CHEYENNE — Usually, you’d see Jeff Bailey courtside, holding a clipboard and barking calls at a Cheyenne South basketball game. Now you can find it on an album cover.
Twenty years into his career as a musician while attending the University of Wyoming, his self-produced solo album, “Orange Moon,” is available to stream on all major US music platforms.
Many Cheyenne residents recognize Bailey’s name for his nearly 10-year career as a basketball coach, first at Cheyenne East, his alma mater, and now at South, where he is in his fourth season. Others might know him for being an art teacher at every school for even longer.
“When people can listen to this album from start to finish, they’ll almost have a sense of the timeline of my life in many ways,” Bailey said in a phone interview.
Music has always occupied an important place in his life. At one point, his band was opening for five-time Grammy Award winner Christopher Cross, but Bailey put his guitar down shortly after graduating from college.
When COVID-19 arrived, he picked it up, along with bass guitar, drums, keyboard (his brother, Brian, helped on piano for some tracks), synthesizer, and all the other instruments featured on “Orange Moon “. The period forced him to reflect and became the catalyst for a dynamism that had already been built over the years.
Somehow he was disappointed in himself. He played guitar as a hobby, but his cousin, who played with him in college, pushed him to get serious again. The important things in life, such as his wife, children and career, leave him with no regrets. He said it feels good to make music again.
It’s not the same child who makes the music he wants to make. He has a day job and the music he chooses to release is a reflection of himself and must be carefully calculated.
Before starting, Bailey had to decide on her frankness in writing her songs.
“I thought about how other people would interpret the music, even people I might not show it to,” Bailey said with a laugh. “You know, like (basketball) players.”
Although he doesn’t reveal his inspirations, the content of the songs drops to emotional lows and rises to positive highs, finding a spectrum of emotions. Bailey wrote the closing song, “Stevie Lynn,” about a close friend’s 3-year-old daughter who died suddenly during the pandemic.
He countered the sad story with a playful instrumental, to lighten the mood a bit and make the song not a mourning, but a memory.
“The syncopation with the drums and different things like that are just playful enough that you get a good feel for the song,” Bailey said. “He sent me a clip of his speaking voice at a very young age. I threw the clip of that at the very end, and he was screaming when he heard it.
“Home” is a song that Bailey wrote and recorded on a shoddy recording device 15 years ago and then locked away. Returning to it recently, he found it to be the hardest song to perfect for the album. While the core sentiment of the lyrics still resonated with him, enough had changed that he rewrote and re-recorded the song several times before hitting the right note.
Dropping six solid months into this project meant he wasn’t going to waste the opportunity. He recorded, mixed and engineered this album in his spare time, when he wasn’t preparing for class or preparing his team for the season.
Both satisfying and frustrating, he taught himself the basics of production right from the start, like how to compress up to 60 tracks and equalize audio levels. He did it in his basement, where the acoustics are understandably poor, which only created more of a learning curve.
Bailey is focused on the music and doesn’t particularly care what other people think. He jokes that he is waiting for a student to mention the album in class.
He might just have to nip it in the bud and play it for them.
“There’s a lot of really deep personal stuff on the album, but I think that’s the only way to really reach an audience,” Bailey said. “If you really want to do this and want to connect with people outside of what you do, you have to be able to do that.”