Scott Cook: a storyteller to bring you back home
If Albertans were superheroes, our power would be the ability to drive really long distances. Really. Talk to someone from the United Kingdom, and they’ll tell you driving somewhere more than a mile away is “really far.” Albertans, on the other hand, won’t even be fazed by a quick round-trip from Edmonton to Calgary, or a jaunt to Vancouver to see a band that doesn’t feel like crossing the Rocky Mountains.
On these long drives, soundtracks are as vital as caffeine and gasoline. Music not only keeps you awake, but adds something to the drive that makes it mean more than just a journey from point A to B.
Fellow Albertans, or anyone else that has this power to drive really, really, far: you know when you’ve been on the road for what seems like forever and you’re finally on the last few miles until you’re back home? The sun is starting to set, the other passengers are asleep, and you know you’re just about there?
That’s what Scott Cook’s music sounds like.
Scott knows all about going on journeys. He recently returned from spending three months in Taiwan, where he was also a kindergarden teacher for six years. Playing in bands while he inspired the Taiwanese leaders of tomorrow, he decided to focus on music full-time in 2007. Musing on the value leaving home can have, Scott related: “it can really blow some fresh air into your mind to leave this behind for a while.” For him, music and travelling are deeply connected:
Obviously, every place you’ve ever been and every person you’ve ever met inform your art somehow. Spending time in vastly different places allows you to see your own place with new eyes, and speaking a different language lets you see your own differently. Getting to know people of very different cultures also brings home just how much we humans all have in common; the struggles, loves, hopes and fears, the stuff great art is about.
On Scott’s 2011 album Moonlit Rambles, there’s a song called “Goin’ up to the Country,” inspired by the annual festival the North Country Fair. Like wandering, Scott believes festivals like the North Country Fair to be enriching – community is stressed over spectacle, and people are there to participate rather than worship a guitar solo:
There’s something I really love about the smaller festivals that you just can’t get in a place with bigger names on the bill, like seeing familiar people throughout the weekend, getting to know them, camping out in the woods, jamming around fires, not having to pack a bag for the long trek to main stage, and the blessed absence of lineups, ads, and little corrals to drink your beer in. All that, and the charm of partying with a crazy assortment of characters in a field by some tiny town no one’s heard of while the last golden rays of day slip away and the mist moves in; the whisper of what life might have been like before we turned it all over to strip malls and call centers and fine print; the feeling of something righteous, rootsy, and real.
When Scott lived in Taiwan, he often played a festival called Spring Scream. Obviously, being in Alberta should limit his ability to perform there these days…but it’s 2012, and we might not have hoverboards yet, but we do have skype:
…they set up a giant projection screen, where artists from around the world could call in on Skype and play for the folks at the festival. I called from Calgary, the morning after a house concert, and got to talk to friends of mine over there… it was around noon for us and 2 or 3 in the morning over there. I took them for a tour of the house we were staying at, showed them the breakfast we were about to eat… one of the roommates juggled eggs, and we sang a few songs. They came up to the camera to say hellos, cracked beers to cheers us, and even turned the camera around so I could see myself projected on this enormous screen. It was totally surreal.
Scott doesn’t only find community at festivals, he finds it in Edmonton too. “The level of talent, he says, “just at open stages in this city is mind-boggling. Not much word seems to get out beyond Edmonton, but there might be a plus side to how pathetically unknown and under-rated our scene is: with no discernible music industry pie to fight for a piece of, we don’t have the kind of competitiveness you might encounter in larger centres.”
Scott recognizes connections, and the positive role music plays in people’s lives. With songs like “The Lord Giveth (and the Landlord Taketh Away),” it’s clear he’s also keenly aware of the potential music has for political expression. While written before the Occupy Movement arose, the song makes it clear that Scott is concerned with some of the same issues as these protesters. Quite astutely, and in contrast to many snide know-it-alls on twitter, he says he wouldn’t “presume to say what the Occupy movement is all about.” What’s clear, however, is that Occupy “has succeeded so far in bringing some issues to the fore; the corrupting influence of money on our government and media, the vast inequalities in our system, and the as-yet-unprosecuted criminal fraud at all levels of the financial sector.”
Scott doesn’t know in what direction the movement will go from here, but, he says, he was excited to see that “spark of possibility” it has offered. Looking at the role of music in the bigger picture, Scott relates that “even when they’re working on a strictly personal level, real artists have always been trying to change the world. Like the Polish writer Wislawa Szymborska said, ‘Whatever you say reverberates, whatever you don’t say speaks for itself. So either way you’re talking politics.'”
A natural storyteller, Scott tells tales of rambling, community, and the potential of the human spirit. If you’re going to the Edmonton Music Awards tomorrow, you might see him there – he’s nominated for the “Male Artist of the Year.” If you want to catch him at a festival, he’s on the bill at Edmonton’s Open Sky Music Festival in June with other great local acts. And if you want him to join you on a roadtrip, head on over to his website and order one of his albums.