The singer-songwriter heads to Austin, Texas, his former home where he worked on his writing chops and honed his talent
Singer-songwriter Shane Cooley recently unveiled his new double single Voices/Black Moon. Released to coincide with an annular solar eclipse visible across the Americas, the songs originally featured on Cooley’s 2020 acoustic anthology 50 Songs. These new versions were recorded at his home studio in Virginia with Cooley producing and performing all of the instruments. While retaining their homespun charm, the additional layers of instrumentation subtly elevate a pair of songs on which their creator looks inwards to address times of challenge, change and growth.
Now we’re travelling west from Cooley’s Virginian base and heading back to his former home of Austin, Texas in order to revisit the birth of Voices, a song that was almost lost to a moment of doubt…
“Howdy. I’m Shane Cooley, and I’m sitting here in lovely South Austin, Texas, getting ready to release my new double-single Voices/Black Moon. It feels like a very appropriate place to be sitting because not only were both of these songs written in South Austin, but many, many others of mine were as well. It’s almost been a breeding ground for a lot of my songs.
If you didn’t write it down, it never happened
“I live in Virginia, that’s where I grew up. I moved back there after the pandemic, to a little rural area called Mollusk, but I lived in Austin for many years, and still come down here as often as I can. One of the main reasons why I came down to Austin was to really work on my chops as a songwriter. There are a lot of good songwriters down here and the energy just keeps you on your toes, being in this scene. It’s almost like a place you can really just hone on your skills, and I pursued that journey down here and wrote a great many songs, really trying to challenge myself.
“Within that time of trying to push myself, sometimes maybe I’d push too hard and I would get into a writer’s block, which happens to the best of us. The older and wiser, hopefully, that I get, I try to tell myself that that those things shall pass. I’m probably going to write songs for the rest of my life but it always feels like, in those moments, you’re never going to write a song again.
“The first track off this double single, the A-side Voices, was a song that was written exactly in that circumstance. I was trying to write and nothing felt like it was sounding good. Everything was going in the trash can. I always have my iPhone recording, because like David Crosby said, ‘If you didn’t write it down, it never happened.’ So I always try to capture ideas, because lots of times they’ll become full songs or even if not, I’ve learned that sometimes I can psych myself out in the process.
“I just remember sitting in my old house in Kings Highway, just right down the road here, I could walk to it right now, which is very nostalgic for me. I always would have my little notebook in hand, usually with some doodles. This is a fresh notebook, so it’s less doodly. I’d scribble down some of these words, and I’d recorded a draft of this song, and I didn’t like it at all. It almost made me feel worse, because I thought, ‘Oh, man, my writer’s block is continuing.’
“I didn’t quite know what the lyrics were about. I feel like they’re still intentionally vague. But I know I was going through a lot of darkness at that time and feeling the need to create. Those lyrics, they come from that state of writer’s block and feeling stuck and feeling like this isn’t right. This whole situation isn’t right. It’s a very lonely song, and maybe because it’s a bit of a sadder tune too, I was just kind of bummed out for a second. I was like, ‘This isn’t any good,’ and I threw it away.
“Maybe a week later, I listened to it again, and realised that I was completely in my own head about it and I had written a very good song. It’s a song that has continued to be a favourite at my shows. I’ve recorded it before on my acoustic anthology 50 Songs that I put out during the pandemic. This version that is about to be released was recorded in my home studio Cooleyland where I have the quiet space and all the instruments to put my fingertips on, and the right vibes to get the right soul into it.
“It’s been a full-circle journey with this song. A song about a writer’s block, written during a writer’s block, almost thrown away and revived. Here I am revived back in town about to play a music festival, and so it goes around. Also, with the chords of this song, there’s a very circular nature to them, and it’s all about seasons and cycles. The song is called Voices. Hope you enjoy.”