Renewing her muse: Deb Cooley to resume music with performance at ‘Power of Love’ Gala

By Sarah Brown
Of The New Era/Lebanon Local

It was a personal event in Deb Cooley’s life that seemed to break her spirit and sap her desire to sing.

“It slapped me down to the ground, took my mojo and threw it,” she said. “I didn’t sing for almost 10 years. I’m just (now) feeling the confidence to do that again.”

She credits her friends in the art community with encouraging her and keeping her going with her oils and watercolor painting. In fact, she’s probably best known in Sweet Home for her visual artwork and her 43 years as a hairstylist.

But it was mostly her music that suffered. However, she said, “It’s part of me and I can’t leave it alone forever.”

Cooley will perform two of her songs during the Sweet Home Coalition for Artistic and Scholastic Enrichment’s “SHOCASE Power of Love Gala,” set for 7 p.m. Saturday, March 18, in the auditorium at Sweet Home High School, 1641 Long St. The event also features Broadway baritone Douglas Webster and such local artists as Stefani Brown, John Kluttz, Praise in 3D and more. Tickets are $15 general, $35 VIP. For more information, visit https://bit.ly/3ZeNSwY.

Cooley taught herself to play guitar in high school, but an unusual form of motivation later pushed her to focus more on the craft.

“I didn’t start really seriously until my second son [Logan; her other sons include Adam and Colton] informed me that I better get busy and do some of that before my voice got too old,” she said.

She was only in her 30s at the time.

Now 64, she said the aging process “is hard as hell” and was something people usually aren’t prepared for. (However, you wouldn’t think that by looking at her.)

“The age you are right now,” she said, “you better be enjoying it because it goes by damn fast.”

Cooley describes her music as adult-alternative, “along the lines of Norah Jones – soft rock with an edge of jazz and folk. It’s just a whole different style. I’m not hard rock; I’m more folk. Not really country, not really pop.” She likes Jones for her fusion of country, jazz and pop, topped with a “bluesy” voice, and expresses appreciation for folk legend Joan Baez.

Deb Cooley performs at Sankey Park in 2004. File photo

To date, she’s recorded four albums of original material. She writes “just about anything,” but most listeners interpret her songs as love and heartbreak. For instance, a song about “the touch of your hand” described a sweet moment she shared with one of her children. When she added more to the lyrics, however, some people read something different into it.

“It had to do with the feel of my child’s hand on my cheek and my neck when they were holding me,” Cooley explained.

But a lot of music is like that, she continued, beginning as one idea, then morphing into others.

“If you were to ask an artist who wrote something, it might not be anything about what you’re perceiving, which is about music and words,” she said. “I believe that’s how music touches people because they get out of it what they need at the time.”

Although many songs cover break-ups or strife, she finds that writing or listening to them can be cathartic. Music feeds the soul, she said; it’s a connection that spans the world.

“Music is core to us,” Cooley said.

She compared writing songs to journaling as a way to “get it out of your head.” When her cousin’s son was killed, she came up with “When I Close My Eyes” to describe a love that never goes away. When her husband, Scott, told her that she always wrote about “things that go wrong in a relationship,” she responded with the more upbeat “Everyday.”

Cooley will perform both at the SHOCASE concert, accompanied by only her guitar.

“There’s no cheating when you do that,” she quipped.

Cooley strongly believes people should never stop learning and trying new things.

“You can learn to play piano, you can learn to play guitar, you can learn to do all those things as long as you keep pushing yourself to learn,” she said. “The biggest problem we have is we quit being curious, having the desire to learn something new or step out of your comfort zone. It’s harder as we get older. It’s a risk to take.”