Artist Interview: 1-on-1 with Steven Cooley

I am happy to introduce to you today a very special talent from right here in the city of Indianapolis.  A long time friend of today’s guest, I have had the chance to book shows for and to share stories with this aspiring young talent.  He brings a piano rock sound to the stage but matches that with incredible bone chilling vocals and experienced and educated lyrics.  His sound could fit in a church or on VH1, but is never too far from a local venue here in the city.  Sit with me today as I introduce to you Steven Cooley.

Is that your real name?

Steven Cooley is in fact my real name.

How long have you been playing?

I have been singing for 22 years and playing piano for 11.

What is your first memory of the piano?

I taught myself how to play piano on a 44 key Casio that my mom bought for her when I was 16.  I had some chord charts from church.  I learned the three four chord building structure and began counting keys until I figured out where to place my fingers.  I began banging out three chord songs on our cheap keyboard in the kitchen. I banged on that thing for hours every day after school.  It drove my mother crazy.

When did you decide to make a run at this thing called music?

I told this music/youth pastor (who I resented) when I was 15 that I would come back in one year and be able to play piano.  I needed a vehicle to carry my voice, and I hated relying on others to do it.  I always knew I wanted to sing.  I clocked out mentally at school in 5th grade.  I knew that shit wasn’t going to work for me.  I just wanted to do music.  When 16 came it was official.  I was going to be a professional musician.  I began writing and playing every day.  I played some coffee houses and bars.  I was in choir in school so my solo performances began to include me playing piano.  It has been the only thing that has made me feel like exactly how I feel like a should feel.

Do you have a job outside of music?

I work a job.  At this point you could almost say I have a career.  There is a very fine line between people in this city that get to do play music for a living and a hobby.   For me to make a living playing music in our fine city I would have to resort to being a cover band or a session piano player.  Nothing is wrong with this; it’s just not for me.

Do you write all of your own lyrics?

Yes, but I am not above stealing your ideas and rewriting them as my own.  I would love to be able to co-write something with someone.  Couple problems; my ego, style, song structures, creativeness, ego, musicality, ego, and ego all have to gel for this kind of thing to work.  I am way too humble and centered to write with just anybody.

Where do you get inspiration for a new track?

Pain.  I want the answer to be different, but it’s not.  Most of the shit we deal with in life hurts, so I am a walking sonnet.  If what you are experiencing isn’t uncomfortable then you aren’t growing.  So when I’m content and happy I end up writing pop.  Pop is my guilty pleasure.  Pop writing is an opportunity to day dream and lie.  The substance in my music is rooted in my uncomfort and pain.  I can only think of one song (“Jocelyn”) that people have bought and enjoyed that was written out of pure inspiration that didn’t involve me hurting in some form or fashion.  Pain to me is uncomfort, anger, misery, sadness, anxiety, excitement.

Scenarios that are overwhelming and unique can be inspirational.  I have said this in interviews before.  Most of my songs are over exaggerations of emotions or ideas.  Interaction is also important.  If I am not engaged in life I can’t write…

Where are you originally from?

Indiana.  Son of a bitch.  I don’t think they are going to let me leave.  I love Indianapolis…it is home.

Do you have a favorite venue?

Any venue that has monitors that work can be an awesome venue.  This town has lots of great venues.  My challenge is finding a venue for my genre.  Right now my favorite venue is Midtown Arts and Café off 38th and Central.  Birdy’s and the Upper Room have always been good to me as well.

What is the largest crowd that you have ever played for?


The smallest?


What are your thoughts on the passing of Michael Jackson?

The thing that is the most disappointing about Michael dying is I don’t think I have experienced an iconic musician break out with any kind of modern hit.  Aerosmith kinda did.  That is about it.  I would really have liked to of heard another number one hit from Michael in the twenty first century.  He is an obvious social and musical icon that will not be forgotten.

What are you drinking on stage?

Red Bull or water with no ice.

What are your thoughts on MySpace?

I got involved too late.  I don’t even know what to do on it any more.  It feels like another email account to check.  I would need to be reminded why it’s so relevant.

Are you on Twitter?

Kinda.  I’m pretty interesting, but I’m not sure how imperative it is to know every time I eat, feel sleepy or horny.

Describe your genre in one word.


Who are some of your biggest influences?

Boys 2 men.  Kenny Franklin (old church choir director).  Currently…D Angelo, Music Soulchild, Kayne, Radiohead.

Tell me what it’s like working with Sound Logic.

Jeff Anderson is one of the most talented unknown producers in the industry.  Jeff is a Grammy nominated producer making albums in the middle of a corn field in Lafayette, Indiana.  The studio was an amazing experience from demo staging to the final mix.  I learned more about music in 6 months than I ever thought possible.  It also has totally fucked up my ears.  All I can hear in radio now is the filler sounds.  So when you hear Kelly Clarkston’s newest hit melody, all I can hear is the fucking Motif noise in the background.   I will return there for me second album.

Are you using a PC or a Mac?

PC…my Mac is in the mail.

If you could tour with anyone in the market today who would you choose?

Kayne West.  Pay attention to what this individual is trying to do musically.  If he puts out a comedy album next it would make sense.

Do you tour at all?

Haven’t in a long time.  I have been a single dad up until recently.  I am now a family guy with a career who is trying to figure out how much touring NeYo did to get signed…none.

If you could live anywhere else in the world where would you go?

London, England.  Expensive, cold, cultured and musically eccentric.  This might not be true because I have never been there.  It seems like a great place.  A more realistic move will be Chicago.  R&B and soul are a more acceptable genre there.  There is a place for it.  I crave the city and culture.

If you were a cartoon character whom would you be and why?

I loved Bugs Bunny growing up.  That dark sense of humor is timeless.  Not a big fan of carrots.

Where can I get some of your merchandise?

CD Baby and iTunes or any online music provider.  You can buy my album anywhere in the world.

What would you be doing if you were not performing?

I would be developing a plan to perform.  How to make it bigger and better.  How can I get an extra zero on this check and still be a good father, husband, son, brother, and friend?  I am constantly analyzing and contemplating how to maximize my life.  I really enjoy business as well.  I am involved in a couple of ventures.

What was the last movie you saw?

The Hangover.

Did you like it?

Very much.  I needed the laugh.

If you could only play one song for the rest of your career which song would you choose?

“Praying for You,” by me.  It touches on my inferiority complex with women.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

One of two things for me in five years.  Bigger house, new career, new born on the way, new Audi, playing music for red bulls.  Alone, living in a van, driving across the country playing music in every shit hole bar I can get into.  Place your bets…

What do you want to be remembered for when this is all said and done?

I want to have a collection of music to be remembered by.  If I could leave any mark on the music industry I would be thrilled.  More importantly I want to be remembered as a good father and husband, son, brother, and friend.  Life is about relationships.  Music just reminds you of them.

I always let the artist get the last word.  Go.

Indianapolis…Thank you for all of your continued support.  I have taken a considerable amount of time off to pursue some personal matters in my life.  I am excited to venture into a new era of music.  My genre is soul.   I am excited to have you share my next set of tunes with me.  Thank you for the opportunity to play music.  God Bless you.