Gigging with Cool Waters

cool-waters-bandBY Ben Rogers

It didn’t happen by accident. Instead it took more than 20 years, countless gigs, burning out, breaking apart and coming together again.

The Cool Waters Band playing today inherently isn’t the same as it was 15 years ago. Well, technically speaking, there are a few of the same members, same instruments and a handful of the same songs. But all things need to crumble before they can become whole.
Mike Cool and Greg and Dan Waters started the group At the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh in the early 90s. For a while it was hundreds of shows a year all around the Valley. Then around 1999 the band decided to make a break for Denver.

Things never fell into place in the Rockies. The group had great shows and good bookings, but it never escalated. Cool Waters came back home to the Valley for another seven years or so and then disbanded. There were side projects and reunions in front of thousands of people for five years. Then in 2014 they decided to do it differently this time around.

For the past two years the Cool Waters Band has made each gig count.

“What and where we play is kind of by design,” said Greg Waters, lead singer and founding member. “We scaled this back so everyone is comfortable doing what they’re doing, and every show is fun for us.”

Scene caught up with Greg over the phone while he was packing up for his next gig, playing a few sets and then tubbing down a river in the North Woods.

“Every show we present what we’re doing in a way that’s going to be permanent,” Greg said. “Hopefully we can connect with the audience. We’re trying to maintain the philosophy when we first started. Entertain ourselves and the audience.”

Every show Cool Waters plays now has a unique factor, to make it more memorable for everyone involved. Instead of 10 or 15 shows a month, Cool Waters may play 10 or 15 shows each summer.

“The gap in between shows for us is a benefit in that in keeps us fresh,” Greg said. “Also it’s a little bit of a challenge in that we have to be on our toes more than 10 years ago. Ultimately the pros outweigh the cons or new wouldn’t be doing it. But it doesn’t feel like we’ve been apart as long as we have.”

Greg describes the music as American roots rock. Basically Cool Waters plays a hodgepodge of styles, from rock to reggae to soul, with covers and original tunes. Plus there’s a screaming horn section.

“Rather than just force our sax player into these solo type situations, we thought ‘let’s bring someone else in,’ so we brought in a trombone. It feels comfortable, it feels like our sound, it makes sense to us.”

And while the band used to bring that sound everywhere, now they are a little more selective. Gigs are now at venues known for local music or regional festivals.

“Back in the day what worked for us was trying to play every day. For most of us it was our full-time job, you didn’t leave a weekend open, nobody asked for a weekend off,” Greg said. “Now everybody has families and full-time jobs. Music has gone back to being a hobby, which I think is cool, you get a lot out of every show because they’re not too many of them.”

The combination of quality venues and songs that have stood the test time, make every show from Cool Waters memorable.

“I think one of our biggest strengths and biggest weaknesses is that we really don’t fit any specific genre,” said Dan Waters, guitar player and founding member.  “We will play a laid-back reggae song and then follow it up with a barn-burning rock and roll tune.  All of our influences are so vast in range that I think we just decided from day one, that if we like a certain type of music, there is no reason not to blend that into what we are doing.”

The Cool Waters Band is Greg Waters, Dan Waters, Mike Cool, Matt Gieseke and Rick Rajchel.

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