Six years away and just following the song, Elizabeth Cook
Florida-born, Nashville based singer-songwriter Elizabeth Cook looks to put in place more of a cutting edge to her style of country music, Exodus of Venus on Agent Love / Thirty Tigers is Cook’s first album in six years and it has seen her become transformed. Come of age in many ways as her style of music takes on a tougher stance. Not only via the subject manner but production too.
Elizabeth Cook was born to parents who by previous marriage both had five children, and Cook was the 11th in line, the first of the couples’ relationship together. Her mother was a hillbilly singer from West Virgina and her daddy was incarcerated for running moonshine, and played in the prison band. It was while in prison he learnt to weld (as in her album welder) and on release built up a little business as he visited farms working his trade as told by Cook on one of her notable appearances on the David Letterman show. Her story is one you would find hard to make up, and harder still for it to sound believable.
Cooks’ albums to date include the self-released ‘the blue album’ (2000), ‘hey y’all’ (2002), ‘This side of the moon’ (2004), ‘Balls’ (2007) and ‘Welder’ (2010); which Rolling Stone magazine listed among its top thirty albums for 2010.
Exodus Of Venus has been a long time coming; it must be six years since your last album Welder, Elizabeth?
Yes, a lot of stuff has happened.
Re-tracking music wise, through having lived in a number of different areas of the States your music will no doubt have gained a selection of influences because of this?
Yes, through my parents, they played in a band together. I grew up on country music and then learned rock’n’roll and folk singer-songwriters and Americana music. It has been an interesting journey laughs Cook.
How old were you when you left Florida?
I would be sixteen. I then moved to Atlanta before relocating to South Georgia.
I then lived in Blackshear, Georgia and went to university in Stateside, Georgia; it is about an hour away from Savannah.
On the new record your have utilised a little of the Muscle Shoals style of music with a sprinkling of soul here and there.
I believe so. I feel there are some soul and funk elements to the record.
Is there any special reason why you have veered away from the more traditional side of country music you are best known for?
I just go where the songs dictate. The songs are everything, and that is what these songs wanted, more of that kind of sound. I have done old country and I don’t just want to make the same record over and over again.
I agree. I believe in “Evacuation” and “Methadone Blues” that you have two truly outstanding songs.
Thank you very much.
What inspired you to write them?
“Evacuation” comes from a storm we had over here in ’08, Hurricane Katrina. I became obsessed with the stories about it and around the storm. There were so many people who were evacuated, and others asked to evacuate. This is about a lady that did not evacuate, although I don’t know her eventual fate. I respect the lady’s choice to stay because she was really old and didn’t have anywhere to go, and if she did, no means of getting there. “Evacuation” was inspired by her story.
It has been a tough journey for a great many of the poorer people of New Orleans. A good many did have to leave, some were farmed out to Baton Rouge and others farther away still to Lafayette and Houston, Texas.
Yes, the people down there have had a hard time of it.
“Methadone Blues” is a terrific song.
It is the continuation of a song I had on my ‘Welder’ record called “Heroin Addict Sister”, and is a follow on that story.
It seems you aren’t afraid of tackling issues of a darker note, and don’t hide aspects under the carpet such the honesty of your writing.
Thank you. No, I am not. I don’t see why you should. It gives me the opportunity to explore and write about different (and more sensitive) things.
“Broke Down In London On The M25” is an intriguing song.
It is based on another true story, this time it was when I broke down just outside London on the M25. We had to wait a while for the tow truck to come and get us. So I was trapped with my thoughts. It gave me the opportunity to contemplate on life, and that is how that song started. It took me about a couple of years to finish it.
Does the album have more to do with your own life with it concentrating more on the darker side?
I believe so.
With it being six years since you last recording you could almost call it a comeback album, if it wasn’t for all the other things you have been doing.
I have busy with Television, and I also have my daily radio show on Satellite Radio, and then you the personal events that have occurred, sad even, that piled up during that time.
Have the knocks experienced given you the jolt to grasp any opportunities going. Like the person stood by the waters edge, deciding on making that first step into the water, because the realise if they don’t there is no chance of making it to the other side.
Yes, that is a good way to put it.
There is real heart-breaking true story on there about a girl who went missing and has yet to be found.
