Singer-songwriter Shane Cooley is from Northern Neck, Va., but recently made his home in Austin, Texas. There, he’s been putting in his time playing just about every show you can imagine — from wine bars and airport lounges to radio programs and at a collaborative music and art creator’s night. He’s even found some work as an extra in commercials. Cooley recently released his most recent album, Kings Highway, and is about to embark on a tour that takes him from Texas to New York and back south to Louisiana. He and his band, The Lucky Kings, play Jack of the Wood on Sunday, Aug. 9, at 9 p.m. Donations encouraged.
Mountain Xpress: When you’re a musician, is it weird to turn 27? Does the number seem meaningful at all?
Shane Cooley: Well, by the time I get back from this tour I will be 28, so fingers crossed! My 27th year has definitely been a milestone. I recorded Kings Highway when I had just turned 26, but it wasn’t ready for release until a few months ago. During that waiting period, I couldn’t help but think about the many great artists who had already ended their careers at my age. It woke me up. I had spent the past 14 years of my life searching for a sound that was truly mine. I knew that this album was going to define that sound, and even though I’ve released a lot of music previously, in my mind I’ve started calling Kings Highway my first album. So 27 has been a year of beginnings for me.
Your upcoming tour is a mix of house shows and venue shows. Is that a matter of convenience or an artist choice? And if you approach the two differently, how so?
House shows are a huge help, plus I love doing them. It’s easier to connect with people at a house concert. In the case of our tour, house concerts are a welcome necessity. Being a band on a DIY level means that going on tour and breaking even is considered lucky with all of the travel expenses. We’re currently accepting donations via GoFudMe, which hopefully will cover gas, a rental van (my old Astro is living out its days in Texas), groceries and lodging. The house concerts definitely help out with that.
That being said, I think it’s important to do a mix of house shows and regular venues. House shows are awesome, but they’re still at someone’s house. I lucked out on booking this tour with getting some good venue, as well as Musikfest in Bethlehem, so there should be a nice variety.
How has your move from Virginia to Texas changed your sound? Is location a consideration for you beyond the obvious music business opportunities?
I’ve been touring through Austin since 2010, and there’s always been a magic to it. Out of all of the places I’ve been, something about the Austin scene called to me. I knew I needed to spend time here. I think the way I write songs has something to do with that, but Austin has definitely shaped my music in turn. Shortly after I recorded Kings Highway, I formed a band — Shane Cooley & the Lucky Kings. The [musicians] were all friends of mine from jam sessions around town, and it just sort of came together. Everyone has something to bring to the table. We’ve been working hard — can’t wait to have them on the road with me.
You’ve already placed some songs on TV shows. If you could hand-pick a show that makes sense for your music, what would it be? What song from Kings Highway would you most like to get out to the world?
I think one of my favorite songs from Kings Highway is “Leave This Place.” It’s universal — that feeling of knowing you have to move on. I could hear that in the intro credits of a show, though I don’t have any particular one in mind. “Lost?” Ha ha.
I love that you were an extra on a trailer for a book. How did that happen? Your music has a literary feel to it. Are you a reader and, if so, what are some books that bring you songwriting inspiration?
I’ve been doing extra work for Onion Creek Productions here and there. They like to have local musicians and artists in the mix for their work. I’ve appeared in commercials for Cirrus Logic and Texas.gov, and recently the Amazon book trailer for Lori Foster‘s Holding Strong. I actually recently composed the music for the trailer for her upcoming book, Tough Love.
I wanted to be a writer before I started playing music, so lyrics have always been first and foremost. I wrote the songs on Kings Highway with writers like Henry Miller, Hemingway and Kerouac in mind, making observations on life’s best and worst qualities as I made my travels. I studied English in college, and though I don’t have much time these days, I love to read. Lately I’ve been reading Willie Nelson’s new book — great stuff.