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Music in Our Midst: A Conversation with Brian Cooney

By Bob Cave

Like Marty DiBergi interviewing the legendary (and fictional) Nigel Tufnel[i], I recently sat down with singer/songwriter Brian Cooney (OTS Student Computing Services) to learn more about his musical background and aspirations. While Brian’s amplifier may go to eleven just like Tufnel’s, that is surely where all similarity ends. For whether he is covering well-loved folk-rock standards or telling his own stories in song, Brian’s music tends toward the kinder, gentler end of the rock spectrum.

Brian Cooney, rockstar.

Brian Cooney, rockstar.

Generously accepting my affinity for the absurd, Brian granted me license to share his story in a less traditional mode—an abbreviated teleplay.

SCENE I
INTERIOR, NEWELL HALL—THE DEN—LUNCHTIME

INTERVIEWER
Well, that should do it, Brian. Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me about your music. I think the readers of the A&F Blog are going to enjoy meeting you through this article. And, I suspect that many will visit www.briancooney.com to sample your recordings and read more detailed biographical information. Just let me recap our conversation to make sure I have it right. It was 1965, …

Everything gets “wavy” while cascading harp music plays.

BRIAN
I think something’s wrong with this coffee. Everything’s getting all “wavy”.

 

SCENE II
INTERIOR, BILL’S MUSIC HOUSE—CATONSVILLE, MD—AFTERNOON

TEN-YEAR-OLD BRIAN (addressing a salesperson)
Hi, I’d like to buy that set of drums.

SALESPERSON
Sorry, Brian. Your folks asked me not to sell you those drums. With you and your seven brothers all playing music under one roof, drums would simply be too much.

TEN-YEAR-OLD BRIAN
Aww, gee whiz, Mr. Gower!

SALESPERSON
Actually, son, my name is Bill, and I have a feeling (removing an acoustic guitar from wall) that this instrument was meant for you.

TEN-YEAR-OLD BRIAN
Really? Well, okay then. I’ll take it.

SALESPERSON
That’ll be five dollars. What song are you going to learn first?

TEN-YEAR-OLD BRIAN
Well, I’ll tell you…

Everything gets “wavy” while the Kingston Trio’s “Greenback Dollar” fades in.

Video shows Brian practicing the guitar and singing by himself and with his brothers in various combinations while the calendar pages riffle through the years 1965 to 2000. During this sequence, a variety of songs play in the background, one blending into the next, covering artists such as the Beatles, Sergio Mendez and Brazil 66, Neil Young, Don McLean, Nils Lofgren, Loggins and Messina, Simon and Garfunkle and John Gorka.

 

SCENE III
INTERIOR, TOWSON UNIVERSITY—COOK LIBRARY—FIRST FLOOR HALLWAY—LATE MORNING

Strumming his Epiphone six-string, Brian performs “American Pie” outside of Cook 5 for the CANS Annual Holiday Breakfast (circa 2000) while staff schmooze and nibble on holiday fare.  

STAFF #1
Hey, did you try the sloppy doe? I think Clint made it; it’s tasty!

STAFF #2
No, I’ll have to get some. Who’s that singing? He’s really good.

STAFF #1
Oh, that’s Brian Cooney. He’s an evil genius alien minstrel bent on world domination.

STAFF #2
What!? (fumbling plate and dropping several baby carrots to the floor)
Excuse me?

STAFF #1
Juuust kidding. He works up in CIAT. He’s been performing for years. I hear he has a repertoire of well over 300 songs, and he writes his own songs, too. Have you ever heard of “Bohemian Rhapsody?” (Staff #2 nods, wide-eyed.)
He didn’t write that one. That’s not his genre. He writes folk-rock, mostly, in the style of artists such as John Gorka and Richard Shindell.

STAFF #2
I bet he’d sound even better playing a Seagull guitar. (Staff #1 nods agreement, pretending to be well aware of that Canadian guitar company.) Well, I’m sure he will, one day. Where else does he play?

STAFF #1
Mostly bars and restaurants, but he does private parties too. And he’s not in it for the money; he just loves to sing and play.

As Brian begins the last chorus of “American Pie,” everything gets “wavy” again and the music slowly fades out as the conversation continues.

STAFF #2
Darn these ears. I think I’m losing my hearing again. (Staff #2 looks down at Staff #1’s plate.)
Hey, are you going to eat that brownie?

 

SCENE IV
INTERIOR, TOWSON UNIVERSITY—COOK LIBRARY—SCS OFFICES—EARLY MORNING 

In the not-too-distant future—but a future nevertheless, distinguishable by its radically-different hair styles, metallic clothing, robot servants, and overwhelming preponderance of bright white Scandinavian furnishings—Brian stops by a colleague’s office to drop off a copy of his latest CD.  

COLLEAGUE
Hey Brian, how’s it going?

BRIAN
It’s going well. I thought I’d drop-off a copy of my latest CD.

COLLEAGUE
Yes, I read the script. (holding up several sheets of paper) I’ve been expecting you. I can’t wait to hear it. You know, I still remember when you finished your first CD. Was it 2013? That was a great mix of covers and original compositions.

BRIAN
Yeah. That one was more than five years in the making, but well worth the effort. I’ve really enjoyed sharing it with people.

COLLEAGUE
Wasn’t that the same year you were written-up in the A&F Blog? Man, that was a strange article.

BRIAN
Indeed it was. I don’t know what I was thinking!

Brian and his colleague engage in exaggerated laughter far longer than is warranted as the credits roll and one of Brian’s songs fades in.

 

POSTSCRIPT

This article was fun to write, and I hope that it was also fun to read. But, in case fact and fiction have become muddled in a wavy mess, let me state it plainly in closing: Brian is a talented musician and songwriter, a devoted family man and a valued member of the OTS team.it was a pleasure to get to know him even better. If you are interested listening to Brian’s recordings or reading additional biographical information presented in a less whimsical style, consider exploring Brian’s website at www.brianrcooney.com.


[i] From the 1984 MGM “rockumentary“ This Is Spinal Tap

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