Student Album ‘Three Years Wiser’ Displays Reflective Introspection | Culture & Leisure

You can tell Senior Grace Cooper reads Gonzaga’s mission statement every morning by how she reflects her values ​​through her art. Well no, not really. However, that might seem like it to listeners to Cooper’s cathartic and thoughtful debut solo album, “Three Years Wiser.”

A collection of cheerfully folk ballads, Cooper reflects on his time at GU, touching on a number of topics including love, loss, spiritual and physical growth. Along with becoming a distinguished songwriter and vocalist over the past three years, it’s clear that Cooper’s time at GU left an indelible mark on her life.

“Gonzaga gave me a platform to connect with other talented students and share my work in a welcoming and supportive environment,” Cooper said. “GU helped define me as an independent musician and provided me with opportunities to grow that way.”

Although “Three Years Wiser” represents her first official release as a solo artist, it is not Cooper’s first rodeo. Cooper has a long history in music production, with her first introduction to the music scene through her work with the central Oregon-based band Wayward Soul as lead singer at age 15. As Wayward Soul began to break up as high school graduation rapidly approached, Cooper decided to leave his home state to attend GU.

“As the youngest member and only female member of Wayward Soul, it was difficult to pin down my identity and stay true to it,” Cooper said. “They provided me with the necessary challenges and it was through this group that I was able to find my voice as a soloist and share it with the many audiences we performed for.”

Cooper began recording “Three Years Wiser” in the summer of 2019 after its freshman year was over. However, the vast majority of the tracks were written in their entirety when Cooper was 17, allowing him to capture the essence of his teenage years. Just three months after recording “Three Years Wiser”, Cooper’s life was turned upside down. Cooper’s close friend and sound engineer, Matt Engle, died suddenly, abandoning the project indefinitely at the time.

“As a young musician at the time, I was no stranger to being questioned,” Cooper said. “Matt treated me as an equal and as a friend. He taught me that standing up for and speaking up is not only acceptable but necessary in this industry. Although my friendship with Matt was short-lived, my time with him was extremely influential.

The title of the composition is a tribute to Engle itself, as it pays homage to his dedication to the record, to Cooper’s career, and to their connection inside and outside the studio. A characteristic of Cooper as an individual and an artist comes to mind after listening to “Three Years Wiser”: maturity.

As a young artist, approaching extremely existential subjects like love, companionship and loss in a nuanced way is a considerable challenge. Simply considering that most 22-year-olds lack the emotional maturity to express their own feelings in conversation, Cooper’s evident ability to do so is a remarkable feat accomplished on a multitude of occasions on this project.

The stark contrast between the upbeat instrumentation and wistful lyrical content of “Wait and See” produces a brilliantly thoughtful piece about the fantasies of life with a lover that just isn’t possible. Songwriting and vocal range take center stage on this track, as Cooper explores painfully human experiences with maturity and intelligent insight.

While most of the record takes on a darker, more serious tone, Cooper makes sure the listening experience is lighthearted at times with tracks like “Do What You Gotta Do.” A sassy, ​​tongue-in-cheek clapback to a hater accompanied by a twangy fiddle, “Do What You Gotta Do” is a definitely fun song.

Rounding out the track list with “Unknown,” a dark guitar riff hints at an even more faith-based side to Cooper as she grapples with the uncertainty of the life to come. “Unknown” is a microcosm of everything this project does so well, honest lyricism, effective songwriting and structure, and gorgeous instrumentation to elevate Cooper’s equally distinctive voice.

“This album is a labor of love and loss and I try to make that apparent in the production of the project,” Cooper said. “I hope the tracks on ‘Three Years Wiser’ resonate emotionally with the students.”

Luke Modugno is a digital editor. Follow him on Twitter: @lmodugno5.

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