If all you know of Cary Cooper is her days with the duo, The Dreamsicles, then you don’t know enough about Cary Cooper! The woman has come into her own.
WINNER Kerrville Folk Festival New Folk Competition ('04)
2nd PLACE Rocky Mountain Folks Festival Songwriter Showcase ('12)
3rd PLACE Telluride Troubadour Songwriting Competition ('12)
FINALIST Falcon Ridge Folk Festival Emerging Artist Showcase ('12 & '04)
FINALIST Sisters Folk Fest Dave Carter Memorial Songwriting Contest ('09, '10)
In 2012, Cary took the folk world by storm by placing 2nd and 3rd in the Rocky Mountain Folks Fest Songwriter Showcase and the Telluride Bluegrass Festival’s Troubadour competition, respectively; along with being an Emerging Artist at Falcon Ridge.
Vance Gilbert has this to say about Cary:
"Cary Cooper moves people in bulk...She is busy serving you stuff to make your life glow. Wake The Frack Up!! Pay Attention. Be Moved!"
(Cary at Rocky Mountain Folks Fest 2012)
(Cary at Telluride Bluegrass Festival 2012)
(Cary & The Jiffy Pops at Falcon Ridge 2012)
"Cary is the Anne Lamott of songwriting...except she can get to the heart of things in 3 minutes instead of 200 pages."
-Guitars in the Classroom
Cary has spent the last several years learning the ukulele, perfecting her guitar skills and touring the country in her decked out van, "Zuzu", both as a solo artist, and with her band, “The Jiffy Pops”. She has charmed audiences and stolen hearts on both coasts and venues in between like the prestigious “Bluebird Café” in Nashville and the Kerrville Folk Festival in her home state of Texas.
(Zuzu, the magical touring machine)
(Cary at The Bluebird Cafe 2012)
(Cary & The Jiffy Pops at Kerrville Folk Festival 2012)
Cary has also written a slew of new songs, many of which will be on her new record, “Zuzu’s Petals”, to be released in the spring of 2013. With the help of 520 kickstarter backers, Cary raised over $29,000 to fund the production and promotion of Zuzu’s Petals. Produced by Michael Crittenden (Mackinaw Harvest Studios) and mixed by Ben Wisch (Marc Cohn, Jonatha Brooke Kathy Mattea, Lucy Kaplansky), this record takes Cary’s music to a whole new level of listening and to a much broader audience.
Cary and Michael began talking about the possibility of working together in early 2012 at the Folk Alliance Conference. Having met years earlier in Michael's home state of Michigan, they had both been waiting for the right time to pursue a project together.
(Official Showcase at the International Folk Alliance Conference 2012)
On Zuzu’s Petals, Cary fully embraces her pop sensibilities while keeping the grounded, thoughtful lyrics her folk audiences have come to expect and adore. Cary’s songs might appear light and whimsical on the surface, but underneath the toe-tapping, sing along nature of her infectious melodies and oft-times quirky lyrics, you’ll find many deep, universal truths: The joys and sorrows of love and parenthood, the courage it takes to face fears and the fight to live life to the fullest; are just a few of the hopeful messages you’ll find in her music.
The inspiration for the title song, Zuzu's Petals, comes from the self-doubt that often bubbles to the surface in a long term relationship and how sometimes facing the fear is the only way to rise above it. Think of it as Cary's personal anthem:
"Just like Georgie Bailey Christmas Eve
When Clarence showed him reasons not to leave
I put Zuzu's Petals on my car
To remind me not to go too far
Away from all the ones that matter most
Father, daughters and my holy ghosts
So kiss me baby like you did back then
Midnight at the Inwood, skin on skin"
Cary's decision to work with Michael Crittenden hinged on how he approached the production of THIS song. "I knew that if Michael could find a way to build 'Zuzu' in such a manner that made the listener feel the power and emotion I feel when singing it at concerts, he was the man for the job. And trust me, he found a way."
(Michael Crittenden, Producer of Zuzu's Petals)
In September of 2012, Cary launched a Youtube channel called RealWomenRealSongs featuring herself and 13 of her favorite women writers who are committed to writing a song a week from a common prompt for an entire year, and posting videos of each newly written song on Youtube and Facebook. The collaborative, featuring writers such as Amy Speace, Abbie Gardner (Red Molly), Raina Rose, Mira Stanley (The Sea The Sea), Nicolette Good and Carolann Solebello among others, has been so successful and garnered a such a following, that Cary plans to continue the project with new writers each year.
