The idea behind starting a one-man band was that Phil Cogley would answer to no one. As the only member of The Saturday Giant, he had total creative control and the power to tour whenever he pleased.
Along with such tantalizing freedoms came challenges. Namely: How to perform artful, epic, multifaceted rock music all by himself?
He recruited friends to be his backing band, but they couldn't commit to the radical extent Cogley envisioned. He toyed with playing guitar over canned tracks, but that felt inauthentic and unexciting. So Cogley purchased what would become his most important equipment, a Boomerang III Phrase Sampler looping pedal that allowed him to rebuild his songs from scratch every night, capturing sounds on the spot and layering them like LEGOs.
"Nothing is prerecorded," Cogley explained. "All the sounds are created while I'm on stage."
Cogley spent the past couple years perfecting this technique. He appeared at countless Columbus festivals, played lots of regional shows and toured to Texas for SXSW. He released When Death Comes, a heartfelt catharsis to complement his fantastical sci-fi concept EP You've Heard of Dragons, and started work on his full-length debut.
All that momentum almost came to a screeching halt when Cogley's equipment was stolen from his car last summer, but a wisely purchased insurance policy saved the day.
Having survived that jagged speed bump, last fall Cogley embarked on his greatest adventure yet, a 30-day tour of the eastern U.S. that exhilarated but exhausted him. His lesson for next time: "Try to get more sleep. I don't really know how, but it's important."
He'll have plenty of chances to put that wisdom in action in 2013, starting with a West Coast tour this winter. It's new territory for a musician whose approach presents a new frontier for many listeners.
"People don't usually know exactly what to expect," Cogley said. "Even though it's a pretty prevalent performance technique, there are still a lot of people who've never seen anyone do it. So for the most part I think I'm able to walk in with a sheet of blank expectations and just do what I do."