Yes, “Tabatha Tuder’s Mama”. It is about the experience of a mother of a young girl who goes missing, and she does not have a lot of money. Her case doesn’t get a lot of coverage because of that, so I felt compassion for the family.
America it seems to be going through troubled times at the moment. Is the present unrest due partly to the up-and-coming presidential election or are people generally growing apart.
Yes, people seem to be growing that way. I think the election has had something to do with it. I don’t watch the news on purpose, because of that. I see things rumbling round on social media, but have to admit it seems pretty chaotic at the moment. I find the news manipulative, and don’t want that feeling. It would be one thing if I could watch it, and obtain information but don’t want to be emotionally manipulated or pandered to. That’s a real turn off for me, and I don’t want to participate in that.
You have had some pretty big names produce your previous records, Rodney Crowell and Don Was to name two. How different was it, if different at all working with Dexter Green.
I co-wrote a lot of the songs with Dexter, and that’s something I have never done that before. Usually I write them on my own. And because is a master musician I let him have more input on the musical direction of the songs. It gave everything a little more sophistication, and helped lift the bar had it just been me doing it.
Did Dexter bring the musicians in for the record?
I was most impressed with Jesse Aycock on acoustic, lap and pedal steel guitar.
He is a talented young guy from Tulsa.
You also have Buddy Miller on the record.
Buddy Miller dropped by the studio to lend his support, and we asked him to grab a guitar, and he did laughs Cook. He plays on the song “Dharma Gate”.
East Nashville has a community-like spirit that sees people from there keen to help their fellow artist, give them a leg up the ladder so to speak.
Yes, it tends to be that way.
Going back to your radio show, how do you keep the presentation fresh, because to do it everyday is a hard ask.
Everyday is a new day. I don’t plan what I am going to say or anything. I just play off the music, knowing that it is a new day.
What music do you tend to play, and the kind of artist you support.
Some of course are local. We try to play everything from the classics to old school honky tonk, and corner pieces you would expect to hear on a channel called Outlaw Country. Willie and Waylon, and then we may go back and play some Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers, and then you could have the Jayhawks and Nick Lowe, and newer artists too. That way we introduce the audience to a fresh playlist every day.
I saw a video on social media where you visited a vinyl manufacturing plant I found it most informative, and encouraging for fans of the format.
My new record is also on vinyl. For the fans of vinyl I think the process of holding a record, and putting the record on and dropping the needle is wonderful. It’s the whole process, and to have the fan being more interactive with their musical experience than just pressing a button. I think it is really fun for those who like that experience. It’s important that we continue to provide the medium to have the experience.
“Orange Blossom Trail” is an intriguing one.
It is an estate (housing) where I lived that was always in the news for the crime there, and where all the shady characters hung out. I wanted to write a song about the area. “Orange Blossom Trail” is how I imagine the lifestyle of people who lived on the street.
“Dharma Gate” that Buddy Miller plays on it is quite a mellow song.
Yeah, “Dharma Gate” is about starting a relationship when it isn’t probably the right time to start one, but you do it anyway. Life is a circle and you might as well go anyway and jump in.
How did Patty Loveless come to sing on the record?
We reached out to her camp, and sent her some songs because I could see her singing on several of them. They came back saying she had picked “Straitjacket Love” as the one she wanted to sing on.
Have you plans to come back over to Europe.
They are working on me coming over next spring.
You have always been well received in the UK.
I hope I can make it back.
One of the highlights of your career I suspect was appearing on the David Letterman Show.
Yes, I did get to do that. I have done it a few times, twice by myself, and once with Jason Isbell.
What was it that made him (Letterman) so popular in America?
I think his taste in music. He cares a lot about the music, and who he has on the show.
What have you planned in the near future, have you ever thought of one day maybe writing a novel?
I have thought about it, and of have thought about writing a memoir.
What part has Dexter played with your music?
He is a wonderful interpreter of music and of style and tone. Having Dexter involved allows a deeper sophistication to be present that would not have been there had it just been left to just me. He has been producing records for a number of years, and he brought richness to the music. It was a new experience that was so exciting for me. I also like writing with him.
- Artist Website http://www.elizabethcook.com/
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