Another recent boost to Cary’s career happened in early 2011, when Cary was spotted by the producers of Troubadour, TX, a new TV docu/drama series that debuted nationwide in September, 2011 on the CW network.
Along with several other Texas songwriters (including her husband, Tom Prasada-Rao), Cary was cast on the first season of the show.
(At the Dallas Premiere of Troubadour, TX)
Stacy Dean Cambell, the host of Troubadour, Tx has this to say about Cary:
"I know Cary can write songs that can turn heads. And doing it over and over and over enough to make a career, is what separates songwriters from GREAT songwriters. Cary's songs are often quirky. It's a part of her uniqueness and might just be what continues to get her noticed. Remember Roger Miller's 'You Can't Rollerskate In a Buffalo Herd' or Randy Newman's 'Short People'? I like the fact that Cary's marching to her own drum".
(Cary on the set of Troubadour, TX 2011)
(Cary on Troubadour, TX on a fan's TV)
(Performing at a Troubadour, TX event)
Cary credits her ukulele for her reinvention as a solo artist. She picked up a uke in the summer of 2010, it blew open the door to a brand new batch of songs that are featured on her 2011 release, “Pink Umbrella”. Pink Umbrella, co-produced by Jagoda and Tom Prasada-Rao, is light and whimsical in nature, these songs reflect what make Cary stand out in a crowd. She draws you in with her own sense of charm then hits you over the head with lyrics that are deceptively deep. Songs like “Suzanne”, about a 43 year old woman who takes a brief reprieve from the drudgeries of her life to join the circus; and “Jimmy Stewart”, a sweet natured yet angsty song, about the differences in real life love and the love you find in old movies. “Pink Umbrella” released in the fall of 2011 coinciding with her main stage set at the Kerrville Wine & Music Festival and the premiere of Troubadour, Tx.
(A watercolor of "Suzanne" painted by Debbie Cannatella)
Cary makes her home in Dallas, TX with her husband and a fellow songwriter, Tom Prasada-Rao, her daughters, 17 year old Caroline and 12 year old Hannah Kate, and Thurman, an obnoxiously large and unusually lovable, Goldendoodle.
(Hannah, Tom, Cary & Caroline in the summer 2012)
(for an easy to copy and paste version of Cary's story, see the "100 Word Bio" or "Full Length Bio" options under the PRESS icon)
KEEP READING FOR THE REST OF THE STORY!
Cary grew up in a small town near Dallas, Texas with young parents who wore bell-bottoms, wore their hair long and listened to Peter, Paul and Mary, Jim Croce, and The Limelighters. The oldest of three children, she entertained her sister and brother and all the neighborhood kids by putting on plays and organizing backyard circuses. She was always the star.
(Cary with family "pre-hippie" era)
"In the third grade I decided I wanted to be a songwriter. I enlisted the help of my best friend and started a band called The Kittens. My biggest dilemma was trying to split my time equally between songwriting, choreography and costume design. But later, the bigger problem became trying to teach my tone-deaf friend to sing. The Kittens quickly disbanded in order to save the friendship. "
(Third Grade Cary)
(Cary as DOROTHY in a high school production of THE WIZ)
In addition to voice and piano lessons (she was her piano teacher's worst nightmare), Cary cultivated a love for dance. Beginning ballet at age 3, she continued to dance thru her college years where she was a member of the internationally touring Texas Tech Pompom Squad. Also during that time, Cary taught dance camps for an organization in California, United Spirit Association, where she met and danced with Paula Abdul, Teri Hatcher (Desperate Housewives) and Tina Landon (choreographer for Janet Jackson, Ricky Martin and Britney Spears). While dance proved to be her primary passion during adolescence and her early adult years, music was definitely her secret pursuit.
(An officer on her high school drill team)
(Cary on the Texas Tech Pom Pon Squad)
(Cary on staff with United Spirit Association. Standing next to a young Teri Hatcher)
"During college, I roomed with an incredibly talented musician named Felicia Brady. Felicia was a piano performance major but was also a songwriter and fabulous singer. Because I was "the dancer" and she was "the musician", I never told her that I too wrote songs and loved to sing. Late at night in our dorm room, I would listen to her sing and she would watch me dance. Whenever she would leave in the morning to go to the music building to practice, I would run down the hall to my other friends' rooms and sing them the songs I had just written. Afraid of not living up to her (or more truthfully, my own) standards, I eventually quit writing altogether."
