That’s What Section My Seats Are In: Mike Cooley Answers My Questions

Mike-CooleySo I’m pretty pleased about finally getting to talk to Mike Cooley, who writes and sings songs in Drive-By Truckers, a band for whom I have great, abiding and at this point, very well-documented affection. I’d already had the pleasure of talking to Patterson Hood, who co-founded the band with him, on several occasions. You should never expect it, bu it’s always a wonderful thing when someone whose work you admire turns out to be friendly and accessible, too.

The interview is up at the City Paper’s Arts Desk blog. But lo, bonus content! Here’s a live in-store performance of “A Ghost to Most,” one of my favorite songs ever, which Cooley wrote and sung:

…and here’s an extra crumb that interview that I excised out just because it addressed something that’s now kind of an old-news topic: licensing songs for use as advertisements. This exchange comes right after Cooley names Wilco as a band he admires in the way they’ve managed their career.

I’m not surprised you mentioned Wilco. They surprised some people a few years ago when they licensed some of their songs for Volkswagen ads on TV. Is that something you would consider if the opportunity came up?

There was a time when I wouldn’t have, but yes I would.

Back in the 80s, when Phil Collins was doing it and Eric Clapton was doing it, and Michael Jackson — when Michael Jackson did that Pepsi commercial, number one, he appeared in it. And he had just had the biggest-selling record of all time. If I were pretty well-off, then I think that’s going too far.

Nowadays, it’s a little different. I had totally forgotten that Wilco even did that. I can’t even name the song. That kind of makes it okay, too. [Laughs.] The Flaming Lips have done it. I don’t know the name of the song. The Black Keys are doing the shit out of it, but I can’t name the song, you know? And I haven’t heard any of those songs on the radio. I’m sure they’ve been played there, on some form of radio, but you know, I had heard “After Midnight” on the radio [before it was an ad].

A lot of artists have defended the practice by saying it gets their songs out there.

There’s an ethical question to it. There’s a question of integrity. But it’s a different world now. How do you fight it, and what’re going to fight it with? If someone wants to pay me a lot of money for something I did, why the hell is that wrong? [Laughs.]

Well, it’s still hypothetical at this point. Right?

Yeah. And I’m not saying I’d do it for anything. For a company that puts something on the market I think we would be a better society without, no, not for any amount of money. Somebody who puts money into political campaigns that I wouldn’t support? No, not for any amount money.

I’m not saying it’s okay to whore yourself out. I’m just talking about the definition of what that is.

The full interview is here. My interviews with Patterson hood from May 2008 and Jan. 2010 are out there, too. I was at the 9:30 Club to watch the Truckers play last night; I’ll be back again tonight. Come say hi, won’t you?

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