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Artist of the Month for March 2004: Bill Cooley

Bill Cooley

Age: 52

Nashville, TN, originally from Santa Barbara, CA

When did you start playing? My best friend in elemetary school started taking guitar lessons in 5th grade and that got me interested. The next year I got a guitar for Christmas and a couple months later the Beatles were on Ed Sullivan. That cinched it.

First guitar: Gibson LG-I acoustic. The same model guitar my friend had. Except the first time we got together to play, we both strummed an E chord and the difference was astounding....his suddenly sounded dry & brittle, mine sounded rich, warm and twice as loud. That was an exceptional sounding guitar - I grew up on it and it was stolen while I was in college.... I still miss it.

Early influences: Coming of age in Southern California in the early '60's, I was listening to surf music. Most of it being guitar instrumentals, I learned tunes by the Ventures, Duane Eddy, the Challengers, the Lively Ones, etc. Of course, the Beach Boys were the biggest thing. Until the Beatles arrived. It wasn't long before us teenage boys that had a guitar realized if we brought it to school and started playing Beatle tunes, we'd soon be surrounded by girls who would otherwise ignore us. It became a competition to see who could learn the latest song first.

Early playing days: I jammed with some friends (& took lessons) all through high school but was much too shy to actually join a band. I didn't do that until after graduation and then joined a band across town so I wouldn't have to worry about my friends seeing me.

First gig: A church dance (across town). During the first song, my hands were shaking so bad I couldn't hold on to the guitar. Luckily, it got easier after that and by the end of our first set, I was hooked.

Acoustic guitars you own: 2 Bryan Galloup Northern Lights, 2 Taylors (812 and 714), an old Guild, fretted Dobro, Ramirez classical, Hirade classical and a bouzouki made by William Petersen.

Favorite guitar: My newer Galloup, which I got about 2 years ago. It's my main acoustic for sessions. Sounds great solo but also lays perfectly within a band track. Very even and the most in tune acoustic I've ever owned. My first Galloup was one of Bryan's first proptotypes and has aged well....it's one of my main stage guitars but the newer one is amazing, he has made incredible progress and improvements over the past 6 years. By the way, all my stage guitars are equipped with L.R. Baggs Duet systems (p.u. & mic).

Your style: A little bit of everything. You have to be diverse to earn a living as a sideman. Developed by listening to all styles of music and learning from other instruments, not just guitarists.

Practice regimen: These days, if I'm practicing, it's for an upcoming tour, session, project....or songwriting. There was a time, however, (about 25 years ago) when I did the 8 hours a day thing.

Favorite Artist(s): Too many to list but I've got to mention Leo Kottke for acoustic guitar. First heard him in the mid '70's and I heard what was possible for solo steel string guitar playing and composing. Heard him again in concert last year and he hasn't lost a step (may have gained a couple, in fact).

As a professional, any words of wisdom: If you want to go for it (music as a profession), you'd better be driven by the music. Otherwise you'll probably get discouraged long before you see any return on your investment of time and hard work. As an early music teacher told me, "If the music isn't enough, put the guitar back in the case." When people ask me about moving to Nashville to break in to the music business, I'm usually kind of discouraging. Mainly, because it is tough to do but I also know the ones who are absolutely motivated by the music will never even hear my words of caution.

Anything else: I feel very fortunate to be able to make a living with the guitar. It's a privledge to be able to work with Kathy Mattea and other artists of that caliber. After all these years, I'm having more fun than ever!

Check out Bill's website and his new CD "A Turn in the Road"
If you are a guitarist with a cd out and would like to be featured here please contact me.

AOTM Archives:

August 2008 - Danny Combs
March 2006 - Bryan Clark
Februry 2006 - Darin Leong
January 2006 - Andy McKee
December 2005 - Don Alder
November 2005 - Doug Young
October 2005 - Nancy Conescu
August - September 2005 - Warren Greig
July 2005 - Ian Melrose
June 2005 - Roger Lasley
May 2005 - Jim Tozier
April 2005 - Jessica Papkoff
March 2005 - Todd Habekost
February 2005 - Michael Hewett
January 2005 - Steve Barney
December 2004 - Tony McManus
November 2004 - Chris Newman
October 2004 - Kevin Kastning
September 2004 - Rick Duke
August 2004 - El McMeen
June-July 2004 - Charles David Alexander
May 2004 - Tony Capri
April 2004 - Shane Simpson
March 2004 - Bill Cooley
February 2004 - Greg Meckes
January 2004 - Gary Leek
December 2003 - Ernie Hawkins
November 2003 - Keith Knight
October 2003 - Jaquie Gipson
September 2003 - Chuck Durfor
August 2003 - Cathy Horner
July 2003 - Art Edelstein
June 2003 - Muriel Anderson
May 2003 - Clarelynn Rose
March-April 2003 - Steve Wildey
February 2003 - Rick Ruskin
January 2003 - Kerry Kling
December 2002 - Tim O'Brien
November 2002 - Howard Emerson
October 2002 - Dennis Roger Reed
September 2002 - Larry Pattis
August 2002 - Paul Asbell