Loretto native hopes album strikes a chord
Cambria County native Cole Crusciel’s debut studio album, “Coffee,” dropped on all major platforms on Tuesday, yet Crusciel harbors no illusions or desires to be “the next big thing.”
Instead, he hopes listeners of his 10 original compositions simply enjoy them and pause to reflect. Crusciel considers himself a writer, not a singer or a highly skilled musician. The album reflects a two-year creative journey by the recent college graduate who double-majored in philosophy and English.
Crusciel, who performs under the band name The Crucial Detail, said the album came to fruition thanks to a “fundraising campaign, which brought in over $7,000 from generous donors.”
Signed by Plaid Dog Recording Studios in Boston, Mass., the studio was using public fundraising long before the current pandemic-inspired wave to bring new talent into the public arena.
Crusciel recorded his album in sections in studios in Boston, Pittsburgh and Manchester, N.H., and it was produced and mastered by Bryan Fennelly of Plaid Dog Recording Studios. The pandemic delayed its release and the small bar tour Crusciel had planned for the Boston area, where he frequently played on weekends with friends as a creative outlet. Those performances prompted him to record his music and send out a few recordings of his original material.
“To my glee and surprise, Plaid Dog Recording Studios responded with a full album deal, and I signed on with them to record in 2019,” Crusciel said. “Having produced such musicians as Jose Gonzalez, Regina Spektor and Dr. Dog, they brought out the driving, rhythmic, emotional side of my music that I had been hoping to showcase for years.”
While growing up in Loretto, Crusciel found himself “drawn to music” and participated extensively in staging musical theater while attending Bishop Carroll Catholic High School. There he met educator and musician John Charney, whom Crusciel said, “would hear me playing after school in the cafeteria while hanging out with friends. He would call out the chords I was playing as he came down the hall.”
“He inspired me as a musical professional who was always having fun when he was playing music. He showed me it was possible to be professional and still have a childlike wonder — a fascination and love for what you are doing,” Crusciel said.
Charney has heard the album and said Crusciel’s music “reflects the person I knew at BC — intelligent, passionate, talented, confident, and most of all, sincere. Sincerity is essential in artistic creation of any sort. Doing it for oneself and for the art itself is paramount. Everything else that results is just ripples in that ocean. Cole’s music reflects that.”
Crusciel plays guitar, bass guitar and piano, and he plays all instruments except drums on three tracks on the debut album.
“What you hear is really hours of agony as I did take after take until I got it down perfectly,” Crusciel said. On other tracks, hired session players came in “who could bang it out in 15 minutes.”
An evacuation order in March came two months before his graduation from St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., and one day before he was to be in the studio finishing the album. Instead, he came back to Pennsylvania to finish up his degrees remotely and live with his parents.
While Idaho is his next stop, it’s temporary as he is house-sitting for his grandparents.
His goal is to pursue a master’s degree and then a doctorate in philosophy.
Music had always been a personal creative outlet.
When the record deal came, he realized, “that’s the really cool thing. You don’t have to have the perfect voice. I’ve never taken singing lessons, and I don’t consider myself a singer. But (the studio) recognized I had something unique to say. … I’m seen as having a legitimate passion. I didn’t think I would be the next big hit and it’s really not a lifestyle I want. … I learned that if you put yourself out there and someone is interested in your sound and if you articulate your message well, then it’s OK if you’re not the next big thing. I’m content.”
Yet, the experience has “been the biggest confidence boost. I realized that if I want to record, there are avenues out there to me and to everyone without the pressure to be the next rock star.”
Crusciel had similar conversations with his academic adviser, Ann Holbrook, his thesis adviser at St. Anselm College.
She is also a musician, performing with multiple bands.
Holbrook described Crusciel as generous, kind and a “young Renaissance man,” with whom she often talked about making music for the “sheer in-the-moment joy it provides. I could see that Cole also loved playing music for its own sake and not for ego satisfaction or to be cool,” Holbrook said, adding, “Which is not to say Cole isn’t cool. He’s as cool a guy as I’ve met. His music combines straight-up ’90s and 2000s pop, alternative rock, jazz poetry and folk — if I can even define it.”
Asked what inspires his songwriting, Crusciel said he isn’t one to tap into his own life experiences in an autobiographical sense but draws on emotion and more often, the song came from a chord, a thought or conversation, which prompted introspection.
“I really didn’t notice any themes until the album was all done and I was listening to it. I found I had written about change, moving on and leaving and then returning and how the world is in a constant state of flux,” he said.
The Crusciel file
Name: Cole Crusciel
Residence: Sandpoint, Idaho; last four years in Manchester, N.H.; raised in Loretto, Cambria County
Family: Parents, Robert and Julie Crusciel; and brothers Drew and Peter Crusciel, all of Loretto
Education: Bishop Carroll Catholic High School, Class of 2016; and St. Anselm College, Class of 2020, double major in philosophy and English
Awards and honors: Edward J. Comiskey Award, awarded by the St. Anselm English Department for “participation in the cultural and intellectual life of the college and community leadership and love of the arts”; Joseph B. MacDonald Award, awarded by the St. Anselm Philosophy Department for “love of learning and humility of spirit in the pursuit of philosophical wisdom”