More Than Most: The Burgeoning Career of Frank Cogliano
“I’m more in love with making money and music…” Too Short on Kokane’s “Rhyme Slow”, Mr. Kane, 1999
Just about any musician you can conceive of—to say nothing of the countless composers, producers, arrangers, film scorers, and writers of music—could live a long life, actively playing and emanating songs, lyrics, melodies, rhythms, etc., and never successfully contribute music to a film that wins an Oscar (such as Still Alice, for which Julianne Moore won Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role. The film won a total of 34 awards, including one from the Screen Actor’s Guild).
Moreover, such a musician could write a lifetime of music and never come close to earning 25 Internet Movie Database (IMDb) certified composer credits for documentaries, shorts, television shows, and films.
The chances that his or her sonic creations could inform the commercial advertisements for mainstream stalwarts such as MasterCard and Lincoln are even slimmer.
Moreover, the possibility that any single musician could have achieved all of the above and be selected to recreate the lost score of highly renowned director Stanley Kubrick’s “Barry Lyndon”—let alone direct a live performance of it—is even more remote.
Just for fun, throw in the knack to play over 10 instruments, including almost rare ones such as the guitarviol or the oud.
If you could find such a one fortunate enough (or blessed, depending on your own spirituality) to have accomplished all that, as well as work as a session guitarist for Saturday Night Live’s house band, chances are, that one-in-a-billion musician would consider all of the above career highlights—the sort of things other musicians, not to mention people, simply aren’t able to do, no matter how hard they try.
But for Frank Cogliano, the living, breathing piece of history who actually did those things?
“I don’t know; that’s a hard question because I still feel like I haven’t gotten that,” Cogliano said—in perfect earnestness—when asked to recollect what was the first big thing he’s done in his career. “That’s a tough one because, to me, I don’t even know what’s big.”
“Industry rule number 4080…” Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest, Check The Rhyme, The Low End Theory, 1991
The reality is there’s no end to the number of musicians who, despite their success, accomplishments, or sheer talent, at some point or another have to tuck those instruments away, put down the laptops, software, and recording devices—walk far away from the studio—and go clock in somewhere at a day job.
You name it: those with commercial placements, even ones who play professionally in bands or who manage to get their stuff on TV, as well as those who have a couple bona fide hits under their belt, might just be working at the donut shop when you see them. Or, even worse, be eyeing the donut shop and any other such trivial occupation as a way to make ends meet.
Chances are, they don’t have a Bachelor’s degree on the strength of a jazz guitar program, or a Master’s degree based on film composition, both from New York University, and both of which Cogliano can claim. And, more importantly, they don’t have the network of insiders in “The Industry” that comes with earning those respective pieces of paper.
“For now, I’m lucky enough to be able to [just make music professionally],” Cogliano acknowledged. “I have projects that I work on, and I manage my own time, and I try to do it actually sort of, not 9 to 5, but I try to organize my time because, when you don’t have a boss, it’s such a loose industry that I try to keep some structure when I can.”
Thus, Cogliano’s internal sense of underachiever, notwithstanding the fact that he’s already done way more than most people in his trade already have.
That was simply work.
And, the compensation for such a litany of accolades doesn’t always add up the way outsiders might think it does.
“Even like with commercials, where I end up working on things like, I’ve done some Super Bowl stuff and you’d think that’s a big deal,” Cogliano disclosed. “But I get paid so much money sometimes for like one of the dumbest things I’m not really proud of. You never really know how it’s going to work. Money and music are kind of like foreign languages. It takes a lot of effort and skill to kind of squeeze out an income.”
“Let the world see your beauty and associate it with me…” Eightball, “My First Love”, Lost, 1998
So, while squeezing out an income at his glamorous day job in film, television, and commercials, Cogliano quietly released his debut album, Computer of the World, a couple months back. It was just him on there, a man and his music, no vocals included. The project was markedly different from those he’s used to, in which the dictates of the screen influence the music that’s made.
“I do focus a lot on texture and sound when I’m working on TV and film because that’s, I think, more important than notes per se,” he admitted. “It’s never going to be writing complicated music; you just want to get the mood, and the feeling, and the actual sound right. So after spending a lot of time doing that it was nice to step away and focus on making these cool sounds and not be restricted by anything.”
Cogliano’s currently working on new music and putting together a live set.
He’s also looking for his next (or perhaps first) big thing.
“I’m really lucky because I’m feeling like I’m just getting started,” Cogliano revealed. “Not to say I’m ungrateful for anything; I’m grateful for everything I have. But there’s always something around the corner, I hope. I think I would know it when it happens. I think part of it is the fact that I’ve always felt that way and I always will feel that way. The reason I keep doing it is because it is very hard. And it is very much you have to be rejected everyday and people are telling you ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’… But like, I haven’t won an Oscar yet; that would be cool. Or a Grammy or one of those awards.”
Time will surely tell.