone book regular gigs or tour, your life as a singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist revolves around one major thing only:  Releasing albums of new songs you wrote and recorded.  It makes me both excited and anxious, so much so that I worry I'll die before I get a chance to get the music out there.  That's when you know you care about it a lot.  When the songs are written and recorded already, and the cover art is ready to go, it's a matter of waiting until that date, which like Tom Petty said, is the hardest part.  Don't get the wrong idea - I don't mean to hint that I might die at all.  Despite not being in the best of health, if you hear of my demise, you can be sure it was unintentional!

Everyone likes to hear that a musician they like has new material available, and they need some type of information to let them know what it's like - how it's different from their past records, a description that summarizes what it's all about, and maybe a sample or teaser video to further wet the appetite.  Maybe a trusted review found online will help sway you to want to buy/download/stream or whatever.  Let's face it though - nowadays when your favorite artist comes out with something new, you get a notification from a subscription service, and that same service that resulted from you previously buying or following that artist will also allow you to stream the new songs from the cloud on your home assistant speaker, mobile phone, or computer.  Yes, it's in the low-quality MP3 format, and yes, the streaming from the cloud to your device further degrades the sound quality, and yes, the speaker(s) and/or headphones you're listening on are substandard. 

For this experience, you pay roughly a hundred and twenty bucks a year, or $9.99/month.  Gone are the "audiophile" days of the giant home stereo systems with vinyl record players, an array of surround sound speakers, AM/FM receiver, CD player, etc.  In the modern digital era in which brick & mortar record stores cease to exist, we sacrifice sound quality for the lack of clutter, the portability and convenience of our streaming subscription, phone and earbuds or smart speaker.  You've even recently embraced the whole bluetooth thing, despite its frustrations.  Sadly, the typical Scott Cooley fans are probably Generation X'ers who have finally made this transition.  So, discovery starts with a little information in your feed, and the internet then offers convenient way to get more, and your service allows you to start consuming quickly.  This is likely your reality, even though you may still have that milk crate of albums in the basement and rotate a few CDs in and out of the mix on your car stereo.

I imagine when most artists do anything creative like recording an album of new music, they are proud to share it, and the do-it-all-yourself songwriter / performer / home recording hobbyist who self-produces and self-releases independently like myself is arguably even more so.  This is because everything you hear on the upcoming album, like many of my albums, was made by me.  So, it's my creative vision alone, which is something I would imagine a painter would experience, since you don't often hear of collaborative paintings.  Well-received or otherwise, you're ready for the credit/blame.

The Flint, Michigan area has plenty of rappers and punk rockers, but it's downright rare to find a solo artist who specializes in Acoustic Garage Rock with both Americana and Caribbean flavors.  How often do you hear of someone saying they blend the sound of the Violent Femmes with Jimmy Buffett?  The Police unplugged jamming with James Taylor?  Bob Seger sitting in with Gordon Lightfoot at a Margaritaville Cafe?  Jack Johnson collaborating with Jack White?

It's always hard to describe your music, and likewise, it's always hard to know whether it's any good or not.  A side of me thinks this is my best-ever album.  I know that right when I write a new song, I'm excited about it because it is so fresh, and I have a tendency to overestimate how good it is.  Only after a long cooling-off period of time has passed do I find that I can revisit a song and assess whether I still feel the same way about it.  When I take a break from listening to it and even sort of pretend I don't remember it, I can go back and listen to it again and make a more honest judgment about how it compares to others in the batch of new songs that are candidates to make it onto the released album.

That same "distancing before judging" thing also applies to the entire album as it compares with your other albums you've released.  Your catalog may have some standouts, but the latest, newest one is always the one you're focused on when you've just completed it, and because of that, you have a tendency to maybe think it's better than you will think it is six months later.  It's just the way it goes, for me anyway.  This next new album, however, that I'm planning to release in a couple months, really does feel like it is a strong collection of songs.  A part of the reason may be that is more of a concept album, and has some common threads running through each of the 13 songs.

Describing your sound is always a challenge for any recording artist, but it's easier if the album groups together similar types of song styles.  Therefore, my next album, Missing The Boat, is one that combines various tropical flavors with acoustic rock with a heavy dose of escapism - including that which involves boating.  It's very simple stuff, fairly low art, in the grand scheme of things.  The lyrics aren't going to pass for poetry like Bob Dylan's, and the music isn't going to be respected by classical composers, and if you like ultra-serious folk music it won't be for you, nor will you like it if you're a fan of loud, distorted electric guitar-based music.  'Nuff said for now.  Now you have pretty good idea of what to expect and when.  Stay tuned in to this blog for subsequent posts leading up to the actual album release that will reveal even more!