(With Felicia Brady at a recent gig in Boston)
After college, Cary worked in the fitness field for several years (including a position as physical training instructor for student pilots at Reese Air Force base) before she stumbled onto a career teaching English as a Second Language to first and second graders.
"My favorite part of teaching ESL was that I got to sing with the kids all day. I taught them all the songs I learned as a child, and when I eventually ran out of songs to teach them, I started writing my own songs for them to sing. I'm not sure how conventional it is to learn english with Puff the Magic Dragon and Bad Bad Leroy Brown, but it worked like a charm! "
When Cary stopped teaching to be a work at home mom, she began to seriously ponder what was missing in her life. While attending her first house concert in Wylie, Texas, she figured out exactly what it was.
"When a friend invited me to go with her to a house concert, I was a little leery and almost said no. I mean, what the heck is a house concert?? But curiosity got the better of me and I said yes. From the minute I set foot inside "Tom Noe's Home for Wayward Women", I knew I had found the home I was searching for. I could hardly keep from crying throughout the entire show, and went home and immediately started writing songs again. That was spring of 1999. After a full summer of writing, I went to my first Wine and Music Festival in Kerrville, Texas. Another life altering experience. I knew very little about the festival, except that "the people from the house concerts" all went. So I spent most of that first festival secretly stalking Bill Nash knowing that he would know where to go and what to do. Thank God for Bill! While at Kerrville, I learned of their songwriting school, and vowed that come hell or high water, I'd be there in the spring. I even felt brave enough to finally visit Felicia in Boston (who was now a working singer-songwriter in the Boston scene) and confess to her that I was writing. "
In the fall of 1999, Cary bought a guitar and taught herself to play, and kept her vow to attend the songwriting school at Kerrville the following spring, even though she was a week away from giving birth to her second child! Later that same summer, in the middle of a divorce (and with a six week old baby in tow), Cary went back to Kerrville and had a chance meeting with Tom Prasada-Rao.
(At the Kerrville Folk Festival Song School 9 months pregnant with Hannah)
"I had written a song that I couldn't play the way I wanted to on the guitar and kept bugging all my Dallas friends to help me with it. The question I kept asking them was "can you help me play this song the way that Tom Prasada-Rao guy' does?" And of course, they all said, "if you want it to sound like Tom Prasada-Rao, go ask Tom Prasada-Rao for help!" And of course, I said, "I can't go ask Tom Prasada-Rao. He's like ELVIS!" So once again, Bill Nash came to the rescue and asked Tom to help me on my song. This was the slow beginning of what turned out to be much more than a simple guitar arrangement."
When Cary started to perform her music around Texas, and set out to record her first CD, she turned to TPR for some advice. This led to their first collaboration. It also ultimately led to love.
(Cary at one of her first gigs)
"Falling in love with Tom Prasada-Rao was the last thing I ever expected to do. Our working together on my CD, Gypsy Train, was certainly no indication that love was where we were headed. The most we ever said to each other during production was, "what song do you wanna work on today". The equally profound response was usually, "I don't know, what do you wanna do?" Toward the end of production in 2002, I attended my first International Folk Alliance Conference in Jacksonville, Florida. Tom graciously offered to show me the ropes a bit and led me around the exhibit hall introducing me to folks in the business he knew. That led to the beginning of our friendship. When we got home from Folk Alliance, we started spending a lot of time corresponding via email. A few months later, mutual friends convinced us that maybe there was more going on than a budding friendship. As it turns out, we didn't need a lot of convincing."
In the summer of 2002, Cary and Tom wrote their first song together. They've been writing together ever since. In the fall of 2002, they recorded their first duo album and in addition to their solo endeavors, started performing together as The Dreamsicles. Under the mentorship of her incredible partner, Cary went on to win the prestigious Kerrville New Folk Competition in 2004.
(Cary at the Kerrville New Folk Competition 2004)
"When I dare to be powerful - to use my strength in the service of my vision - then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid." Audre Lorde