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Elizabeth Cook - The IndieLondon interview

Elizabeth Cook

Interview by Rob Carnevale

FLORIDA-born country singer Elizabeth Cook has delivered a deeply personal, yet amazingly ecelctic, fifth studio album in Welder. In this exclusive interview, she talks to us about some of the inspirations behind the songs.

She also recalls memories of performing at the Grand Ole Oprey, performing in London, her love for baked beans at breakfast and performing with Dwight Yoakam.

Q. We’re loving the new album, Welder…it’s rawness, it’s honesty, and it’s ability to make you think and have some fun both at the same time. You mention it’s … so what was it like to write?
Elizabeth Cook: It was easy and then hard. The lyrics came in great bulk and with ease, then making musical arrangements was a bit like piecing a puzzle.

Q. A song as honest and personal as Mama’s Funeral must have been difficult for you to write, yet satisfying to have achieved? Is that the case? What kind of reaction does that get live?
Elizabeth Cook: When people come to see a live music show, they are there to have a good time, so sometimes I don’t do it, based on the vibe. But sometimes it adds to the roller coaster ride of the performance. I think people, sometimes the audience, feels wrong cheering for it, because of the subject, but that’s okay. I don’t always have to hear cheering.

Q. Likewise, Heroin Addict Sister? What made you decide to write that one?
Elizabeth Cook: I didn’t make a conscious decision to write it. I just started singing the first line and it kinda wrote me.

Q. In contrast, there’s a good time record like El Camino! Have you ever driven one or been in one? And what inspired it?
Elizabeth Cook: No. I’m afraid of them.

Q. And I loved the sexiness inherent in the provocative Girlfriend Tonight… what inspired that and was it as fun to write as it is to listen to?
Elizabeth Cook: It felt very comfortable musically because of the Tammy Wynette vibe, so it was like sliding on an old pair of jeans, that make your butt look good but you haven’t worn them in a long time because you’ve been in a bathrobe scrubbing the basin!

Q. How was working with Don Was as producer? What did he bring to the album?
Elizabeth Cook: Don Was is a powerful, calming presence. He gave me confidence. I was very clear and detailed on what I wanted to do on this album, he allowed it and gave me confidence.

Q. Likewise, you have some great collaborations on the album. How much fun is it to do something with Dwight Yoakam?
Elizabeth Cook: Very fun. Intriguing to watch him work. And to hear his voice with my voice was one of the finest moments of my musical career.

Q. And Buddy Miller?
Elizabeth Cook: He was the obvious choice I heard for that track. I was very clear. I was lucky to get him with his crazy schedule.

Q. You enjoy phenomenal success in the US… how are you coping with that success and celebrity? Does it add to any pressure with each new LP?
Elizabeth Cook: Yes it adds pressure. You hope you can live up to the new level of expectations, knowing that one day you inevitably won’t. And also stay pure and true to your own artistic interests, because culminating those… for me, that’s the biggest payoff of all.

Q. How did life change for you after the success of Balls and that single, It Takes Balls To Be A Woman?
Elizabeth Cook: Before Balls, people came to see me or knew me that loved the sound of what I did… old school country singing. After Balls, there was a song that was contemporary and connected to peoples lives. Both men and women sing along to it at shows. That is a lot of fun for me.

Q. What does your father think of your success? Do you still look back fondly on the times you got to perform together?
Elizabeth Cook: He worries about the pace and my health. He wishes we could spend more time together. But he still performs with me on occasion. A family in Richmond VA we do a private event for flew him there just last weekend. He sat in and played a few songs, and we got to visit a little bit.

Q. What is it like performing at such a legendary venue as the Grand Ole Opry?
Elizabeth Cook: Finally, after all these years the nerves have subsided (somewhat) and I have begin to take in the magical grace and beauty of the most sacred show in country music.

Q. And how, in contrast, was it to perform in London, at The Borderline?
Elizabeth Cook: It’s a different kind of performance. Your not gonna wow the crowd with fancy lights and a giant band and rhinestones. It relies on the music and the ale and that’s also a fun kind of country show.

Q. What do you like about coming to England? And your English fans?
Elizabeth Cook: I like baked beans at breakfast! The English fans are so polite, they acknowledge the sacrifice of the travels, and are gracious that I have come. It is very sweet.

Q. What makes the country music genre so appealing to you?
Elizabeth Cook: It’s no more appealing to me than jazz or hip hop. I connect with some music in almost every genre in a visceral way. Country music is simply the natural filter for me.

Q. Who inspired you?
Elizabeth Cook: My mom and dad, and artists that are pure regardless of how they sound.

Q. What advice would you give to artists seeking to follow in your footsteps?
Elizabeth Cook: Everyone’s path is completely different. I could give an aspiring artist my timeline and every phone number and contact person along the way, but their experience would be carved out in a different way. It’s the diligence to keep going in the face of obstacles that is your best ally. It’s also important to know why you are doing this… attention, money, or because you got something to say, or at least in what order those things matter.

Q. If you could cover any song, what would it be and why?
Elizabeth Cook: It changes everyday. I’ve been thinking on Should I Stay Or Should I Go by The Clash.

Q. Finally, what are the 10 tracks that are currently taking pride of place on your iPod or stereo?
Elizabeth Cook: I’ve been listening to satellite radio… Channels Underground Garage, Hip Hop Nation, Lithium and Outlaw Country.

Read our review of Welder or view photos of Elizabeth Cook

Elizabeth Cook’s Welder is now available in all good record stores and via download. She will be touring the UK in July, including a night at London’s Upstairs At The Garage on July 20.