The Reverb Interview: Ian CookeBy Ricardo Baca | March 30th, 2012 | No Comments »
Note to self: When we need to remember things, some of us write reminders on Post-it notes or calendars, while others set alarms on their iPhones and tablets.
But not Denver-based singer-songwriter Ian Cooke. Cooke, who writes his chamber-pop compositions while alternating between cello and keys, simply writes a song to serve as a reminder.
“There’s a string of songs in (my new album) that are advice to myself, general rules to live by,” Cooke said recently. “The song ‘Fortitude,’ especially, is an anthem I made for myself to try to avoid wasting time and to live efficiently and seize the day. I feel like I’m a lazy person, and that bothers me, and I need to crack the whip on myself.”
Cooke’s 2007 opus “The Fall I Fell” remains one of the most memorable Denver releases of the last decade, and his new “Fortitude” — which was released last year with a memorable show at Curious Theatre — is an artful, literate follow-up. Cooke will kick off his tour with Shenandoah Davis with a show Saturday at the L2 Arts and Culture Center, and we spoke with him earlier this week about his music, old and new, and his vision for the future of live indie-rock performances.
You just recently got back from your first South by Southwest. How’d everything go?
A: Austin was a good time, although SXSW didn’t seem to be a big part of my experience there. I went there with a friend who has family in the suburbs of Austin, and we stayed out there — and it was away from all the action. The only night I really spent in the thick of it was the night I played. But otherwise, I love Austin. We went to a swimming hole, and they have a great nature and science museum on the college campus. And we went to some famous barbecue restaurant that was the Disneyland of barbecue restaurants.
How does “Fortitude” differ from “The Fall I Fell?”
A: It’s more about storytelling than “The Fall I Fell.” All of those (older) songs were about unrequited love, with one person. But now I’m trying to diversify the songs a little bit with “Fortitude,” and some have more of a prog-rock feel and others are more intimate, with one vocal and one cello track, or one vocal and one piano track. But the subject matter is more diverse (on the new record).
Your CD-release show was lauded for its chill nature — you performed in a seated theater. And now this show is also in a seated theater — the L2. Tell me why you’re going this way with your shows.
A: I like the idea of having an audience sitting down. And I don’t want to eliminate alcohol from the equation, but that seems to be a big part of why dive-bar shows are dive-bar shows. The crowd is so loud that the band has to be louder. And that frustrates me, especially when I’m playing solo and I have to compete with that. Sometimes people just want a rock ‘n’ roll good time, but if I just avoid that scenario I might be better off with people going to the show knowing that this is the equivalent to the ballet. It’s something you give your full attention to. I don’t need to be going around to my group of friends asking, “Who wants a shot?” It’s almost like a movie or a play. The detail of our music deserves attention.