I have a good friend, Mike Farley (of the Michael J. Media Group), who I’ve been working with for a couple of decades now. He’s the publicist who alerted me to Michael McDermott (who kicked off my May columns this year) and a recent shipment from him contained a 240-page, hardcover book with a CD pocketed on the inside back cover. The beautifully illustrated and insightful book is called “Tangle of Souls” and is divided in 12 chapters (titled for each track on the enclosed album) with an introduction, afterword, how to play the songs, further readings, and credits. Upon closer inspection, I discovered that COVID-19 was mentioned and decided that here was another musical part in this unfolding pandemic saga and arranged an interview with the author, Scott Cook, who has been making his home on the road since 2007, traveling around Canada, the US, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, South Africa and beyond. I reached Cook at his home in Edmonton, Alberta, and when he answered his phone, I gave him my impressions of his seventh album from an artistic standpoint as well as a musical one.

Cook: Thanks so much! You’re the first stranger in the outside world I’ve heard from about it, so it’s great to hear that (chuckle). When you called, I noticed the ID number came up as Bridgton — are you familiar with the Dragonfly Barn out that way?

Q: Yes, it is indeed in Bridgton, about 10 minutes from my home here in Sweden — why do you ask?
Cook: (Laughter) Well, I was going to be playing that on this tour back in April.

Q: Really? I was going to ask if you had — in all those years of touring the world — ever performed in Maine before.
Cook: Ah, yeah, I played in Portland and I played at Putnam Smith’s cabin once, but that’s about it for me and Maine. But I was going through, I was to play there at the Dragonfly Barn in the middle of April. I have about a two- to two-and-a-half-month tour in the states that I was just maybe two weeks into when COVID hit and then I just high-tailed it straight back home from Texas.

Q: And during this pandemic, home is the best place to be, that’s for sure.
Cook: Yeah, it is.

Q: As I was reading the book, one of the things that stood out and really made me want to do this interview was that you mentioned the COVID virus. When was this book written?
Cook: Well, most of the book was written in December in Taiwan and then, in the afterword is where I get around to talking about COVID.  This was written around March and April when I got home from that cancelled tour. I had originally thought that it was going to be like a chapter-for-song kind of thing, but with everything changing, it seemed like it needed updating. Everything kind of felt that way immediately, like we were talking about a different world. But in some other ways, I felt like a bunch of themes that were already in the book were kind of made realer by all that’s happening in the last couple of months.


Q: I think I found some pandemic references in the introduction, as well.
Cook: Oh, that might be. I did edit the introduction after I got home, too.

Q: I just have to ask, what kind of an impact do you want “Tangle of Souls” to have on folks who read and listen to it?
Cook: Huh! Well, that’s a good question. Umm, it’s hard to say.  At the end of the introduction it says, “These words and songs are just pebbles in the pond. However the ripples reach you, I’m grateful” and I guess that’s kind of how I feel about it because I don’t know what it’ll be to different people, you know? My fans are a diverse bunch. I play a lot of house concerts so a lot of times it’s just the friends of the host in whatever country we happen to be in, whether it’s rural or in a city, and it’s just whoever happens to be there.  I happen to make a connection with them on any given night that wants to take an album home and read it. So I guess these album packages that I’ve been putting together over the years — and my “Hobo Travelogue” email that I send out every month — they’re kind of an on-going conversation between me and a bunch of old friends. But anytime you put a record out, you think, “Well, there’s going to be a bunch of new people — this is going to be their first encounter with me,” right? So it’s hard to say what people are going to take away especially because people come from such different places nowadays; it’s hard to try and speak to everyone where they are. I try to do that in songs, songs have a lot less words in them, so it’s a lot easier to aim at something universal, but basically, I wanted to tell my story from the last three years, and some of the parallels that I see with some broader things in the world.

Q: Now, other than having your touring plans cancelled, how has the pandemic affected you personally? So far, for me, 2020 hasn’t been that great.
Cook: Well, for me it’s been an amazing year, for me being forced to stay in one place has been really revelatory because I haven’t stopped longer than a month or so in like 13 years; so just staying put here in Edmonton has been really amazing. I’ve learned a lot from it.

Q: For me, since mid-March, I’ve been reconnecting with musicians and artists I’ve worked with in the past (for the most part) to see how they are dealing with this “new normal,” but I’m a newcomer to your work so the ripples from “Tangle of Souls” reached me on many levels, some disturbing and some affirming, but all in all refreshing and empowering, like, “Wow, somebody else thinks this way, too!” — that sort of thing.
Cook: Oh, man — I’m glad to hear that, Lucky.

Q: And it’s also great to get some positivity concerning the pandemic from a musician.
Cook: (Chuckle) Well, by default, I tend to look for silver linings, but yeah, it has been good.

Q: It’s also good to end on a high note so, Scott, is there anything you’d like me to pass on to the folks reading this article?
Cook: You know, there’s nothing in particular that I really want to say that I didn’t say in the book (laughter), so I guess if you could direct folks to my website, www.scottcook.net, that’s always a good place to check in with me and what I’m doing. We’ll probably be doing more online concerts as we come into fall because I don’t know where I’ll be back down in the states.

Lucky Clark has spent over 50 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at luckyc@myfairpoint.net if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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